Ouster of D300's Clark ‘textbook,' expert says
Monica Clark says the YouTube videos and Facebook page of her recent obscenity-laden comments crippled any hope of another 4-year term on the Community Unit District 300 school board, but a political science professor says the old-fashioned scandal was more likely her undoing.
"On my part, the Internet was huge," Clark said on Wednesday.
But Scot Schraufnagel, a political science professor at Northern Illinois University, said while the importance of social networking sites — and the Internet in general — is increasing, Clark's use of an F bomb at a special board meeting became the cause célèbre. Schraufnagel said the case was "textbook."
"The only way an incumbent loses in these low-turnout elections is through a scandal," Schraufnagel said. "Scandal resonates because, ultimately, what do you need, a couple of hundred voters to turn out against the incumbent? This is typical. You expect that type of (negative) campaigning to work in a local election."
But Clark said before the election, she did not expect the fallout to be so intense.
"The people who were talking to me said they knew why I said the things I said," Clark said. "Still it was inappropriate, but it was never intended for public consumption."
In March, Clark was caught by the district's recording system using an unprintable word to describe students who vocally opposed the district's reorganization plans and personally targeted her during public comments. Clark stormed out of the meeting and returned to cast a vote in favor of cutting 363 teachers, staff and administrators in an attempt to save the district $5 million. At a meeting on March 22, she also placed blame for the district's current financial situation squarely on teachers union president Kolleen Hanetho. Those comments initially sparked the ire of parents, students and teachers.
Lake in the Hills resident Randy Clark (no relation) posted YouTube videos of the March 23 meeting and created a Facebook page in opposition to the proposed cuts.
The YouTube video had more than 3,600 views as of Wednesday afternoon and dozens of students and parents had friended the Facebook page.
Randy Clark said he hopes the sites played a role in unseating the one-term trustee.
"When I heard the audio with how she talked to the students, it just floored me," Randy Clark said. "There was no way she should be in an elected position, representing me."
Monica Clark said she is "all right" with the election results as the episode caused great pain for her family, particularly for her daughter.
"As of today I feel greatly relieved," Monica Clark said. I don't want to put my family through this again."
She said her eldest daughter asked her not to hand out her diploma at graduation, fearing a repeat of the March 23 board meeting.
Tuesday's election also saw the defeat of Karen Plaza, who was seeking her first elected term to the board having been appointed in 2010. Plaza also voted in favor of the reductions and reorganization. The top vote-getter was Chris Stanton, one of three board members who opposed the changes, followed by current board President Joe Stevens and challengers Susie Kopacz and Steve Fiorentino.
Administrators have said more than half of the 363 teachers and administrators given pink slips will be recalled before the start of the 2011-2012 year.
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