Updated: December 9, 2013 10:24AM
Rich Township High School District 227 Board member David Morgan, a longtime backer of board President Cheryl Coleman, spoke against her at every turn Tuesday, dramatically changing the trajectory of a board split between two factions.
Morgan’s change of heart returned majority control to what he called the “Mrs. Owens group,” which includes former board President Betty Owens, Shelia Friday and Emmanuel Imoukhuede. The move leaves Coleman, Antoine Bass and Delores Woods in the minority.
Morgan had harsh words for the Coleman faction, which has replaced the entire district administrative staff, ordered a forensic audit and hired new attorneys since taking their seats in May.
“The people that you didn’t trust are now in the forefront of leading student improvement and productively engaging this community to achieve this goal,” he said to Coleman, referring to new policies on academic improvement and accountability that were placed on the agenda for the special meeting, which was called by the new majority. The board then voted to accept the policies.
Morgan accused Coleman and her supporters of voting against policies to help children, but he wasn’t specific in his charges.
“This is ridiculous from a so-called ‘reform’ school board who is still sitting here calling yourself reformed with a new vision and won’t help children,” Morgan said. “I find it absolutely incredible and embarrassing.”
Woods objected to the accusations.
“I think it’s very unfair for you to sit here and state that three board members don’t care about students,” she said. “You talk about abuse — the only abuse going on in here is from you.”
Morgan chastised the “old” board majority for the administration’s decision to bus students after a bomb threat at Rich Central High School to Rich South High School on Sept. 30, where a fire alarm was pulled and a brawl ensued.
“We got a dangerous situation up here, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “A very dangerous situation. It must be changed. Otherwise, worse than this is going to happen. If you think Sept. 30 was bad, stay tuned, because there are people up here not listening to anybody and calling themselves ‘leaders’ and in charge.”
Some community members criticized Morgan for his switch.
“Dr. Morgan, your personal vendettas, and your being on one side and then the other, and your being off point, is an insult to fellow board members and certainly to those of us who take the time to come to the meetings,” Olympia Fields resident Beverly Sokol said. “I am really appalled.”
Olympia Fields village manager David Mekarski asked the board members to put aside their differences.
“The campaign has ended,” he said. “All I would ask is that you become a board of seven and work toward a collaboration where votes are not the ‘old board’ and ‘new board’ and ‘reform board,’ but a unified board for the benefit of children, for the benefit of our home values, for the benefit of economic development. You all have something in common to bind to. So put an end to the politics, the censure resolutions, the back and forth, and get to the process of representing our kids.”