McDavid in as new DeKalb School District 428 Board president

Newly elected board members show bloc voting power, pick new officers

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DeKALB – The newly elected DeKalb School District 428 Board members showed the power of their combined vote Tuesday, as Samantha McDavid was elected board president, unseating incumbent and contender Victoria Newport.

Valerie Pena-Hernandez was voted vice president, and Sarah Moses was voted secretary. Each officer position is one year. Pena-Hernandez nominated McDavid for the president seat, and Jeff Hallgren nominated Newport, a longtime board member. McDavid won by a 4-3 vote, with Hallgren, Newport, and fellow newcomer Jeromy Olson voting against her. This would have been Newport's fourth term as president.

With four new members – and Seymour, McDavid, and Moses voting consistently with current member Pena-Hernandez – the new faces represent a voting majority, and that influence was on display Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say that when I began this process of campaigning and being elected, that board president was my ultimate goal,” McDavid said in an interview after the meeting. “But I feel called to serve my community in this capacity, and I’m just going to do the best that I can.”

McDavid's husband, Maurice McDavid, is the dean of students at DeKalb High School, and was recently appointed to be the new assistant principal at Cortland Elementary School beginning July 1.

The McDavids brought their three children along to celebrate the occasion, as did many of the other members, including Moses, who was with her 15-year-old son, Jacob Moses, and son Kenny Moses, 12.

Outgoing officers Fred Davis, who served as vice president of the board, and Kerry Mellott, who served as secretary, as well as Howard Solomon and Rick Smith, were presented with awards of merit for their service.

District 428 Superintendent Jamie Craven was temporarily appointed board president to oversee the officer elections prior to McDavid finishing the ceremony.

The president of the board is expected to call each meeting to order, oversee agenda readings and appointments, be the public spokesperson for the district board, and represent the board on other committees and boards in the community, according to the bylaws.

“I plan to look to my colleagues that have served already for some advice,” McDavid said when asked about her plans for being the board spokeswoman. “I’m happy to lead and I’m happy to serve my community, but I’m definitely going to be leaning on my colleagues because it is a new territory for me.”

In McDavid’s absence, the board’s vice president, Valerie Pena-Hernandez, will perform the duties of the president if required. Pena-Hernandez, who was elected in 2017, was nominated by Moses. Pena-Hernandez also beat out Newport for the officer position by a 4-3 vote, with Newport, Hallgren, and Olson voting no.

Moses won her secretary election unopposed after being nominated by David Seymour. Hallgren, Newport, and Olson abstained from the vote.

According to the bylaws, the secretary serves as a local election authority and takes minutes at the meeting.

The board oversees the superintendent and sets policy for the district, along with managing a $93 million operating budget. McDavid said the members still have to complete their required board training, which must be completed within 90 days of the April 2 election. The training will include educating each of the new board members on the Open Meetings Act, policy and meeting proceedings, and further training on each officer role.

The special Tuesday meeting was only 20 minutes long, and members will fill their roles officially at their first regular meeting, set for May 7.