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Oswego 308 School Board Member Calls on Fellow Members to Stay Out of Dual Language Discussions

May 05, 2015 05:03PM ● By Steven Jack

Greg O'Neil

The honeymoon for new members sworn into the Oswego School District 308 board Monday night lasted for all of about 20 minutes. 

As the agenda moved to discussions of the district’s controversial Dual Language program, sitting board member Greg O’Neil warned board members with children in the program that voting to reinstate it would violate the board’s code of conduct. 

Newly elected board members Brad Banks and Jared Ploger both have said they would move to bring back the program after the previous board voted in February to dismantle it. Banks, Ploger and new board President Matt Bauman each have children in the Dual Language program. 

O'Neil voted in February in favor of doing away with the program and creating a new one-way immersion program for all Spanish speaking English Language Learner students in the district.

“(The code of conduct) requires all board members to act with impartiality and without bias in all circumstances — in every case on every board that I’ve been on anytime a family member is involved in a decision a board member must recuse themselves and abstain from voting on the issue. It is impossible to remain unbiased when your own child is in a program that we’re considering funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into. It is a severe violation of the code of conduct.”

Doyle questioned O’Neil on whether Bauman’s status as a Dual Language parent was a concern when the board made its February vote.

“I don’t know if it was or if it wasn’t” O’Neil said. “I’m just referencing the code of conduct and the impartiality requirements therein. … I’ve never seen a board member …. vote on an issue where a family member was involved in a decision.”

Before O’Neil’s statement, Superintendent Matthew Wendt laid out a path for the reinstatement of Dual Language that could include its expansion from two kindergarten classes to three for the 2015-16 school year. Part of that path is likely to be a community task force made up of parents, administrators and teachers that will seek make recommendations for its future.

Bauman said the involvement of the task force should help to ease impartiality concerns. 

Doyle went on to say that many votes taken by school board members have the potential to personally affect them. 

“I think if we’re going to use that as the yard stick,we would all have to recuse ourselves from anything to do with taxes, because we’re all partial to how much we would pay for taxes,” she said. 

No vote was taken on Dual Language Monday night, but one is likely for next Monday’s meeting. Wendt said it will be important for the board to act quickly so that arrangements could be made for the program’s reinstatement into the district for next school year.