Cary District 26 school board keeps leadership as it returns to in-person meetings

  • Dozens of people attend the Cary School District 26 board meeting Monday to see students perform, the first time such an activity had happened before the board since before the pandemic.

    Dozens of people attend the Cary School District 26 board meeting Monday to see students perform, the first time such an activity had happened before the board since before the pandemic. Aaron Dorman/Shaw Local News Network

 
 
Updated 4/28/2022 10:14 AM

When students recited their speech tournament dialogues and poetry before dozens of attendees at the latest Cary School District 26 board meeting Monday, it was the first time any students performed before the board since before the pandemic.

The school board returned to in-person meetings last month after switching to virtual in September. The move to virtual followed an incident on Aug. 30 in which parents refused to comply with district mask policies and the police were called in.

 

Despite high praise for the students, several parents in attendance were less warm toward the school board, which voted to maintain the current board leadership of President Deanna Darling and Vice President Melinda Hartman at the meeting.

"You board members are disgusting and out of control, and your lack of better judgment for Cary was pure evil," Cary resident Monika Gwizdz said Monday. "The board never had the right to make health or personal choices for our kids. As long as I am breathing, you will never again be given the opportunity to do so."

Another Cary resident and parent, Eric Hafferkamp, accused the board of "stripping parents of their civil rights" and urged every board member to immediately resign.

District 26 was one of about 145 school districts, eight of them in McHenry County, named in a lawsuit last year challenging the governor's mask mandate and other COVID-19 mitigations for schools.

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After a Sangamon County judge issued a temporary restraining order saying only the legislature had the authority to issue such mandates, District 26 was one of two McHenry County districts that decided to keep the masking requirements for all but those named in the lawsuit, leading to protests.

The school district, as did the state as a whole, later dropped the mask requirement.

Hartman, who nominated Darling to continue as board president, said Darling had done a "fantastic job" and conducted herself with integrity despite it being a difficult role.

Darling referred a request for an interview by the Northwest Herald to Superintendent Brian Coleman, who agreed to an interview but then asked for questions in writing. He had not responded to the questions as of Wednesday afternoon.

The board members will serve one year in their officer positions until April 2023.

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