CHICAGO | A Cook County judge said Friday he wants to meet with the six members of the Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board on March 12 to see if they can come to a consensus on filling a board vacancy.
Otherwise, Judge Moshe Jacobius said, he will rule in the case.
The seven-member School Board has been one member short since October, when a different Cook County judge ordered board President Kenneth Williams removed, saying his 29-year-old felony conviction in Indiana makes him ineligible to serve.
Since then, the board has been split in a 3-3 tie between members who were aligned with Williams and those who opposed his policies. The matter is now before Jacobius, who said Friday he’d like it if the School Board members themselves could agree on a new board member.
Jacobius scheduled a hearing for March 12. He said part of the hearing will entail the six School Board members meeting privately with him to talk over the issue.
For their convenience, the Daley Center-based judge said he will travel to the Cook County 6th District Circuit Courthouse in Markham for that hearing.
Jacobius said he believes the current situation with a half-dozen groups of attorneys representing different factions does no one any good, and ignores the needs of the high school district’s students.
“There has to be a meeting of the minds,” Jacobius said. “There’s got to be a way to reach an agreement.”
The 3-3 School Board split prevented officials last year from picking a replacement for Williams, and the Chicago Heights-based South Cook Intermediate Service Center picked Ray C. Banks, a former District 205 School Board member who was the highest vote-getter from among the losers of the April 2013 elections. He also says he would align himself with Kenneth Williams’ opponents.
Attorneys for Williams’ allies argued the service center did not follow the Open Meetings Act when picking the replacement, and has now missed deadlines to pick a replacement. They contend the vacancy must now remain open until the next election cycle in April 2015.
Jacobius, who indicated previously he agrees the service center’s pick is not valid, said Friday that leaving a vacancy simply won’t work.
“The kids will lose big time if there remains a deadlocked board until the next election,” the judge said.
Only one School Board member, Edward Crayton, leader of the faction that opposed Williams, was present for Friday’s court hearing. He said he is willing to talk with the judge and would accept a consensus pick.
George Jackson, an attorney representing the three School Board members aligned with Williams, said he is willing to see someone appointed to the board so long as it is not Banks.
While William Gleason, an attorney representing service center Executive Director Vanessa Kinder, said officials there are only concerned the vacancy gets filled.