Column

Styf: Watching out for you, no matter who is involved

Jon Styf, Northwest Herald Editor
Jon Styf, Northwest Herald Editor

It’s never a good idea to get too close to anyone, or the opposite.

No, that’s not life advice.

But it is work advice for someone like me.

There are some people who are easier to talk with than others, some people who are more helpful than others, but the end goal is we still treat you the same way with our coverage.

That comes up every week with all that we cover, from school boards to municipalities to nonprofits.

That’s why, when people sometimes ask me if I’m for or against something or someone, I refrain.

Because I can appreciate all the new businesses and progress that seems to be happening in McHenry, but also understand when it appears someone has overstepped their bounds or not followed the rules, like in the case of Mayor Wayne Jett’s political email and McHenry’s lack of an appointed ethics adviser.

One doesn’t impact the other, because we are not for or against Jett. Our goal is simply to fairly cover all sides appropriately, regardless of how popular or unpopular of a figure they are, and point out both.

The same can be said of the goings on in Algonquin Township.

I can be skeptical of the FOIA lawsuit settlement with the township road district, wondering why each specific document was requested, but also agree that public entities should respond appropriately to public information requests, not attempt to block YouTube videos and not believe they have the right to subpoena information on sources.

The same holds true for District 155, which this week said that teacher Matt Fralick was on paid administrative leave while facing a felony grooming charge through the McHenry Police Department.

The district does a great job of posting most of its documents before meetings and posting all of its personnel moves before they happen. And they have consistently done a great job educating area students, evolving with the changes in education throughout the years.

But the police and school also should be telling the public more on when Fralick was removed from the classroom – we believe it was early in the school year – and how long he’s been or will be on paid leave.

Due process is important, for sure, but so is the safety of students, something I’m sure D-155 officials have thought about plenty since they found out about this accusation, whenever they did.

Because despite the district’s statement that there is “no reason to suspect that any student or staff member in the district has been in any danger at any time,” there also is a right to be skeptical that the district or police could know what happened in every interaction that a teacher or coach had with students and staff over the years.

If I’ve learned anything as a Michigan State graduate over the past few years, it’s that a predator could be hiding anywhere and you’ll never know what goes on behind closed doors. That doesn’t make everyone guilty, but it does show that warning signs can be missed or ignored for years.

Our role is to give the public the best information possible on what the process looks like, so the taxpayers can understand rather than blindly trusting it’s been handled correctly. We can’t know all while a case is being investigated, for sure, but we should know more.

Watching out for you, no matter who it is, is our goal.

• Northwest Herald Editor Jon Styf can be reached at jstyf@shawmedia.com or 815-526-4630.

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