New Berlin school board election plagued with grooming and misconductIn Sangamon County, one school board is particularly interesting. Races have restrictions by township range in the New Berlin School District. The district sits in portions of Sangamon and Morgan County. The school board’s relationship there has been particularly onerous over the last year. Former Superintendent Adam Ehrman left the district to return to his home up north to take on an elementary superintendent’s position. This would occur following accusations of intimidation and a lack of transparency. The accusations would surround three teachers receiving disciplinary action following intimidation complaints. One teacher and the former head of the local teacher’s union, Joe Kindred, was dismissed as part of that discipline. There is possible current litigation with the state teachers union over the episode. A New Berlin P.E. teacher would receive a suspension in January for alleged sexual misconduct with a student. That situation came on the heels of a Sangamon County lawsuit about another former administrator who would receive a dismissal from the district for alleged sexual misconduct. The teacher would later move to the Rushville School District before losing his license. The family of the student would file a negligence lawsuit for not filing misconduct claims with the Illinois State Board of Education. This would especially be true when the administrator was caught the first time. New Berlin also has another sexual misconduct lawsuit currently in Sangamon County Court. Additionally, a former student would file a suit after what she says was four years’ worth of grooming and sexual misconduct by a former teacher in the district. None of these suits have concluded.
Waverly Schools with similar problems, but only one incumbentThe Waverly School District also has similar issues. For instance, current superintendent Dustin Day was facing accusations of sexually harassing and intimidating former elementary school principal Tammy Hermes. As a result, Hermes and high school principal Brian Cook would resign after the school board voted to retain Day after an internal investigation. Cook and Hermes also are allegedly going to file a class-action suit against the board in the case. However, information about that suit has not been made available. Four candidates are running for three seats in that school district, with only one incumbent filing paperwork for re-election. Several area municipal races are going uncontested. City clerks, city treasurers, trustees, road district superintendents generally don’t have many people filing to run for those positions. That is until someone gets found stealing money, official misconduct, or caught in the act of committing other forms of corruption. Jacksonville’s current clerk has been in office either as a clerk or alderman for over 20 years.
The primary problem with the elections is timingThe main problem with these elections is timing. Most people don’t want any involvement less than six months after a general election. For some, it’s simply “too soon.” For voters, it’s a matter of: “Didn’t we just have an election?” There are a couple of proposed measures to curtail this problem. The first measure would stick municipal elections in off presidential years during the November general election time period. Stick them all on the ballot at the same while you have everyone’s attention and make everyone campaign. Caveat: If you are running a campaign as a mayor, you can’t necessarily be a part of a state rep. Campaign or something else. It makes everyone live and die in the election field on their own. The other measure would require moving municipal and school board elections to the summer, like July. Make the politicians campaign in the heat and amid the Independence Day and Memorial Day holiday weekends. It’s likely to capture more interest and attention. It places four months between itself and the general elections in November. It’s plenty of time and it gives people relief from post-presidential election fatigue. The filing periods could be done in April with primaries in late May.
Let’s get involved in our local electionsIt’s time that people get involved in these elections. Otherwise, uncontested races will allow those at the local level to continue to protect their own political self-interests. It will also force some of the long re-elected incumbents to actually campaign rather than rest on their past laurels and their crony connections in municipal and county government. Make elections dangerous again. Make local campaigns something of interest or people like me in the news will continue to have stories about local government corruption, local official misconduct, and general larceny of liberty and money to report.
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