A deadlocked Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education has punted its duty to fill a vacancy on the school board to the Illinois State Board of Education through its West 40 Intermediate Service Area regional office.
The school board met in closed session for about 30 minutes on Aug. 24 but just as they did two weeks earlier, school board members could not agree on a replacement for Tom Jacobs who resigned in July when he moved out of the district.
After Tuesday night’s session adjourned, District 208 school board President Deanna Zalas handed a statement to the Landmark.
“The board of education received 14 applications for the vacancy created July 1, 2021,” the statement said. “We appreciate each applicant’s interest in serving Riverside-Brookfield High School and the District 208 community. After extensive deliberation, the six voting members of the Board of Education have not reached a consensus. Therefore, the regional superintendent will be asked to exercise his statutory authority to appoint a new member to the 208 Board of Education.”
The person who will choose the replacement for Jacobs will be Mark Klaisner, who is the executive director of the Hillside-based West 40 Intermediate Service Center No. 2, an arm of Illinois State Board of Education which oversees 38 school districts and three special education cooperatives in western Cook County.
State law gives school boards 60 days to fill school board vacancies. If they fail to meet that deadline, the state steps in to fill the vacancy. Klaisner has 30 days to pick a replacement for Jacobs.
Klaisner has worked in education for 37 years and is the president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools. He has served as the executive director of the West 40 Intermediate Service Center No. 2 for the past seven years and during that time he has filled four school board vacancies.
Klaisner said that he will start the selection process anew and ask that those interested in filling the vacancy to send applications to him. Klaisner said that he would work with RBHS Superintendent Kevin Skinkis to publicize how people can apply.
Any registered voter who lives in District 208 can apply for the vacancy, not just those who applied directly to the school board. Klaisner said those who already have applied to the school board will not be considered unless they again apply directly to him at West 40.
Klaisner said that he would not even look at the applications and questionnaires that the 14 people who previously applied to fill the vacancy submitted to the District 208 board.
“I feel an intense need to be impartial,” Klaisner said.
Klaisner said that he looks for mission-driven people rather than people with particular axes to grind. He said he also looks for people who have experience serving on some type of board.
One of the candidates who applied to the school board to fill the vacancy was former board president William “Wes” Smithing, who was defeated in a bid for re-election in April, finishing last in a field of four candidates vying for three seats.
It’s unclear whether school board members were deadlocked over Smithing’s application, though he likely had support from two or three board members, all of whom referred questions to Zalas who simply said the board didn’t agree on a replacement for Jacobs.
Klaisner said he would consider the application of a former board member who lost a race for re-election carefully. He said that he would want to know the margin of his defeat.
“I think that would be something that would be important to discuss, because it relates directly to this appointment,” Klaisner said. “But I would also try to assure that person that they weren’t out of the running just because of that. If I’m being impartial, I should give everybody the same fair chance.
“I’m also curious about the makeup of the board and if they represent the community.”
Klaisner said he much prefers school boards fill their own vacancies, noting they know their districts and communities much better than he does.
A former assistant regional superintendent for the Kane County Regional Office of Education, Klaisner served for five years as the superintendent in Lincolnwood School District 74.
He holds a doctorate in educational leadership from National-Louis University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Illinois University, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Purdue University.
In addition to Smithing, the school board interviewed former Komarek School board member Carolyn Lach; Riverside resident Cathy Daun; Riverside resident Lisa Garay; Chloe Pederson, a Riverside resident who is an attorney in private practice; Annette Milleville, a Riverside resident who is an assistant Cook County state’s attorney; Riverside resident Joe Doyle; Riverside resident Matt Gugliciello, a member of the school board at St. Odilo Catholic School in Berwyn; and Loriann Duffy, a Riverside resident who is the director of property operations at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Interviews could not be arranged with three applicants, former District 96 school board member Juliet Boyd, Riverside resident Annette Peterson and Brookfield resident Anaese Vega.
Two applicants, Tricia McVicker and Jose Madrigal, dropped out of consideration before interviews took place.