District 64 board chooses familiar face to fill vacancy

Park Ridge-Niles District 64 Board of Education chose a familiar face to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of board member Dathan Paterno.

Terry Cameron was elected to the board in April 2013, but resigned in the summer of 2014 because his job relocated out of state. He has since moved back to Park Ridge and was one of the 11 residents to put his name forward after Paterno’s resignation. As board president Anthony Borrelli explained, while there were a lot of qualified candidates, they wanted someone who already had experience serving on the board and could get up to speed quickly.

The board officially appointed Cameron during the Feb. 21 meeting. He will serve until May 1, 2017, when a new board is expected to be sworn in.

As previously reported by the Bugle, Paterno resigned after a series of controversial tweets that described the participants in the Jan. 21 Women’s March as “vagina screechers.” Even after he resigned, many District 64 parents and residents came to the Jan. 23 meeting, urging the board to strengthen its policies on dealing with situations like this.

Under the state law, the board had to fill the vacancy within 45 days. As Borelli explained during the Feb. 21 meeting, 11 candidates applied, and eight of them were interviewed. He said he was pleased that the board had so many people to choose from.

“While no one could have predicted the events of the weekend of January 20, 2017 that created the vacancy in the first place, I, personally, and the board in general, have been pleasantly taken by the interest shown in by the community in applying for the vacant seat,” Borelli said.

He credited district superintendent Dr. Laurie Heinz’s community outreach efforts.

“Since Dr. Heinz has arrived in this district, our outreach has exploded,” Borelli said. “The number of candidates interested in filling that vacancy is an endorsement of that outreach.”

He said that he and the other board members were impressed with all interviewed candidates, and he encouraged them all to run for office in 2019. But in the end, they decided to go with Cameron. As he explained, the replacement candidate would only be serving for a little over two months, which didn’t give the board enough time to bring a candidate without any experience up to speed.

“It is incumbent upon each member of the board to be knowledgeable and well-versed in the issues at hand,” Borelli said. “We were constrained by the limited time frame of 10 weeks and four meetings with which to get that individual up to speed.”

According to the district press release, Cameron already has the necessary board certifications.

As Borelli welcomed his old colleague back to the board, he jokingly referring to him as a “prodigal son.”

“Congratulations, Terry,” he remarked. “Or beware, or something like that.”

Later during the meeting, the board adopted several policy changes dealing with board members’ conduct and their behavior during meetings. It established a procedure for dealing with allegations that board members violated the board code of conduct. The code already specifies that it would include instances where a board member’s “private action that might compromise the Board or administration included, but not limited to actions for example through deed or social media statements.”

The procedure established three levels of invention. The first level is simply the board president privately talking to a board member about the issue and working out a way to address it. In the second level, either the president of three other board members can call for the issue to be discussed at either a regular or a special meeting, where members would have an opportunity to propose a resolution calling for the board member’s censure. If that doesn’t work the third level calls for the board to appeal to the Regional Superintendent of Education to remove the member.

As Borelli explained during the meeting, some of that was already on the books in some form or another – the major change was that the new structure would give the board something more forceful than a conversation but less severe than an appeal to a superintendent.

 

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