Overwhelming public support of an elected North Judson-San Pierre School Board was not enough to overcome the estimated $15,000 cost to transition from the current appointed body. Members voted four to one last night to maintain the status quo. The most recent appointee, Derrick Stalbaum of Rich Grove Township, cast the lone vote in favor of transition via community committee. After polling the board, President Pat Goin said, “I will support whatever plan is brought to the school, hear that loud and clear. I think all the rest of the school board members will, too. We just don’t have the money to pay for it right now.”
Board members received 206 signed responses to a Google survey posted on the school corporation’s website, with 417 comments offered. Of those, members say 85 percent favored an elected board.
Several members of the public who spoke after the board’s decision questioned why cost was never raised as a factor before and pointed out the board’s promise to base their decision on survey responses and the will of the people. Matt Bailey has been one of the leading voices for change. After the meeting he said he was disappointed but not surprised.
Earlier this year, Bailey offered to share in the cost of drafting the transition plan if the board made a decision at its June meeting. The board instead opted to gather more information and give members of the public a chance to weigh in. Bailey says the funding issue was not raised again until 8 p.m. Monday when he got an email from a board member asking if he was still willing to contribute.
He’s previously stated the Bluejay Nation Pride group would proceed with a referendum if the school board failed to act. There’s not time to get the question before voters this fall. Bailey says he’s not yet sure the next steps in the process.
“We’re definitely going to move forward, but what that forward is, there’s some different options there. This has been a long process. It’s been five months now. It’s just something that we need to sit down and think through and make that decision and take those next steps,” Bailey said after the meeting.
A transition plan needs to be drawn up before a petition can be circulated to bring the matter to a vote. The school board’s attorney has advised completing a plan would cost about $15,000. Bailey’s group has already spoken to an attorney about what that process entails. At this time he’s not sure whether they will try to schedule a special election next year or wait until 2018. A special election would carry an additional cost.
WKVI will air the entire discussion on Sunday at noon on Kankakee Valley Viewpoints, as we have throughout this process.