District considers lifting requirement of board members living in districts they represent

By Michael S. Hoey

Correspondent

The Delavan-Darien School Board moved one step closer to changing how members represent the district July 10. The board authorized Superintendent Robert Crist to have school district attorneys draft a resolution that would change how board members represent the district. The board could vote on the resolution Aug. 14.

Currently each board member represents a geographic area within the district, though on election day any voter in the district can vote for any member on the ballot. Three seats on the board represent the City of Delavan. They are held by board President Jeff Scherer, John Andreoni and Roxann Kelton. Two seats represent the Town of Delavan and are held by Ron Deschner and Giovanna Moses. One seat represents the Village of Darien, which is vacant. One seat represents the townships of Sugar Creek, Richmond, Darien and Bradford, which is held by Sharon Gonzalez.

Board members must live within the districts they represent. That requirement is what board members would like to eliminate.

In April, the two seats that represent the Town of Delavan were open and no one filed the necessary paperwork to run for the seats before the required deadline. As a result, only write-in candidates could be elected. Four people declaring themselves interested in the position, and Deschner and Moses were elected.

Scherer has repeatedly said he knew of one excellent candidate for the board who was interested in serving. The candidate is Latino, which Scherer said would help make a board that serves a district that is about 50 percent Latino more diverse. The candidate, however, lives in the City of Delavan and was not eligible to run in April for the either of the two vacant seats.

David Reinhart resigned from the board in June, creating another vacancy but he represents the Village of Darien. Over the past several months, board members have expressed frustration about the difficulty of getting qualified candidates to run for the school board, and Scherer has suggested lifting the requirement about where they live as a way around the problem.

On July 10, Scherer said he asked Crist to survey other area districts to see how their boards are made up. Crist said almost all of them have at least some at-large members who are not required to live in one particular place in the district. Many districts are entirely at-large.

“Finding a qualified board member is more important than where they live,” Scherer said.

Scherer also said the board does not serve the district as well as it could with no Latino members.

The board discussed two possibilities. Gonzalez suggested keeping one seat for the city and town of Delavan, reserving one for the village and town of Darien, and reserving one for the remaining townships while making the other four seats at-large.

Andreoni asked if a larger population base like the city and town together should get two board members instead of just one. Scherer said he did not think that was necessary because the district is a unified district that is now following the center-schools model. All students in the district now attend all the schools. In addition, statistically speaking, the at-large seats are likely to be filled by someone from the city or town because the area has a larger population base to draw from.

Kelton said she was concerned that the plan would not necessarily resolve the difficulty of finding candidates for board vacancies. She was most concerned about finding someone from the smaller townships one seat’s member would still be required to live in.

Moses said going to an entirely at-large board might be a better solution. Gonzalez said that would be much simpler, but Andreoni said the board needs to come up with a plan that will be acceptable to voters. He said an all at-large plan might not be.

Crist said the board could come up with a plan and gauge public reaction to it before voting on the resolution. Even if the resolution passes, that only puts the plan on the agenda of the district’s annual meeting in late August to be voted on by any district resident present at the meeting.

Andreoni said he is happy residents of the district will decide the issue, not just the board. The district must also get at least 100 signatures on a petition to get the resolution on the annual meeting agenda.

The board approved drafting a resolution to make representation on the board all at-large. The board will assess any public input it receives and then vote on the resolution Aug. 14.

 
 

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