Op-Ed Letter to Local School Citizens

Date: September 14, 2021

RE: Op-Ed

Dear Local School Citizens:

The state’s mandates regarding masks and vaccinations are merely the headlines and excuses of the moment in an incremental dismantling of local control in public education – and other arenas -- that began decades ago, with the pace only picking up since.

Indeed, the latest top-down decisions from the governor and Illinois State Board of Education – and at times we’ve seen this at the federal level, as well – are just a continuation of the pattern of higher officials substituting their judgments for those of local school boards. That has included matters of curriculum, testing, student dress codes, accommodations, discipline, athletics, school lunch offerings, etc. “Unfunded mandates” – directives without the dollars to implement them -- have been a local rallying cry for as long as many of us can remember.

It is fair to ask: What is the point of electing local school boards at all?

We would grant that public safety is of the utmost importance – we want to protect our kids, employees and ourselves, too -- and that people of good intention may differ on the approaches to this pandemic and how best to protect the short- and long-term health and interests of our students. What we would not concede is that we must abandon our principles as a nation in order to preserve and protect the nation and its citizens. Among those principles is the rule of law.

Since March 2020, Gov. Pritzker has issued more than 80 executive orders regarding COVID-19 that have carried the force of law. The actual lawmaking branch of government – the Illinois General Assembly -- has been missing in action.

Lest anyone think our stance here is political, whether it’s a Republican governor of Florida or a Democratic governor of Illinois making these unilateral calls, it is clear that this has become a bipartisan affliction. The aims may be different but the behavior is the same, and worthy of objection in either case.

Indeed, it is impossible to believe that governing by executive order is what this nation’s Founders had in mind when they were forming our nation. Not only have school boards been made irrelevant, but evidently legislatures have been, too. This is not what we teach our students in regards to how our republic is supposed to work. We may not always agree with the legislative outcome, but at least our time-tested processes have been respected.

 Meanwhile, federal and state law are abundantly clear as to where the authority lies in regards to public education: “Parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children,” while other public and even private jurisdictions “have the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role.”

Gov. Pritzker himself once subscribed to that view. As recently as July, he stated that “families should be involved in making decisions for their own families. And, school districts and school boards will make decisions for the schools within their districts.”

Evidently, the Governor and ISBE really don’t believe this.  

Meanwhile, those of us who took the governor at his word are now dismissed and derided as an extreme minority, the enemies of science and compassion.

First, too many of our state leaders mistake compliance with agreement and consent. More of us than they apparently wish to admit have serious misgivings about how decisions are being made in Springfield.

As for the science, it – or at least the communication of it from the CDC and others – has been inconsistent, at best. Finally, who’s really being punitive here – and to schoolchildren, not adults – when the consequences of not falling in line are to make high school diplomas worthless, or deny funding, or prevent students from participating in athletics? It is precisely because we do care about our young people that we are sparing them these threatened punishments.

In short, may Springfield forgive those of us who have come to view it as less a partner than an adversary in the education of our children.

To say this is a challenging and unprecedented time understates it, but the zig-zag nature of decision-making out of Springfield has made it far more difficult to manage our classrooms, our schools, and our districts, creating unnecessary conflict in our communities. None of that serves our students – our reason for being – well.

It’s not just about the pandemic. It’s about all of the decisions that have been taken out of local hands by those who are all too distant from the resulting fallout. Enough is enough. Absolutely, it is the principle of the thing. Please, restore local control and accountability to our communities and those of us who know them best.


