Lake County regional superintendent of education to switch parties, run as Democrat
Michael Karner, who was appointed Lake County regional superintendent of schools last year as a Republican, will seek election to a 4-year term as a Democrat.
At present, Karner is the only candidate seeking the job.
Karner said he decided to switch parties after considering several factors but did not elaborate on what those reasons were.
"I am not going to speak bad about any party," Karner said. "The most important thing to me was continue to improve access and opportunity to education for all the students of Lake County."
Karner said Monday he wishes the role were nonpartisan because his job is helping all the county's students succeed and not politics.
It is coming up on one year since Karner succeeded Roycealee Wood, who served in the role since 2002.
Wood retired to focus on her health after contracting COVID-19. She ran unopposed when she last won reelection in 2018.
Wood was the only Republican serving in a countywide elected office at the time and under county rules had to be replaced by a member of her own party.
Karner was selected by Lake County Board President Sandy Hart, a Democrat, and unanimously confirmed by county board members. At the meeting where Karner was appointed, Hart said to qualify as a Republican the replacement needed to have voted as a Republican in the most recent primary election and that Karner met that qualification.
No other candidates have filed to run for regional superintendent of schools in the June 28 Democratic or Republican primaries.
Karner said he is excited to continue taking the office forward. He said he has worked to increase communication among school district leaders by hosting first-of-their-kind countywide educator conferences and launching a monthly newsletter for superintendents and district administrators.
The regional office of education started a new program for students who have been suspended for an extended period and can be sent to the Regional Safe School of Lake County in Zion instead of being out of school. Karner was the principal of the safe school when he was selected to serve as the county's regional superintendent.
Karner said he is working with school districts on a countywide initiative to make it easier for families to get their child into preschool programs and provide more access to professional development for preschool educators.
And next month, Karner's office will host a new countywide educator of the year contest. There will be nominees for nine different categories, and the winners will be announced at a dinner and ceremony at 5:30 p.m. May 4 at the Lake County Fairgrounds. For more information and to buy tickets, visit lake.k12.il.us/educator-of-the-year.