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Changes coming with next school board election? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Changes coming with next school board election?
School attorney seeks opinions on election of at-large board members

by Lyle R. Rolfe

10/4/2012

Until now Oswego School District Board members have been elected at-large from throughout the expansive 68 square mile school district. But that could change with the next school board election in April.

Maureen Lemon, legal counsel for the school district board, said the Illinois School Code may set limits on how many board members can be elected from specific areas of the district.

Since the code is complex, Lemon said she has asked Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis to review it along with officials of the Illinois State Board of Elections and the Illinois State Board of Education.

She added she will also likely contact the Illinois Attorney General's office for an opinion.

"It has numerous interpretations and is not clear on its face," she said of the school code.

"If you look at the law, it depends on population in the district at any specific time and the population shifts. So the law has remained the same, but its application may have changed over time," she said.

One of the provisions is based on the number of people in townships, and it is unknown at this time whether it might apply to the district. She said they cannot determine which of the provisions in the law may apply to district-if any-until they get further guidance from the agencies she has contacted.

"If one of the provisions would apply you would look at individual townships and it could limit the number of board members to three from a congressional township.

"'There's another provision that talks about incorporated and unincorporated areas of the district," she said, adding, "This provision could limit the number of board members to five in the incorporated areas.

"There's another provision that talks about having 75 to 90 percent of the population in one congressional township. If you have more than 90 percent of the population in one congressional township, the board members could be selected at large," she said.

The school district's boundaries extend into three different counties: Kendall, Kane and Will. In Kendall County the boundaries take in all of Oswego Township and sections of Bristol and NaAuSay townships. In Kane County, the boundaries extend into Aurora Township, and Wheatland Township in Will County.

Historically, a majority of school district board members have resided in Oswego Township. However, the district's population has grown significantly over the past 15 years in other areas of the district, including the City of Aurora portion of the district that includes sections of Oswego Township and Wheatland Township.

Lemon said they have asked the state agencies for guidance because they are the experts in school and election laws.

The current board make-up will not be affected regardless of what is determined, Lemon said.

No decisions have been made yet so, she said the district is encouraging all potential school board candidates to pick up their petition packets and file them as they usually would. (See article on this page.)

Lemon said her office has been aware of the provisions for some time. To determine whether the district may be affected, she said they have to find out how many square miles are in the district, the number of congressional townships in the district, the population in the district, how the population is distributed through the district, and how much of the district is incorporated and unincorporated areas.

"So it's a matter of finding out all those factors and then determining which provisions apply," she said.

The law actually goes back to 1983 and was changed to a different section of the code in 2006. There have been no cases interpreting it, she said. _

"But keep in mind that over time the population shifts and the percentage of who lives where shifts. So the law has remained the same. It's just a matter of applying it based on the current specific data.

"We'll let the board and the people know as soon as we find out something. But as of now, the state boards of education and elections haven't even come up with a clear answer," Lemon said.




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