Morton CUSD# 709    

Dr. Jeff Hill, Superintendent and Morton District 709 Board of Education                                                               

Central Community High School District #71

Dr. Dustin Foutch, Superintendent and Board of Education


El Paso Gridley CUSD #11      

Mr. Brian Kurz, Superintendent         


Odell CCSD #435        

Mr. Mark A. Hettmansberger, Superintendent and Board of Education                  


Taylorville CUSD#3    

Mrs. Chris Dougherty, Superintendent and Board of Education         


Meridian CUSD #101  

Mr. Jonathan D. Green, Superintendent    


Regional Office of Education #11      

Dr. Kyle Thompson, Regional Superintendent 


Midwest Central CUSD 191   

Dr. Todd Hellrigel, Superintendent and Board of Education           


Trico Community Unit District #176  

Mr. Larry D. Lovel, Superintendent   


Carlyle CUSD #1         

Ms. Annie Gray, Superintendent and Board of Education    


Central A&M  

Dr. DeAnn Heck, Superintendent and Board of Education  


Mt. Zion CUSD #3       

Dr. Travis R. Roundcount, Superintendent and Board of Education    


Damiansville ESD #62

Mr. Dustin E. Nail, Superintendent and Board of Education       


Pana CUSD #8

Mr. Jason Bauer, Superintendent             


Shelbyville CUSD #4   

Mr. Shane Schuricht, Superintendent and Board Members: Abbie Ballard, Jake Hankins, Gary Hayden, Ellen Trainor and Scott West     


Red Bud CUSD #132   

Mr. Jonathan Tallman, Superintendent and Board of Education      


Gardner South Wilmington High School #73

Mr. Josh DeLong, Superintendent and Gardner South Wilmington #73 Board of Education.                                                                     

South Central School District #401    

Mr. Kerry Herdes, Superintendent and South Central Board of Education  


Paris CUSD #4

Ms.Danette Young, Superintendent and Paris CUSD #4 Board of Education                                                                       

Braceville Elementary School #75     

Mr. Josh DeLong, Superintendent and Braceville Elementary School District #75 Board of Education          


Nokomis CUSD #22    

Dr. Scott E. Doerr, Superintendent and the following Board members:  Mr. Chad Ruppert, Board President, Mr. Carl Kettelkamp, Board Members, and Mr. Denny Bauman, Board Secretary.                                                             

