Metro-East News

August 11, 2014

District 7 school board swears in member who lost in election

EDWARDSVILLE - Amid criticisms from angry parents, the District 7 school board installed Greg Roosevelt as a new board member, a position he lost in the spring election.

Roosevelt was school board president and one of two board members who lost their seats last spring. But when a sitting board member resigned due to moving out of the district, the remaining board members selected Roosevelt out of seven candidates to take his seat.

Prior to Roosevelt's swearing-in, several parents addressed the board to express their "profound disappointment" and even anger at the board's decision to reappoint him.

"This was an insult to the voters of this community and a slap in the face to the democratic process," said parent Matt Petrocelli. "What happened here was wrong, and it will be corrected in the future."

Parent Lynette Watson said this was a missed opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to work with parents, particularly those who have been unhappy with District 7 administrators.

"By reinstating Mr. Roosevelt into the vacant board seat, however, the senior members and Dr. Hightower sent a clear message to us," Watson said. "You have no respect for the opinions of the community, the input we should have or the issues we deem important."

Not everyone was opposed; two speakers congratulated Roosevelt. "Those of you that have had the audacity to speak tonight about representing a community ... don't understand the function of a school board," said Jim Speciale, a former board member who had served at least 20 years on the board, 16 as president.

Speciale pointed out that Roosevelt will serve for "a very short period of time" until the election next spring, and said the board needed someone who could hit the ground running.

Some parents said it seemed that the board did what the administration wanted instead of the voters. "This board does not work for the superintendent, this board works for us," Petrocelli said.

However, in his comments, Superintendent Ed Hightower said he did not actively participate in the process of choosing Roosevelt.

"I did not read one resume that was sent in," Hightower said. "I did not sit in on one meeting, or advise the board."

Some speakers called on the board to change its mind.

"It shows certainly a lack of character and courage, and smacks very much of cronyism," said parent Steve Klein. "I would prefer that either the board reconsider its decision and withdraw the appointment, or that Mr. Roosevelt himself find the courage to step down."

Neither action was proposed or voted upon. However, Roosevelt said he intends to respect the role of parents and the community. "The key here is to continue to build relationships," Roosevelt said.

Roosevelt said the board is faced with "tremendous pressures" due to the state's financial situation, and said they must work with legislators to prevent more financial crises.

"This is a time for the community to unite, to come together and fight that battle," Roosevelt said. "I respect that each of you are here because you believe in District 7 and public education. It is the bedrock of this country and this community... I hope we can do it in a positive, constructive manner."

Board member Monica Laurent was elected vice president, with two votes for newer board member Jeff Miller. Board member Paul Pitts was confirmed as secretary.

"We've heard the disappointment and frustration of those who spoke tonight," Pitts said. "I looked at what we needed... I felt that in the best interest of the district, students, employees and voters, that for the next few months, Mr. Roosevelt was my choice to fill the vacant position."

In other news, students from Edwardsville High School made a presentation to the board requesting that students be allowed to use their cell phones in the cafeteria during the lunch hour. The board unanimously approved the policy change.

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