Regional schools chief vows to fill Dist. 15 vacancy
In the middle is an empty seat.
On either side are two factions of the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board. Deciding who will take the vacant spot between them, still unoccupied, has been the source of "infighting" and "embarrassing" inaction, jabs leveled by both sides.
Under Illinois school code, the now six-member board had 45 days after the Jan. 4 death of Vice President Richard Bokor to name his successor. Twenty-seven people applied for the 2-year position, but the board failed to interview a single one.
There wasn't a shortage of talent, board members say. But with voting power at stake, the board, split 3-3, couldn't even agree on how to trim the list to the top contenders.
Now, Bruce Brown has inherited the decision. As the regional superintendent of schools in north Cook County, a role he's held for about two years, Brown has never made an appointment to a school board.
But he says he's been involved in filling vacancies as the former Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 superintendent. He stepped down from that job after seven years in 2009.
Brown vows to name his choice before his own 30-day deadline from Feb. 18 expires. If he doesn't, voters would choose in the next regularly scheduled election.
Illinois School Code allows him to look for candidates beyond the 27 received by the district. But Brown has elected to choose only from that pool. Beyond that, there is "nothing about process" in the statute, says Brown, who hasn't decided how many people to interview.
"Just doing a cursory screening, already there's many individuals who have considerable talents," said Brown, who lives in Northbrook.
What's he looking for?
"I think some of the things that would help screen them out would be experience in the field of education, experience with service, volunteerism with different organizations and a level of expertise or background training they would bring from their profession if it's outside of education," he said.
He won't talk specific candidates, but the district turned over the resumes of some familiar names: Joshua Perry, one of seven candidates running for three 4-year seats on the board in the April 7 election; Ed Rafferty, a retired Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 superintendent; and two former board members ousted by voters, Gerald Chapman and Laura Crane.
Matt Lyons, who ran in the 2013 election, also applied to fill the seat. Earlier this month, Lyons was the eleventh-hour choice of the former minority faction: Scott Herr, Manjula Sriram and Gerard Iannuzzelli.
But the other faction -- Peggy Babcock, James Ekeberg and David Seiffert -- rejected that pick. Babcock, the board's president, has said Lyons' appointment would shift voting power to the other trio and called for letting the "unbiased" choice go to Brown.
When asked whether the majority-minority dynamics factor into his decision, Brown said he's interested in what professional skills applicants can offer in a district with roughly 12,000 students and a $155.6 million budget.
"I'm really looking at trying to find the best individual to serve the needs of the students and the needs within the district," he said. "I can't and won't take a political position on this. It's not appropriate and it would be nonobjective."
The man making the appointment in Dist. 15Who is Bruce Brown?
He heads the North Cook Intermediate Service Center in Des Plaines, one of three agencies that act as a go-between for the state board of education and Cook County schools. Under Brown's territory are nearly 40 elementary and high school districts.
He is in his second year as the center's executive director, appointed by a volunteer governing board, all professional educators. The board includes a mix of current teachers, superintendents and other administrators.
With a roughly $5 million budget administered through the Illinois board of education and a seven-person staff, including Brown, the center provides teacher workshops and certification, bus driver training and building inspections, among a range of services for schools.
-- Katlyn Smith