SOUTH HOLLAND | The School Board for Thornton Township High School District 205 is stuck in a rut — unable to do much of anything since School Board President Kenneth Williams left.
Williams was removed from the School Board in October by a Cook County judge who determined a 28-year-old felony conviction and prison term served in Indiana made him ineligible to be on a school board.
When Williams was the president, he had three allies on the seven-member board, meaning that most issues received 4-3 votes in his favor.
Now without Williams and a vacancy remaining on the School Board, issues before it in November and December often received a 3-3 vote. Three board members who were opposed to Williams — Edward Crayton, Bernadette Lawrence and Lauren Green — vote in a bloc.
While the three who supported Williams — Vice President Darren Robinson, Judith Gibbs and Williams’ wife, Toni — also vote as a group that says it is challenging the established order of District 205. The district oversees Thornton High School in Harvey, Thornridge High School in Dolton and Thornwood High School in South Holland.
The split is enough the district nearly failed to approve a required property tax levy for the upcoming year, which would have decimated the district’s finances for years to come had the board not been persuaded to reconsider.
Bloom Township Treasurer Rob Grossi, who provides budgetary advice to District 205, said while he understood the Williams faction did not want to approve a levy that included potential for a slight tax increase, the board’s initial action was rare.
“This just never happens,” Grossi said. “The (property tax) levy is too important to tamper with.”
But it wasn’t just the property tax levy vote last week that got a 3-3 vote, it has become the standard for most issues.
The split vote was evident for motions made during both the Nov. 13 and Dec. 11 School Board meetings to pay bills for the months of October and November.
In fact, among the few measures approved by the School Board when they met last week were the minutes kept for the Nov. 13 board meeting.
The board was even unable to interview candidates to fill the Kenneth Williams vacancy on the School Board within the 45-day time period required by law. That puts the decision in the hands of the regional school superintendent’s office based in Chicago Heights.
Officials there said last week they hope to have a new board member appointed by week’s end, and in place when the board meets again Jan. 8 at Thornton High School.
So while the School Board remains deadlocked, Kenneth Williams himself may well be the only person who has moved on.
After initially starting a court challenge to keep his School Board seat, Williams has since declared a candidacy to challenge state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, where state election codes do not hold his conviction against him. Since no one challenged his nominating petitions, Williams will be on the ballot for the March 18 Democratic primary.