Clifton Central CUSD # 4        

Ms. Tonya Evans, Superintendent and Board of Education         


Havana CUSD #126    

Mr. R. Mathew Plater, Superintendent and Board of Education         


Eureka CUSD #140     

Mr. Robert Bardwel, Superintendent and Eureka CUSD 140 Board of Education              


Freeburg Community High School District #77         

Mr. Gregory Frerking, Superintendent           


Woodlawn USD #209 

Mr. Eric Helbig, Superintendent and Board of Education     


Windsor CUSD #1       

Mr. Erik Van Hoveln, Superintendent and Windsor CUSD #1 Board of Education              


Cowden-Herrick CUSD #3A    

Mr. Seth Schuler, Superintendent and Cowden-Herrick Board of Education                                                                       

Bartelso SD #57          

Mr. Tom Siegle, Superintendent         


St. Libory CSD #30      

Dr. Thomas Rude, Superintendent        


Mt. Pulaski CUSD #23

Mr. Fredrick A Lamkey, Superintendent and Mt. Pulaski Board of Education


Ridgeview CUSD #19

Mr. Erik Young, Superintendent and Board of Education                 


Flanagan-Cornell District #74

Mr. Jerry Farris, Superintendent and Flanagan-Cornell FC 74 Board of Education           


New Berlin CUSD #16

Ms. Jill Larson, Superintendent and Board of Education    


North Clay #25           

Mr. Travis Wyatt, Superintendent and Board of Education    


Benton Consolidated High School District #103        

Mr. Benjamin Johnson, Superintendent     


Marshall CUSD #C-2   

Mr. Kevin Ross, Superintendent          


Red Hill CUSD #10      

Mr. Jakie Walker, Superintendent and Red Hill Board of Education         


Community Unit School District #4   

Mr. Scott D. Riddle, Superintendent and CUSD#4 Board of Education                                                                     

Bourbonnais Elementary School District #53

Dr. Adam Ehrman, Superintendent         


Vandalia C.U.S.D. #203          

Dr. Jennifer Garrison, Superintendent and Board President Joe Lawson                                                                 

Tremont CUSD #702  

Mr. Sean Berry and Board of Education         


Roanoke-Benson CUSD #60   

Mr. Thomas Welsh, Superintendent and Roanoke-Benson Board of Education                    


ROE 21

Ms. Lorie LeQuatte, Regional Superintendent                 


Iuka Grade School CCSD #7   

Mr. Sam Alli and Board of Education         


Oakwood CUSD#76    

Mr. Larry Maynard, Superintendent


Central City School #133        

Mr. Tim Branon, Superintendent


Farmington Central CUSD #265         

Dr. Zac Chatterton, Superintendent    


Field Community CUSD #3     

Mr. Wayne Stone, Superintendent      


LeRoy CUSD#2

Mr. Gary Tipsord, Superintendent and LeRoy CUSD#2 Board of Education           


Payson CUSD#1          

Dr. Donna Veile and Board of Education: Lisa Schwartz, Vinson Sill, Chanse Barker, Clint Twaddle, Danelle Donley, and Denise Albsmeyer                      


Benton CCSD #47       

Mr. Steve Smith, Superintendent         


Neoga  CUSD #3

Mr. Bill Fritcher, Superintendent         


St. Elmo CUSD #202   

Ms. Julie Healy, Superintendent and Board of Education                 


Okaw Valley CUSD #302        

Mr. Kent Stauder, Superintendent and Board of Education        


Mount Vernon Township High School #201  

Ms. Melanie Andrews, Superintendent and Matthew Flanigan, Board President           


Ramsey CUSD #204    

Ms. Melissa Ritter, Superintendent and Ramsey Board of Education.                                                                     

Teutopolis CUSD #50 

Mr. Matthew Sturgeon, Superintendent            


Sullivan CUSD #300    

Mr. Ted Walk, Superintendent               


Bluford USD #318      

Dr. Shane Gordon, Superintendent     


Mulberry Grove CUSD #1      

Mr. Robert Koontz and Board of Education       


Effingham CUSD #40  

Mr. Mark E. Doan, Superintendent      


Anna-Jonesboro CHSD #81    

Mr. Rob Wright, Superintendent   


Anna CCSD #37          

Dr. Julie Bullard, Superintendent and Anna CCSD #37 Board of Education                                                              

Beecher City CUSD #20          

Mr. Philip Lark, Superintendent and Board of Education           


ROE #13         

Mr. Matt Renaud, Superintendent         


Damiansville ESD #62

Mr. Dustin E. Nail, Superintendent and Damiansville ESD #62 Board of Education   


Freeburg Community Consolidated District #70       

Dr. Melanie Brink and Board of Education           


Hutsonville CUSD #1  

Ms. Julie Kraemer, Superintendent and Board of Education


Altamont CUSD #10   

Mrs. Casey Adam, Superintendent          


Gifford CCSD #188     

Dr. Jay P. Smith, Superintendent       


Salem Community High School #600

Dr. Brad Detering, Superintendent    


Brownstown CUSD #201        

Mr. Mike Shackelford, Superintendent and Board of Education               


Prairie du Rocher CUSD #134

Mr. Rob Pipher, Superintendent           


Calhoun CUSD #40     

Ms. Andrea Lee, Superintendent      


Delavan CUSD #703   

Dr. Andrew Brooks, Superintendent       


Scott-Morgan CUSD #2          

Dr. Kevin Blankenship, Superintendent  and Board of Education             


Winchester CUSD #1  

Dr. Kevin Blankenship and Board of Education       


DeLand-Weldon CUSD #57    

Ms. Amanda Geary, Superintendent and Board of Education          

Spring Garden CCSD #178      

Ms. Tammy Beckham, Superintendent

Chester CUSD #139    

Mr. Brian Pasero, Superintendent

Norris City-Omaha-Enfield CUSD #3

Mr. Matthew J. Vollman, Superintendent

Clinton CUSD #15

Mr. Curt Nettles, Superintendent

Cumberland CUSD #77

Mr. Todd Butler, Superintendent