Members of the public who spoke during last night’s North Judson-San Pierre School Board meeting expressed overwhelming support for an elected board. The five-member appointed panel is meeting Monday evening for a work session to discuss next steps and will announce during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20 whether they will voluntarily transition from an appointed to an elected body.
Of the 10 people who signed up and spoke, seven favored a change, one opposed it and the other two stressed the necessity of doing what is best for the community without formally stating a position.
Board members listened intently without comment. At the conclusion of the meeting, Matt Bailey reaffirmed his support for a change to an elected school board.
“It allows 100 percent of the community that choose to get involved can vote to do so. Everyone has a say. That’s the way it should be. All of us should have a say. Then not only do you have a say, but you’re allowed to run for the position if you feel you have the qualities and credentials to do so. Then we the people make that decision if you would be the best person for the positions.”
Bailey added the current appointed process is very exclusionary.
“With an appointed board, less than 1 percent of the people are allowed to be involved—one to three people making the crucial decision of who is running our schools and making decisions for our children and future generations. So we see the appointed process flawed in many ways. Not just that it keeps 99 percent of all the citizens from participating, but normally when the process does happen, we don’t have a clue that it took place.”
Wayne Township resident and North Judson-San Pierre graduate Nathan P. Origer spoke in favor of keeping an appointed board. He says greater accountability is a laudable goal but is not guaranteed, even if board members are elected.
“That accountability argument assumes that you are going to get a better candidate because the person you vote out, if you do vote somebody out, that somebody’s going to step up and that somebody is going to put his reputation on the line to publicly campaign and is going to put money into campaigning. It also assumes that somebody can’t do sufficient damage in four years. I work in government, I work in county government. It takes less than four years for somebody to set back progress decades. You don’t need to wait to get them out to see that, and sometimes that damage cannot be undone.”
Origer says the school board is not the issue when it comes to declining revenue and drops in enrollment. Rather it’s an issue of economics and demographics.
“Going from an appointed board to an elected board because you don’t like how the transparency is missing for some of the townships is like going to a neurosurgeon for a paper cut. Replacing an appointed board with an elected board to solve problems rooted in economics and demographics is like going to see a psychiatrist because your car won’t start. This is not going to fix things, and we’re going to take some serious risks by making change for the sake of change.”
WKVI will air last night’s meeting in its entirety on Sunday at noon on Kankakee Valley Viewpoints.