Principal accused of rape will resign

DAVE HANEY

Less than a month after an Illini Bluffs school principal was arrested for allegedly raping a 20-year-old woman, the district’s Board of Education accepted his resignation.

While the actual resignation itself is not expected to be turned in to the district until sometime Thursday, after Walker’s arraignment in court, both the board and Walker’s attorney, Kevin Sullivan, said a tentative agreement has been reached.

"Something needed to be done to start the healing process," board Vice President Dennis Brown said Tuesday following a special meeting at the elementary school, attended by about 30 people from the community. "This is a very good school district. It’s unfortunate, but we will work to re-establish the fine reputation the school district has had."

Details of the agreement were not being disclosed Tuesday night, and won’t be until it is becomes final. The tentative agreement was unanimously approved, 5-0. Board President Ross Fink and board member Steve Nofsinger were absent.

The board did not mention Walker by name in relation to the resignation agreement, but he has been on paid suspension since a day after his arrest last month.

Sullivan said Walker’s decision was "gut-wrenching," but that he offered his resignation to "spare the school district, the community and his family."

Walker, 42, of 9449 W. Camelot Drive has maintained his innocence.

A principal at Illini Bluffs since 2002, Walker signed a three-year contract with the district in early July. His annual salary is about $78,000.

"It’s sad, he was a good principal and it’s going to be hard to replace him," said Kris Hanneman, who has two school-age children in the district. "He needed to resign, that’s obvious — he should’ve never been in that situation in the first place."

The decision comes one week after more than 60 people gathered at the Illini Bluffs Elementary School foyer to question and protest Walker’s continued employment.

The board then also authorized its superintendent to hire an interim principal. On Tuesday, Superintendent Randy Stueve said a retired administrator in the area will likely fill the first semester, until a more permanent replacement can be found.

Walker, arrested at his home July 15, was indicted last week by a Peoria County grand jury on two counts of criminal sexual assault. Court documents offer few details but state that he used "force or the threat of force" and knew his victim "was unable to give knowing consent."

The alleged victim was an acquaintance, and according to Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy, the two were at a house party in the Lake Camelot subdivision when the victim felt ill and went inside a bedroom. Witnesses at the party told police they saw Walker later follow the victim into the room.

Several parents last week said they contemplated keeping their children at home if Walker remained as principal.

If convicted, Walker faces up to 15 years in prison.

Walker’s arrest is the second this year involving a district staff member.

High school teacher and varsity boys basketball coach Ian M. McDonald, 31, resigned in March after his arrest on a sexual assault charge stemming from an alleged seven-month relationship with a student.

McDonald still is being held at Peoria County Jail on $100,000 bond. He is expected to appear in court next on Aug. 17.

Dave Haney can be reached at (309) 686-3181 or dhaney@pjstar.com.