Neither the winter break nor the freezing weather cooled the friction at Hinsdale High School District 86 meetings.
At a Finance Committee meeting Jan. 8, a School Board member yelled at one resident not to try to take over the meeting and a district administrator insulted another resident.
Before the 6:30 a.m. meeting officially began, Linda Burke, the parent of two Hinsdale Central graduates and a vocal critic of the new School Board majority, complained the early morning committee meetings are scheduled with too short notice and at times that are difficult for many people to attend.
Raising his voice, School Board member Victor Casini advised her he would not let her take over the meeting. Board member Ed Corcoran told Burke she would not be allowed to stay if she were disruptive.
The meetings are scheduled in the early morning to suit board members, such as Casini, who then go off to work. Corcoran said district employees also prefer to attend meetings before work rather than in the evening,
While Burke claimed the frequent committee meetings, held at various times and days, are “secretive, dysfunctional and abusive,” School Board member Richard Skoda and other members of the public said the meetings are open to the public and informative.
In contrast, between 2009 and 2011, the facilities committee held no meetings and the finance committee met just twice, Skoda said.
When the School Board voted on the master facilities plan in January 2009, the plan was not available to the public until the next day, Skoda said.
Roger Kempa, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board in April, said he was baffled by Burke’s complaints the committee meetings are not transparent. Kempa later, however, apparently pushed the buttons of Interim Business Manager Gary Yeggy.
One of the topics discussed during the meeting was exclusive contracts with beverage companies to sell their products in the school vending machines.
Yeggy reported he had contacted Pepsi six times and Coca-Cola 10 times and neither responded. He supposed their lack of interest was because the majority of the drinks sold at District 86 schools are through the school lunch program, and not the vending machines.
Kempa said other school district receive thousands of dollars from contracts with beverage companies and District 86 is missing out on this revenue, a point he has made at previous board meetings.
Annoyed, Yeggy said he had negotiated beverage contracts at other school districts where he worked, but this time, “I just can’t get them to come to the table,” he said.
“I’m no rookie,” Yeggy said, and ended his remarks by calling Kempa a profanity and leaving the room with a slam of the door.
Kempa was taken aback and called Yeggy’s behavior unprofessional.
“I never saw a business manager go berserk before at a meeting,” Kempa said.
That evening, Kempa said he had received an email from Yeggy in which Yeggy apologized for “the harshness” of his response and said his behavior was “unprofessional and totally improper.”
“I am a very forgiving person,” Kempa said. “I don’t hold grudges. I just want to help the district maximize its revenue and cut costs.”