Board of education declines to fill vacancy

Liam Mathews, Editor-in-chief

Since early July, the District 208 Board of Education has been going through the process of filling its empty seat left by Tom Jacobs. Jacobs, who was elected to the board in 2019, moved out of the district on July 1st and thus was unable to complete his term. This vacancy was left to be filled by the six remaining board members: Deanna Zalas, Laura Hruska, Bill Durkin, Ramona Towner, Ryan VenHorst, and Lorena Gasca. 

The board opened applications to any interested community members and received 14, interviewing eight of the candidates. However, the state deadline to select a candidate passed last week on August 26th. This leaves the responsibility of filling the empty seat to Mark Klaisner, Regional Superintendent of the West 40 Intermediate Service Center No. 2, which operates under the umbrella of the Illinois State Board of Education.

“If you’re not at a place where you can take a vote and have four people agree on a single candidate, you have the safety valve, if you will, of the regional superintendent,” Zalas, the board president of District 208, said.

The board obviously hoped to select a candidate on their own, but, as they proved unable to reach a compromise before the 26th, it is completely out of their hands now.

“I think all of us were somewhat frustrated that we did not resolve the situation, but we acknowledged that the path forward is to go to the regional superintendent,” Zalas said.

Zalas expects Klaisner to make an educated decision and select a candidate who will represent the Riverside Brookfield community well. Above all, the board president looks forward to having a final board member confirmed, leaving this process in the past, and continuing to deal with other issues.

“I am confident that he [Klaisner] will make a choice that is good for the district, and it will allow us to move forward with a full board, with a full slate of seven people, so we can address the issues we really need to address,” Zalas said. 

Although the board was unable to reach a compromise in this situation, Zalas does not expect them to have any major issues going forward.

“I think this was a really unique activity for the board to engage in. I think if you look at the work we’ve done, the work we have to do, they are all for the betterment of 208 and for the students at 208. We’re all confident that we can continue to do the work that needs to be done,” Zalas said.

Zalas, who acknowledged how important it was for the board to work towards filling its empty position, expressed her wish to have been able to dedicate more time to issues other than simply selecting a new board member.

“We had a lot of other board work to be doing, we’ve got to work on goals, we’ve got to work on the budget. I had sort of a different agenda for how we’re gonna spend our summer,” Zalas said.

Klaisner is permitted 30 days by the state to select a new board member, who will serve the final 18 months of the term. All registered voters who live in District 208 are allowed to apply for the vacancy through Klaisner and the West 40 office. 

Zalas eagerly awaits his decision, and describes what she would hope to see in a new board member.

“Personally I’m looking for someone who is interested in advocating for the mission of 208, someone who is a quick learner, will do the homework and collaborate with their colleagues,” Zalas said.