PEORIA, IL -- The District 3 candidate for the Peoria District 150 School Board, Susie Wolstenholm, has turned her campaign over to the new group Change150.
She announced recently she does not plan to serve if elected, but Change150 wants her elected anyway over incumbent Laura Petelle.
"Change must start with this election," Change150 spokesman Sea Stipe said at a news conference on March 4,to announce the campaign.
"This election is a referendum on the current direction of the Board," he said.
Change150 is based on a coalition of groups that are fed up with the board and its superintendent Grenita Lathan.
If Wolstenholm wins, she will not serve, so the board will pick a replacement to serve one year. Change150 will have several vetted candidates for that position, Stipe said.
The group plans another press conference soon to present its policy statement, he said. Meanwhile, a political campaign for Wolstenholm, the symbol of change, is up and running with buttons, signs, websites and volunteers to go door-to-door.
Stipe acknowledged that he and others were "in a bubble" and ignoring the problems in District 150 until the Charter Oak principal John Wetterauer was targeted, they say unfairly. Suddenly they woke up and organized.
Now they have "a tiger by the tail," Rev. Jim Powell, president of the group said.
They're making common cause with others, including those who want Peoria Stadium saved as green space, those who question the District 150 administrators use of credit cards, those who question the board's lack of transparency, those who contend a climate of "fear and intimidation" has been created, even those still mad that Woodruff High School was closed, only to be reopened as a vocational center.
The list is long, but for now, Change150 is focusing on the March 18 primary election, which is a final nonpartisan election for the District 3 board seat.
If the incumbent Laura Petelle is reelected, they hope their efforts will nevertheless send a message to the board about their concerns, Stipe said.
In addition, there are more board seats to be filled in 2015, so if the group persists, it can turn over the board within a few years.
Other Peoria schools have been closed or their beloved principals transferred, drawing protests that faded. The board ignored them.
This time, the successful northside Charter Oak school was filled with middle class parents and friends with the resources and savvy to organize and target an election.
-- Elaine Hopkins