A seat on the Community High School District 218 board of education will remain empty until spring 2013 after remaining board members failed to make an appointment on Monday.
“Last week we met with two qualified board candidates,” board president Randy Heuser said. “Unfortunately we could not come to a consensus.”
Board members would not comment on the details of the discord. The contents of their interviews and discussions are not immediately available and may never be made available to the public, as state law allows.
Ron Pratl resigned from the board last month allegedly citing personal and medical reasons in a letter. Interviewing for his replacement was Linda Flanagan-Vahl, who challenged him in the last election, and Donald Pratl, his brother.
Vahl and several of her neighbors spoke on her behalf during the public comment portion of Monday meeting, before the board's announcement that it hadn't chosen anyone.
“If she doesn’t get a seat, it smacks of taxation without representation,” Nancy Czerwiec said. “You’re gonna say to the people of Oak Lawn, ‘We’ll take your taxes, we’ll spend it, we’ll do what we want—but we’re not gonna give you a voice or a seat on this board.’”
Heuser would later respond that the residents of Pratl’s former district—which includes the eastern half of Chicago Ridge and southern portions of Oak Lawn—would not be without representation.
“When we all get elected to sit in front of the room here, we all represent the entire district,” he said. “We don’t have any special interest.”
Heuser noted that the board of education would convene next month to discuss ways to “get individual representation” for Pratl’s former district. Board member Johnny Holmes said the best way for those residents to be heard would be to attend future board meetings.
Normally the appointment of an open seat would have gone next to the Regional Superintendent of Schools—or in this case the South Cook Intermediate Service Center in Chicago Heights—but the deadline for that passed 15 days ago, superintendent John Byrne said.
Several weeks ago Ron Pratl officially won the seat after a long-drawn recount. The next opportunity to fill the seat will be by general election in April 2013.
After the meeting Vahl said she was saddened by the board’s indecision and certain that politics between certain board members had caused it.
“This is just a huge slap in the face,” she said. “I won 49.9 percent of the vote.”
Donald Pratl, a former Chicago Ridge public official and adjunct college instructor with a Ph.D. in organizational management, said, “The board did what they think is best for the district. I don’t understand why it was deadlocked. They had good reasons, I suppose.”
With an even number of board members, it’s possible that a future issue could split the board down the middle without any resolution. But it didn’t happen during the last three board meetings in Pratl’s absence and it is unlikely to happen anytime soon, board vice president Marco Corsi said.
He noted that the discussions to fill the open seat were not political, as Vahl suggested, but “amicable” and “long.”
“We also thought that we work well together and we could continue doing that and let the next election determine who will sit there,” he said.