Community leaders weigh in on District 150 meeting & discussion

By WEEK Reporter

March 11, 2014 Updated Mar 11, 2014 at 11:35 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The issue of race has now been injected into the debate over whether changes are needed in Peoria School District 150.

Several people from the CHANGE150 group again addressed the school board Monday night. The group is hoping for more open lines of communication between the community and the district.

However, there are several people who believe the administration is already doing well. Pastor Harvey burnett has voiced support for superintendent Grenita Lathan. He expresses disappointed with CHANGE150's movement and used strong language to express it.

"You're not the sheriff, CHANGE 150," said Pastor Burnett. "We will run and we will not allow you to publicly lynch a black woman in office. Yeah, that's right. You heard what I said. We won't allow you to lynch her or allow you to lynch any one who is helping our children. Yes, 'Wow' is the story," continued Burnett. "If you don't like me, then you really won't like me because we are galvanizing to make our voices heard and voices known."

The pastor hopes to create his own coalition of supporters for District 150's school board of education.

Monday night's meeting sparked a chain of responses from community leaders. News 25 spoke with several leaders who have much to say about the meeting and the community's willingness to be heard.

The district declined to comment. CHANGE 150 released a statement Tuesday evening stating:

"Change 150 is a coalition of concerned citizens working through the democratic process to affect change in District 150 and its leadership. The current leadership philosophy isn't working and so we want to create an environment of collaboration for the benefit of our students, teachers and our whole community."

Other community leaders would not comment specifically on Burnett's opinions, but they had much to say about the meeting and this ongoing discussion.

"I love getting all of this feedback. It's a great civics lesson even though it may not be a polite civics lesson," said District 150 board member Laura Petelle.

Petelle says last night's discussion was better than none at all. Petelle says she isn't afraid of engaged conversation--she welcomes it.

"This is how we create smart, involve citizens who vote, and can govern themselves," said Petelle.

"I see it as utilizing the democratic process to send a message," said Peoria Federation of Teachers President Jeff Adkins-Dutro.

Adkins-Dutro says he is proud of Peoria's public school system. He says the union's only goal is communication.

"All we have done is push for collaboration. We've been persistent, but I don't think we've bullied anyone."

Both leaders agree that having a successful school system requires give on all sides.