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2011 Election Issues: Evergreen Park Candidates for School Boards

Sponsored by the Evergreen Park PTA, villagers had a chance to meet the candidates Tuesday night.

It’s not often that adults pack the lunch room.

But in droves they came Tuesday night to hear candidates for and speak and to arm themselves before voting.

The event’s moderator, Peg Burns, second vice president of the Evergreen School PTA Council, called the event “democracy in action,” and said it reinforced “our sense of this great community.”

Candidates were allowed three-minute introductions and then took written questions from the audience. Below is only taste of the discussions. Those who missed the live blog, can find it

All three candidates for the Moraine Valley Community College Board of Trustees were invited but did not attend. They are running uncontested.

For District 124, candidates Dwayne Pierre-Antoine and Raymond Richter failed to show or give notice of prior engagements, Burns said, noting that she sent out two e-mail invitations with her cell phone number.

Evergreen Park High School District 231

Four candidates are competing for four seats.

Christopher Brett

Incumbent (appointed last June)

Term sought: 4 years

Child in the district: yes

“...This board of 231 is a very strong and committed board. We are blessed with a very strong and committed superintendent and principal, and I want to continue that strength that we’ve shown. There is a true vision, I’ve seen these last ten months with these board members that I’ve worked with…”

Incumbent (appointed almost two years ago)

Term sought: 2 years

Child in the district: no

“...It’s frustrating sometimes when the results don’t always par out. I think for the most part things have been going well. Our focus has continued to be on growth and making sure we keep trying to reach further and further…I have a very strong accounting background that I think does come into play…every single meeting something comes up via a banking issue, via an accounting issue, via an insurance issue, and I do think you do have to have at least an understanding of finance.”

Challenger

Term sought: 4 years

Child in the district: yes

“...I have a very broad-based background. I’ve worked in the retail industry for over 20 years, and then the financial and health management industries. Through the years I’ve learned how to work with others, respect other opinions, and voice my own opinion in a very professional manner. I’ve learned organizational time-management, communication and conflict-solution skills…”

Incumbent

Term sought: 4 years

Child in the district: no

“...We’ve always had an excellent school board that’s focused, I think, on the right issue, which is: ‘What’s best for the school?’ ‘What’s best for the community?’…There’s no shortage of great ideas but making them happen is another challenge, so you have to have the financial mastering to make that happen. The high school is in excellent financial shape. We’ve got enough cash on hand to keep us alive for the next year if we don’t get any money in and that’s fantastic…”

Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124

Eight candidates are competing for three open seats, all of which are 4 year terms.

Challenger

Child in the district: yes

“...I want every child to have the opportunity that my boys have had, but it’s not just about my kids. It’s about all kids…As an experienced business owner I have had to make those tough staffing and financial decisions. I also acted as a mediator for many disputes between staff, but I work hard to see things from every side and make the informed choice. And if anyone has ever worked in an all-woman office, you know how difficult that can be.”

Challenger

Child in the district: yes

“...Recently I’ve joined the northeast building leadership team and have had the opportunity to serve on the district’s communications committee. Last month, we at the communications committee recommended several area of improvement which the school board has approved and plans to implement…We need to get our district back to the level of regard and respect that drew my wife here to this community…I’ve seen enough over the last 18 months to know we have a lot of work to do.”

Challenger

Child in the district: no

“...In my professional career I work in the corporate accounting group of a private global professional services firm. I deal with budgets of equal and greater size to that of District 124 on day to day basis and have experience communication to board members as well…businesses in Evergreen…are getting irritated about the liabilities being thrown their way in forms of property taxes. I would like to raise a family in Evergreen Park but what’s going to be left for this community if we see for lease signs up and down 95th Street?”

Challenger

Child in the district: yes

“...I am a third grade teacher at St. Ethelreda School in Chicago and I teach third, fourth and fifth grade math and social studies…Before working in the education field I worked at Osco Drug as a personnel coordinator and scan coordinator…with both my business and educational background I experience in finance, human resources, community relations, communications and community service. I’ve also been a member of the PTA of School District 124 and 231 for over 10 years.”

