Journal writer

MOMENCE -- After a 40-minute discussion Tuesday, the Momence School Board agreed to proceed with plans to switch to at-large elections.

Voter approval would remove restrictions that only certain numbers of board members may come from the more populous congressional townships.

The board met to consider rescinding its earlier move to place the measure on the November 5 ballot. The reason was that it was discovered that if the measure passes, all board members would be up for re-election in April.

Board members whose terms would have expired in April include President Cynthia Reddish, Bob Simpson and Mike Lambert.

Mrs. Reddish, who has been on the board for 12 years, said Tuesday that she would not be seeking re-election.

Simpson said he plans to run again and Lambert was unsure.

Those who were elected or re-elected in November are Dianne Schaafsma, Jeff Bleyle, Elwood Line and Kevin Yohnka.

Yohnka explained that the most laborious part of running is seeking the 50 signatures for a nominating petition, a task he just finished. He said that in four years, he may have to seek signatures three different times.

Also, board members pointed out that ultimately there could be seven new board members at a time when the district is also working with a new superintendent, high school principal and junior high principal.

Still, Mrs. Reddish noted that the idea of seven new board members seems "unlikely," considering that part of the reason at-large election is being considered is because of a lack of willing candidates in some areas.

As it stands, no more than three board members may be from Ganeer Township and Momence Township and one must be from Ganeer fractional, an area near Wichert with less than two dozen homes.

Under current restrictions, top vote-getters are not always elected.

Mrs. Reddish pointed out that in a community the size of Momence, "we don't represent separate interests. Our district shares the same interests of the children."

Mrs. Reddish noted that under the current election rules, "there may be an empty seat on the board despite the fact that someone has an interest to run," simply because they don't live in an area with a seat open.

Momence voters rejected the at-large concept in 1996. It must pass in all districts now.

Watseka Unit 9 also is considering a switch to at-large elections, although the switch was defeated at referendum earlier.