D65 E-mails Get OK After State Inquiry

Nomaan Merchant

The Illinois Attorney General’s office has determined that local school administrators did not violate the state’s Open Meetings Act by exchanging e-mails about an African-centered curriculum pilot proposal.

In March, the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 school board came under fire after then-President Mary Rita Luecke sent an e-mail to board members proposing a new model for the pilot days before the decisive meeting.

Luecke’s model was smaller than the two other models previously discussed and was tabled at the March meeting. Board members eventually approved an African-centered curriculum pilot for 60 students from across District 65 starting this September.

Many black community activists expressed outrage at the creation of Luecke’s model. The Evanston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which supported a proposal for 120 students, filed a formal protest with the state Attorney General’s office seeking an investigation soon after the meeting.

In a letter sent June 9 to District 65 and the Evanston NAACP, Illinois Public Access Counselor Terry Mutchler said the e-mails did not pose a violation but came “dangerously close” to it.

State law prohibits public bodies from discussing business outside a public meeting by “a majority of a quorum,” or in the case of the school board, three members.

As long as recipients of Luecke’s e-mail responded only to her and no other board members, no violation would have occurred.

“The determination that Board e-mails were ‘troubling’ and came ‘dangerously close’ to a violation and were contrary to the ‘spirit’ of the law is important for the citizenry to know,” Evanston NAACP president George Mitchell said.

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