Incumbent

Child in the district: yes

“...District 124 has made many improvements during my tenure. We have added before and after school care, all day kindergarten and formalized technology instruction. We’ve also updated our science program, adopted a new reading series and strengthened our summer school program. My promise is the same promise I made four years ago and that is that I will fully participate in board meetings, I will attend district functions, I will work together with my fellow board members and superintendent. I will actively engage the taxpayers in conversation about the district so I can best represent their needs and interests….”

Incumbent (appointed in January)

Child in the district: yes

“...My motivation for doing this is because how great the school district has been with my three kids…I am a special ed teacher right now at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago. I just recently…resigned from my athletic director position at Marist high school to spend more time with my six year old autistic son at home…There are challenges ahead, there are educational funding issues out there, so I think we have to be pro-active and (ask) ‘How do we maintain and improve what we already have with limited resources?’”

Some of the Audience Questions

What was the urgency in renewing Dr. Cody’s contract for three years?

Kathleen Rohan: “Superintendent contracts are typically renewed before they expire. A superintendent typically begins about a year before you’re filling a position, so if you don’t renew them they start to look…by March, most of the very good candidates would have already been gone. We started interviewing them in… November when the position doesn’t start until the next July 1, so it’s more the cycle and what’s typical for that profession in terms of renewing…”

Given what state representative Bob Rita of Blue Island suggests, that one school district be consolidated, what do you have to say about consolidation and the cost involved with it?

Christopher Trzeciak: “...I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to go out to Tinley Park, participate in the community meeting out there. I got to hear of the details first hand from some of the representatives from Illinois Association of School Boards…right now, I don’t think that a state mandated district consolidation would be in our best interest. I do think there…may be room to talk about some resource sharing, some other type of creative solutions like that. Ultimately, if the residents of Evergreen Park feel that it’s in the best interest of the community to look at consolidating the elementary and high school district, that could be a lot of research and a lot of investigation. If it turned out that was the best option, I’m open to that…”

What will you do with the issue of too many student absentees? How will the board address this issue?

Christopher Brett: “I believe that the board addresses it similar to other issues regarding students. Our duty is to make sure we give that vision to the superintendent, who is in charge of the principal and staff. We do encourage them to constantly develop programs and I do believe that principal Sanderson has done a good job of this in other areas, where he gets the involvement of the students, the parents and the teachers to build a method of improving, either scores or after school testing, and in this case absenteeism…”

Do you have children in the EP Schools?

Shaun Murphy: “No, do not. I don’t have any children but I would like to say that when I’m looking and trying to make a decision I try to get input from various community members. It does mean an awful lot to me that my two godchildren will hopefully be going here…and my five nieces and nephews are in the pipeline, getting ready…I realize any decision we make impacts the current students and future students that will be coming through these doors.”

How will you maintain an unbiased opinion when your sister works for District 124?

David Marzec: “…Other people sitting up here have a vested interest in the district, as well…I can’t guarantee that I won’t be biased. I stated that up there (at the podium). I don’t feel one way stronger than the next, other than to say, like I said up there, that I hope one day to raise a family here in Evergreen Park, so I want to see the best schools and I want to see the best products in those schools. Other than that…I hope my sister can keep her job, so I hope to be elected to make the decisions to see that happen. Before, that wasn’t the case. So am I biased? It’ll be there a little bit…”

How will you get the “respect” back in the district?

Steven Duffy: “That’s the challenge, and I think in order to do that you really need to be involved, and involved not only at the board meetings but talking to the community members. When you’re out on the baseball field or softball field, talking to them and giving them honest answers and honest feedback what you feel the direction the district is going, and then also listen to them. And when you listen to them, make sure it’s not just falling on deaf ears. Take that back to the board meetings and present some of these things…”

What is the present financial status of District 124?

Kathleen Rohan: “Actually, our financial status is excellent. We have been, I think, pretty fiscally responsible and as I said before the taxpayers are very generous. They passed referendums and they always produced additional income. This is the first year we’re going to be operating at a deficit. We are going to be tapping into our reserves. We do have a nice fund balance; it’s somewhere around $15 million, depending on when your tax bill is due. But we are seeing people contesting their taxes at an all time high. And our collection rate is down…and the state is just not paying their bills. They promised up money and they’re behind or they’re completely delinquent…we’ve got to stick with this and figure out a way to provide a quality education and do it with the resources that we have, and it’s going to be challenging, but luckily we’re in a good financial position, much better than most other districts, and especially those who want to come inside Evergreen Park to consolidate.”

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