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updated: 10/30/2012 3:18 PM

New Dist. 204 board member named, squabbling ensues

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  • Cathy Piehl. New District 204 vice president.

    Cathy Piehl. New District 204 vice president.

  • Dawn DeSart. Called Piehl board's 'weakest link.'

    Dawn DeSart. Called Piehl board's 'weakest link.'

  • Christine Vickers. Nominated but not elected.

    Christine Vickers. Nominated but not elected.

By Kristy Kennedy
Daily Herald correspondent

There was some name calling in Indian Prairie District 204 Monday night after a new board member was sworn into office and the board moved to fill its vice president post.

Earlier in the evening, the board appointed Benjamin White to fill the vacancy left by former board President Curt Bradshaw, who is now serving on the Illinois State Board of Education. White, a retired Army officer currently working toward a doctorate in values-driven leadership at Benedictine University, was chosen from a field of 21 candidates. He will serve until the April election.

Superintendent Kathy Birkett said White has a wealth of experience from his 22 years of military service to teaching at the United States Military Academy at West Point and at Wheaton College, and his current work with the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Joliet West High School.

"I think we always look for that lifelong education, that education is a priority," Birkett said.

Bradshaw's departure also left the vice president post vacant when former Vice President Susan Rasmus moved up to fill the role of president. Squabbling ensued after board members Cathy Piehl and Christine Vickers were nominated for vice president.

"I'm going to keep it real for the taxpayers and the real story is that Cathy Piehl is truly the weakest link," said board member Dawn DeSart, who nominated Vickers. DeSart said Piehl lacks ideas and public speaking skills. She praised Vickers' business experience, leadership skills and ideas.

"Chris has been on the board the longest and is the strongest link on this board," DeSart said.

Rasmus chastised DeSart and said she was supporting Piehl because Piehl would best support her as president.

"Dawn, do I believe that degrading people in public and putting people down and throwing daggers is the way to go? I don't," Rasmus said.

Board member Lori Price, who nominated Piehl, praised her status as a master board member, a designation given by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Vickers said she questions the value of that distinction.

"Is being a master board member just going and sitting and listening and you put your time in and get a certificate? I don't think that should be a master board member," Vickers said.

Other board members said they were trying to keep things positive.

"I don't think it is fair of me to give my perception of anybody, nor would I call anybody out," board member Mark Rising said, adding he respects both Piehl and Vickers. "I want this to be a positive vote and to move forward positive."

DeSart called the process "back stabbing" and said there were phone calls among board members over the weekend to choose the vice president.

"My biggest problem with this is that it all took place by phone, behind people's backs," she said. "That's wrong," she whispered dramatically.

The vote ended with Piehl as vice president with support from Price, Rasmus, Rising and White.

Both Rasmus and Piehl will serve in their leadership positions until after the April election when the board will vote on a leadership team. Rising will fill the role of secretary, vacated by Piehl.

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