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Longtime Sunnybrook 171 Board Member not on April 4 ballot due to petition objection

Three seats open; four candidates running for Sunnybrook Board. Cozette Pettigrew off the ballot, Tammara Hill remains on after overruled objection

LANSING, Ill. (March 22, 2023) – There will be one less candidate to choose from when voters go to the polls on April 4 to decide the makeup of the Sunnybrook School District 171 School Board.

Four candidates (Desiree Ambrose, Derrick Burks, Tammara Hill, and Timothy Terrell) will compete for three spots up for election.

Noticeably absent from the list of candidates is longtime board member Cozette Pettigrew, whose name will not be on the ballot after a challenge was filed regarding her candidacy. Pettigrew has served on the board since 2013, including two stints as board president, which is a role which she currently fills.

Objection ousts Pettigrew

But an objection to Pettigrew’s nomination papers was made by a Valencia Williams and the Cook County Officers Electoral Board decided Pettigrew’s name should not be included on the ballot.

It was determined that Pettigrew failed to comply with the minimum number of required valid signatures in her nomination petition sheets.

Cozette Pettigrew, in a 2019 photo submitted to The Lansing Journal.

Pettigrew said that while she is “disappointed” to be off the ballot, she admitted that an oversight on her part caused the lack of signatures.

Pettigrew said a sheet she used for signatures was obtained electronically from someone from another district and she failed to remove the name of the other school district from the bottom of the sheet.

“One of the circulars wasn’t consistent with the rest of them,” Pettigrew said.

She said that caused the entire page in question to be discounted.

“I didn’t have enough signatures to compensate for losing a whole sheet,” she said.

The Electoral Board held a hearing regarding the matter on January 5 and issued a continuance until January 12, but Pettigrew was unable to attend either time following her mother’s sudden passing.

Pettigrew said she had never had her papers challenged in the past, but could not call the decision for her removal an unfair one.

“I think we’re all under the impression that we should always know that anything can happen and that you should have way more than the required amount in case someone does challenge you,” Pettigrew said.

Pettigrew believes she will leave the Sunnybrook 171 Board a more transparent one than when she joined it and said she is proud of implementing the process that now makes all school board meetings available live online so those who cannot attend can be kept informed.

Pettigrew said she did not recognize the name of the person who challenged her paperwork.

“You don’t know the motive behind it,” she said.

Hill objection overruled

Pettigrew was not the only individual whose papers were challenged, but the Electoral Board ruled to allow Tammara Hill’s name to appear on the ballot.

“I don’t know what spurred it,” said Hill, a Lynwood resident and former teacher who is running for the school board for the first time.

But Hill said Valencia Williams, the person who filed the objections against her and Pettigrew, is the sister of Derrick Burks, who is also a candidate for the school board.

Williams was unable to be reached, and Burks refused to verify that Williams is his sister.

Burks said he did not want to be interviewed for this story.

“I don’t want to be involved in drama,” Burks said. “That’s not what I’m running for.”

Hill thinks the Electoral Board’s ruling to allow her on the ballot is the correct one.

“They found out that my signatures were correct,” Hill said.

Besides questioning the number of valid signatures, another objection to Hill’s paperwork had to do with if she properly declared the office being sought in her statement of candidacy, but the Electoral Board ruled in Hill’s favor.

Hill said she was surprised at all she had to go through with the challenge for what she said is a volunteer position.

“I was frustrated that I had to — for two days in a row — go to court over this,” Hill said. “You know, that was a long process.”

Sunnybrook School District 171 consists of Nathan Hale Elementary School and Heritage Middle School and serves students from Lansing and Lynwood.


Paul Czapkowicz
Paul Czapkowicz
Paul Czapkowicz has served as a correspondent for the Northwest Indiana Times, so he is familiar with local politics, local business, and local goings-on in general. His training as a teacher gives him an innate sense of how to present facts in an organized and meaningful way, so readers gain understanding of complex subjects.