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School board chooses Rohatgi


Special to The Press

At a special meeting on Jan. 25, the Parkland School Board chose Jay Rohatgi to serve the unexpired term of David Kennedy who resigned.

Board members Rob Cohen, Carol Facchiano, Patrick Foose, David Hein, Lisa Roth, Annette Wilcox and Marisa Ziegler voted in favor of Rohatgi.

Jarrett Coleman voted no.

As soon as the vote was completed, school district notary Sheryl Hamsher administered the oath of office to Rohatgi.

The meeting then adjourned, and Rohatgi was surrounded by well wishers.

The evening began with a 45-minute period of public comment in which individuals stepped forward to offer remarks on general topics, such as the mask mandate and also on Rohatgi who appeared to be the leading contender to fill the vacancy.

Board President David Hein explained the protocol for the meeting, which was derived from Section 407 of the School Code.

Applicants would all leave the room and be brought back in, one at a time.

They would first tell the board about themselves and why they would like to be selected, and secondly to explain how the role of a board member differs from that of the administration.

Hein asked for a vote to adopt the protocol.

Board member Patrick Foose voted no because he thought candidates should have an additional question asked of them.

Board member Coleman also voted no.

“I am not comfortable asking a candidate to leave the room and give up something they’re entitled to,” Coleman said.

The process was designed for the board to interview fairly and objectively. If candidates hear the responses of those ahead of them, their own answers could be influenced.

Fourteen individuals submitted resumes to the board in advance and were listed on the agenda to speak in alphabetical order. One person did not show up for the meeting.

The applicants were: Laura Bachenberg, Alyssa Beckwith, Dean Browning, Jessica Doyle, Vicki Ferrence Ray, Brian Happel, Tiffany Ironside, Natalie Janotka, Kathleen Mangold, Michael Miller, Aaron Nickels, Jay Rohatgi, Ryan Scanlan and Bethney Whitehill-Finch.

After the applicants answered the prescribed questions, Hein moved forward with the nominating process.

Coleman requested to have the matter moved to an executive session, but Solicitor Steven Miller said that would not be appropriate.

Board member Rob Cohen, speaking remotely, nominated Jay Rohatgi.

Coleman nominated Laura Bachenberg.

A few board members commented.

“All of them want to serve the community,” Cohen said. “We need to focus on only one.”

Ziegler then offered her thoughts.

“Jay has extensive history of volunteering for the school district,” Ziegler said. “He has considerable community support.

“I would love to see diversity reflected in the school board.”

Coleman pointed out all of the candidates were qualified as they met the requirements of residency and being over age 18.

“We have a community that feels they’re not being listened to,” he added.

As the process came to an end, several board members thanked the applicants for their interest and encouraged them to volunteer or seek election at some time when other vacancies arise.

“It was heartwarming to look over everyone’s applications,” said Roth, speaking remotely. “We all come together. We never put politics into this.”