Many Park Ridge parents, teachers and students joined Saturday’s Chicago rally and marches.
Board President Anthony Borrelli distanced the board from Paterno’s statements and said they would look into changing their policies so something like this doesn’t happen again.
“While unfortunate, we should take the time to learn and reinforce our ideas of respect and civility,” Borrelli said Monday night before public comment. “These are qualities that we teach our children and qualities that we should retain as adults.”
Paterno has come under fire for controversial tweets in the past. Blogger Fred Klonsky, a retired teacher from Chicago who writes about education issues, has cataloged several statements he’s attributed to Paterno’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, including anti-Muslim statements, claims Christians who support abortion rights are “hailing Satan,” and frequent criticisms of the Obama administration.
District parent Stacy Kelly said she found it hard to believe that the other members of the board weren’t aware of Paterno’s online behavior before his tweets over the weekend and called for an independent review of the board so the behavior will no longer go unchecked.
“If you are neutral in the face of injustice you are choosing the side of the aggressor,” Kelly said.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment during the almost hourlong public comment came when board member Athan Sotos interrupted district parent Daisy Bowe because she, like several other speakers, used the word “vagina” in her remarks. Sotos said he denounced Paterno’s use of the word and he didn’t want to have to explain to his children why people at the board meeting also used the word.
The crowd shouted down Sotos’ interjections. And when he continued to talk over Bowe, Superintendent Laurie Heinz asked Sotos to stop talking because public comment was not meant to be a dialogue between the public and the board.
A few speakers later, district parent Sarah Nugent told Sotos that what was objectionable about Paterno’s tweets was not his use of the word “vagina” but his saying he didn’t like it when women spoke up for their rights.
After public comment ended Monday night, Heinz said she appreciated so many coming to the meeting and asked them to remember the good that the district does.
“We will not let this incident define the school, the staff, or the district because we deserve better,” Heinz said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Borrelli said in the coming days the board will put application materials for the now-vacant seat on the school board on the district’s website.