McHenry regional superintendent removed from office

The McHenry County Board unanimously voted Tuesday night to remove Regional Superintendent of Education Leslie Schermerhorn from her elected office following years of troubled audits.

Since Schermerhorn was appointed superintendent in 2012, the McHenry Regional Office of Education has been the subject of six consecutive state audits with errors, including issues with the office's organization and thousands of dollars of unaccounted funds.

County records show officials have offered to help Schermerhorn fix the problems, including by hiring part-time accountants and enlisting the help of the Boone-Winnebago Regional Office of Education, although Schermerhorn told state legislators that the county board failed to provide the assistance she requested.

County board members said removing Schermerhorn was the only option left to fix the problems.

"Nothing was done to address them, and it's gotten worse," board member Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, said in a county board committee earlier this month.

Gottemoller led the push to remove Schermerhorn from office.

Tuesday night's vote happened with little drama or discussion following a committee of the whole where the topic was addressed Friday. Schermerhorn was not in attendance at Tuesday's meeting and has not appeared before the board since the resolution was introduced earlier this month to remove her from office.

In a phone call Tuesday afternoon, Schermerhorn said she did not have any comments on the resolution to remove her from office but said she was planning on taking legal action.

Schermerhorn, who was elected to office as a Republican in 2014 and 2018, has argued state law does not allow the county board to remove her from office. The duties of county boards outlined in the Illinois School Code say the board can remove the regional superintendent "in case of neglect or refusal to [submit reports to the board], or for any palpable violation of law or omission of duty."

Appearing before state lawmakers in Springfield on Sept. 1, Schermerhorn said she didn't think the office's audits would improve in future years because the County Board was not helping her address the problems.

In response, state Rep. Jaime Andrade, D-Chicago, said "If I would've told that to my constituents, I would've been gone two years ago."

Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, responded to Schermerhorn's testimony by sending a letter to state lawmakers offering to answer any questions they had about the county's issues with the regional office of education.

The McHenry County Regional Office of Education is different from most of the other 34 in Illinois because it covers a single county, while many offices are responsible for multiple counties. The regional offices of education in Lake, Kane, DeKalb, DuPage and Will counties also serve single counties.

"It is in the best interest of the county and the people we serve, the students and the faculty of all these school districts," board member Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, said at Friday's committee of the whole.

Assistant Regional Superintendent Michael Freeman will take over the duties of the office temporarily until a new superintendent can be appointed, Buehler said Tuesday. The county will be sending out a news release to search for new candidates to replace Schermerhorn.

"It's my intent to bring nominee to a vote in front of the full county board within 60 days," Buehler said Tuesday night.

The position is up for election next year. Schermerhorn, who did not face a challenger in her two bids for the office, could choose to run for the position again.

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