Palatine Dist. 15 board division over vacancy 'almost embarrassing'
Still no process yet on selecting from 26 applicants
Under a looming deadline, two factions on the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board can't agree on a plan to pick a new member out of 26 candidates to fill a vacant seat.
Nearly a month has passed since the death of Richard Bokor, the board's former vice president, but members have not interviewed applicants to complete the two years left in his term.
The board has until the end of Feb. 17 to name Bokor's successor. Otherwise, Bruce Brown, the regional superintendent of schools, decides, and he wouldn't be restricted to the 26, officials say.
"It's almost embarrassing for our board not to be able to choose and to handle our stuff locally," member Gerard Iannuzzelli said.
Adding to the deadline pressure is a shift in voting power. Bokor was part of a four-member majority -- along with Peggy Babcock, James Ekeberg and David Seiffert -- that tended to side with administrators. The minority faction -- Scott Herr, Manjula Sriram and Iannuzzelli -- ran as a slate in the 2011 election.
Now, with three members on either side, charting a course to narrow the list of applicants -- from a pool that includes former board members and past superintendents in neighboring districts -- has proved contentious.
Last week, Babcock asked each member to rank their top five candidates, with the No. 1 choice getting the most points, by Jan. 30. The five names with the highest scores would move on to interviews before the full board, she said.
"It's an unbiased way to get our top five and at least get started," said Babcock, adding that she was flexible on whom and how many people to interview.
But Herr, Sriram and Iannuzzelli said the proposal should have included input from the rest of the board.
The trio called for a special board meeting to broadly discuss what they're looking for in a board member -- they can talk about specific candidates only in closed session -- and to weigh in on Babcock's plan.
Babcock said she refuses to schedule such a meeting until Feb. 11, when the entire board is available. Ekeberg, who had major surgery, would be able to attend only then, at least via phone, she said.
But Herr, Sriram and Iannuzzelli met anyway for more than an hour Monday without a board quorum, preventing them from conducting any official business.
"They can sit and talk until the cows come home," Babcock said. "It doesn't change anything. It's not productive."
Herr said it was a chance to air out concerns.
"From my point of view, one of the biggest issues is the significant possibility that well-qualified board applicants may be discarded due to the scoring methodology," said Herr, reading from an email he sent Babcock Friday.
The three again urged the board to meet before next week, with "the ground rule that any process has to be unanimous among those that are there," Herr said. "By leaving everything to the last second, I don't think we can do a thorough job," he said.