In the vein of Will Smith, I have got to start attending Elgin Community College board meetings. And it was last night’s festivities in particular that made these gatherings sound even more fun than those Me-TV Welcome Back Kotter reruns.
Having talked at length with an attendee, the plan here is to only provide the highlights, but should you want the full effect, please immerse yourself in Courier-News reporter Dave Gathman’s account of the evening.
I know I tend to fawn over Dave’s writing, but this piece is another perfect example of how he can interweave an almost disparate series of events in such a seamless way that you actually feel like you were there.
But back to the board meeting where they were about to end the lengthy debate on whether to outsource ECC’s janitorial staff.
1. The closed session boycott. Though I certainly have to give him credit for sticking to his guns, ECC Trustee Robert Getz’ theory that the board acted illegally when they went into executive session to discuss the custodians’ future employment was an interesting one to say the least. As was his decision sit outside the session and sulk.
Employment issues are exactly why closed sessions are a board option.
2. The public speaks! In an effort to prove some folks can’t accept a victory, even after it became clear the janitors were staying, Mary Shesgreen of the Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice and local psychologist Pam Verner decided to wax poetically about the rising gap between the rich and poor.
Apparently they thought it was an Occupy Wall Street meeting. Why, Verner waxed so poetically, after repeated warnings about exceeding the three minute limit, Board Chairman Donna Redmer finally signaled an ECC police officer to gently escort her to her seat.
Take note folks, this is exactly how to go about destroying your cause. Co-opt a meeting to promote your own agenda. Ignore the rules everyone else has to follow. And then self-importantly drone on for ten minutes about something that’s already been resolved.
3. The union strikes! But not in the way you think. When the officer attempted to guide Verner away from the podium, ECC Faculty Association President, Luis Martinez, bolted from the gallery, interjected himself between the officer and Verner, and declared, “You’re going to have to go through me first.”
Then unions have the nerve to wonder why the rest of us think they’re a bunch of socially maladapted bullies who resort to physical force whenever it suits them. Maybe it’s because far too often, that’s exactly what y’all are!
4. The President plays defense attorney. Part of Verner’s and Shesgreen’s wealth gap contention was that, while the janitors are paid less than $10 an hour, ECC President David Sam just received a 25 percent salary and benefits package increase.
Yes! It’s probably not a good idea to ask for a big raise when you’ve already begged your teachers to take just 2 percent and you’re trying to can the custodians. But not only is that $426,000 total hardly the stuff of one percent legend, it’s pretty cheap for a college president. Former U-46 Superintendent Connie Neale did way better than that piddly amount.
But not being one to take the high road, while Verner continued her state of the union address, Sam got up and started working the crowd. I’m guessing he thought he was doing the open mic night at Zanies.
He explained that he works 80 hours a week and his six degrees entitle him to more money than someone with only three of them. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t all the Ph.D. administrators get more than he does?
5. Getz votes no! In what can only be described as the perfect cap to what Gathman gently described as an “oddball” evening, Trustee Getz, the board member most vocal in his support of the janitors, cast the lone vote against retaining them.
He said his dissent was due to the administration’s quick change in custodial course which necessitated waiting to resolve the issue till the next full board meeting. Apparently he didn’t understand what the other board members already did. Prolonging this agony would only give Ms. Verner another opportunity to go all Douglas MacArthur on them.
Do you remember my favorite postulate which states it’s always better to deal with nefarious than it is to have to handle silly? You see, you can fix nefarious, but silly… And this is a prime of example of why that’s true.
Start with a group of well-intentioned unpaid board members who really don’t understand what it means to be an elected official. Then add a college president who clearly has no clue. Throw in a union head who doesn’t know how to behave and mix it all up with some audience members who don’t know how to handle a win.
You may not be able to fix it, but at least it’s entertaining.