Plainfield school board President Stuart Bledsoe has told the teachers' union to KMA - (Kiss My A**) - on his Facebook page after hearing that union members have allegedly campaigned against him during their meetings at the schools.
"Really after standing up for the APT (Association of Plainfield Teachers) the past three years they are going to go after me. KMA. Watch how much support you get in the future. Look at your leadership they will lead you exactly where they want you to go," Bledsoe wrote on his Facebook page on Nov. 10th.
A person on his Facebook page asked him what he meant.
Bledsoe replied, "It just means the APT can hold their breath if they think I will be going out on a limb for them in the future. They are on their own."
Karie Beck, president of APT, took Bledsoe's Facebook comments to Plainfield Superintendent John Harper last week, saying the union has concerns.
"Our concern is this is what is being posted on a public forum," she said.
Beck also said she did not campaign during the union meeting, but informed members about the union's letters to the offices of Will County Regional Superintendent Jennifer Bertino and to Will County State's Attorney Jim Glasgow, regarding board member Roger Bonuchi's vote to give administrators four paid vacation days. The union thought that was a conflict of interest because his wife is an administrator. However, Bertino-Tarrant said Bonuchi's vote was not illegal or a conflict of interest.
Bledsoe disagreed with Beck's statement.
"They are campaigning. Every building is campaigning. ... It's personal attacks. I've done nothing to warrant personal attacks from the teachers' union," Bledsoe said. He would not say what the comments were.
"In their union meetings, they can say what they want, but if they are going to politick at their union meetings - that is against board policy and they will be held accountable for politicking on school grounds."
Bledsoe said he has heard that the union is telling teachers to vote against himself and Bonuchi and to vote for board member Dave Obrzut.
However, Bledsoe said the point is moot.
"I have no intention of running," Bledsoe said. "To put up with this for a longer period of time? No, not me."
SUBHEAD: Moving union meetings
Beck said starting next year the union will hold its officer's meetings off district property. She said the union is seeking people to run for school board, but is not campaigning on school property.
"We are trying to seek members that share collaborative efforts to improve the district," Beck said. "You don't want the us against them mentality because that will not get the best results."
Harper declined to comment on what actions he took regarding the complaints against the union for allegedly campaigning on school property and the union's complaint against Bledsoe's Facebook comments.
However, Harper did point out that board policy and state law prohibit political activities on district property and/or during compensated time.
"We want to emphasize the importance of the board, our two professional associations and the district administration working together in the coming weeks and months to address some very significant issues facing the district," Harper wrote in an e-mail.
SUBHEAD: Is this what we want?
Ann Bachman-Thomas, uniserv director for Illinois Education Association, questions Bledsoe's Facebook comments.
"We have always conducted ourselves in a professional way. What kind of leader do we have leading the fourth largest school district in Illinois? This is what we want?" asked
Bachman-Thomas said Bledsoe's comments didn't help morale which was already down.
There is a lot of anxiety among union members because of upcoming budget cuts, she said.
Harper is expected to make his recommendations to reduce the $6.7 million deficit before winter break.
"They are scared, angry, upset. ... They don't know who will be on the chopping block," Bachman-Thomas said.
SUBHEAD: Bledsoe violating ethics?
Bachman-Thomas said she believes Bledsoe is in violation of the school board's code of ethics for his inappropriate comments.
That policy which was revised in 2009, says:
- I will avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety which could result from my position, and will not use my board membership for personal gain or publicity.
-I will take no private action that might compromise the board or administration and will respect the confidentiality of privileged information."
Bledsoe disagrees, saying he has few friends - 81 on his Facebook page and the majority of them are not teachers.
"I don't feel like I've done anything ethically wrong," Bledsoe said. " I felt their comments against me were unwarranted. I'm not a board member who is running for re-election. I'm not a board member who is standing in their way. I'm a board member who has supported them for the entire time I've been on the board.
It's not clear what actions can be taken against Bledsoe, if any.
"Our legal counsel does not see an unfair labor practice, because (board of education) members are allowed to make personal opinion statements against the union. It is not illegal, however we see it as unprofessional and anti-collaborative," Bachman-Thomas said.
The issue might be a concern to the Regional office of Education, Bachman-Thomas said.
However, Bertino-Tarrant said there is no action she can take regarding Bledsoe's Facebook comment.
"While I do not condone any actions that appear unprofessional, Mr. Bledsoe's authority as a school board member begins and ends at school board meetings and activities that relate as such," she wrote in an e-mail. "He needs to remember he is a public official in his community and his comments have more weight."
Bertino-Tarrant said being a school board member is a tough responsibility.
"Nearly all of the time you have people that love your decisions and the other half that do not," she wrote. "Board members are individuals that volunteer their time away from work, family, rest, etc. and are often scrutinized. In my opinion, while not the correct method--he appears frustrated by the process."
Bledsoe agrees he is upset and frustrated by the unjust comments.
"If they look back on my record, I can say with all pride, I am one of the few board members that have stood up for them on every account," Bledsoe said.
In March during last year's budget cuts, Bledsoe wrote on his Facebook page: "This school district has to stop (expletive) with peoples lives. It's just not right - going to do what I can but it will never be enough."