DIXON – Lincoln Elementary School’s fate was sealed with a 4-2 vote Wednesday night. There are, however, seven members of the school board.
Kevin Sward was absent from the meeting, and I called him Thursday to ask why, and how he would have voted on two items Wednesday night.
Sward had an unfortunate illness, he said, but if he had been able to attend he would have voted in favor of closing the school. That would have made the vote 5-2.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said of reality the school district faces. “I didn’t see any other possibility.”
There was another motion on the table Wednesday that I was curious about how Sward might have voted on if he had been there.
John Jacobs made a motion to push back the vote on the $2.4 million work on Reagan Middle School. That motion resulted in a 3-3 tie. With a lack of majority, the motion failed and the board voted on the project, which passed with a 4-2 vote.
I gave Sward the hypothetical question, “If you were there, how would you have voted?”
Without knowing all the details of the motion and the discussion, Sward said, there is a “good chance” he would have voted to table that vote for another meeting.
If that had happened, I think the debate about Lincoln might have gone in another direction. I don’t know if the pro-Lincoln side would have swung enough votes to save the school, however, given the financial situation the school district is in.
Another scenario ran through my head Wednesday night and Thursday. What if the Lincoln vote had been a 3-3 tie?
If that had been the case, the vote would have been tabled until another school board meeting, Superintendent Michael Juenger told me Thursday.
The process played itself out
I was sitting in Books on First during my “office hours” Wednesday afternoon talking with two residents about a lack of discussion during local government meetings.
That was about 1:30 p.m. By 9:30, I was sitting in a Dixon School Board meeting entering its third hour.
Since taking over the Dixon beat, which happened shortly after the proposal to close Lincoln was first given to the board, I have heard from people and read comments about how the board had already made up its mind.
After listening to the debate and taking about 2,100 words of notes, I can say with some confidence that that wasn’t the case.
The discussion touched on a lot of topics – the possibility of letting residents vote on raising their taxes; transferring money between funds; and what was truly best for the students, among them.
The debate got emotional and, at times, heated.
The coverage in Thursday’s paper didn’t accurately reflect the depth of that debate, because that debate pushed right through my deadline and I was luckily able to communicate enough information to News Editor Christopher Heimerman to have an accurate report ready for the next day.
Hopefully today’s paper does provide more details of the tough decision the board had to make. Residents might not be happy with the outcome, but there shouldn’t be many complaints about the process.
Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Dixon. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 815-284-2224, ext. 229. Follow him on twitter: @MattMencarini.