MAHOMET — Three new members joined the Mahomet-Seymour board of education Tuesday, and the reorganizational meeting brought disagreement between them and longer-serving members, with a vote split 4-3 on picking a new president.
Cooperation despite differing opinions was stressed more than once.
“I can work with anybody that’s up here,” Lori Larson said after the new board was seated. “When we work together as a board, that’s when we get things accomplished.”
New members Meghan Hennesy, Ken Keefe and Colleen Schultz took the oath of office for the first time, while joining returning members Larson, Jeremy Henrichs, Max McComb and Merle Giles. Henrichs was re-elected in the April 2 election that saw the newcomers unseat two other board members, Lance Raver and Jenny Park. This time around, Larson, McComb and Giles were not on the ballot. Nezar Kassem did not seek re-election.
At the 9 p.m. session Tuesday, when it came time to reorganize the board and select officers, conflict arose first regarding who would serve as president, a post McComb held with the past configuration.
In the end, he held on to the role.
First, Giles nominated McComb to serve again as president, then Schultz nominated Hennesy. In discussion, Hennesy thanked Schultz for the nomination and talked about her service on the Sangamon Valley Water District, for example.
“I’m not coming to the table with no experience,” Hennesy said. “Experience on the board in a leadersip role is something that I have under my belt.”
Schultz praised Hennesy’s extensive work in Mahomet-Seymour schools, among other things.
“I think she’s well suited to build consensus in our community,” she said.
Keefe spoke up to support Hennesy, referring to the unseating of the two incumbents by voters in April’s election.
“In my opinion the election sent a pretty clear message that some change was in order,” Keefe said. “Historically, Mahomet-Seymour school board has not seen school board members unseated like it did in this election. Especially given the nature of the campaign that took place, and the candidates that were chosen by the electorate, I believe that it’s time for some change in leadership.”
On the other hand, Giles spoke in support of McComb in the role of president.
“I have full faith in Max doing this,” he said. “I’ve watched him do this for a number of years. We’ve been through a lot of tough times, a lot of good times, and I don’t hesitate one bit to have him continue.”
Larson talked about working together no matter who was chosen president, and Henrichs chimed in to agree.
When it came time for a vote, Hennesy was supported by Schultz and Keefe, in addition to her own vote, and McComb received support from Giles, Larson and Henrichs, also in addition to his own vote.
The divide continued on nominations for vice president, with Henrichs nominating Larson and Hennesy nominating Keefe. That vote split 4-3 again and went to Larson, with Henrichs, Giles, McComb and Larson supporting Larson, and Schultz, Hennesy and Keefe supporting Keefe.
“I feel I’m well-suited to this role,” Keefe said before the vote. “And I would just again reiterate that in my opinion, the electorate wants some kind of change, and I think it would be a mistake if that message fell on deaf ears tonight.”