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Changes for school board elections set : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Changes for school board elections set
Attorney: Two board members must live outside municipal limits

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Until now, it hasn't mattered whether candidates for the Oswego School District Board lived inside or outside a municipality within the 68 square mile school district.

But beginning with the next board election, April 9, the board must be comprised of at least two members who reside in unincorporated areas of the district, according to Maureen Lemon, an attorney for the school district.

Lemon said she received information this week from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Kendall County Regional Office of Education stating that at least two members of the board must now be from the unincorporated areas of the district.

This means only five of the seven board members can be from the incorporated areas of the district which includes all of the Village of Oswego, and sections of the cities of Aurora, Yorkville and Joliet and the villages of Oswego, Montgomery and Plainfield.

The board now has two members living in unincorporated areas-Ali Swanson, who was elected to a four-year term in April 2011, and Laurie Pasteris who is up for re-election April 9.

If Pasteris seeks re-election and a candidate from an unincorporated area running against her receives more votes, Pasteris would lose her spot on the board regardless of how her vote total may compare to candidates from the incorporated areas, Lemon said.

But if no one else runs from the unincorporated area, Pasteris would be elected regardless of how many votes she would receive, Lemon added.

If Pasteris does not seek re-election and there are no other candidates from the unincorporated areas, this would create a vacancy on the board that would be filled pursuant to state law and board policy, she said.

The law and policy says the board has 45 days to appoint someone to a vacancy from the time the board learns of the vacancy. The board president can appoint someone with a majority vote of the other board members. If this is not done within 45 days, the state agency can appoint someone to the position.

This means the remaining three board seats up in April will be filled by candidates from the incorporated area of the districts.

Board members from the incorporated areas whose terms will be up in April, include Mike Scaramuzzi, Dave Behrens and Lynn Cullick. Cullick resigned from the board this month after she won a seat on the Kendall County Board. Her seat remains vacant.

Because the legislation that could have affected Oswego was complex, Lemon had asked Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis, to look at it along with officials of both state boards.

Lemon said there was no case law that interpreted the applicable section of the school code.

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

"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 was based on the number of people in townships, but it was unknown whether it might have applied to the district until they heard from the state agencies.

One provision could have limited the number of board members to three from a congressional township.

"The provision that affects the district talks about incorporated and unincorporated areas of the district. It limits the number of board members to five in the incorporated areas," she said.

Lemon was asked what would happen if they ended up with two board members from the unincorporated area, but less than five members from the incorporated area.

"This refers again to a 'vacancy' that would be filled pursuant to state law and board policy," she said.

Originally Lemon thought none of the changes would affect the current board make-up, but she learned otherwise when the decision was forwarded to her.

Lemon said the ballot format used in the April 9 election will group candidates from unincorporated areas together and group candidates from incorporated areas together.

All school district residents will receive the same ballot, Lemon noted.

She said candidates have always been required to state on their nominating papers whether they reside in a city, village or unincorporated area. But for this election she said they should make sure they list correctly where they live.

Candidates can file starting on next Monday, Dec. 17 through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 26.

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