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updated: 3/17/2011 5:52 PM

For Gurnee District 56: Merkel, Weir, Roegner, Colunga

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

Gurnee Elementary District 56 boasts financial stability when other districts have had to cut programs and staff. Test scores are moving up. It's no wonder people move into the area on the strength of its schools. But with fast-changing demographics that include nearly 30 percent Hispanic enrollment, new challenges must be met, too. Maria Colunga impresses us as candidate with innovative ideas for increasing options for these students. She reached out to many among the Hispanic population to help pass the referendum that will replace flood-prone Gurnee Grade School. An immigrant who came to Chicago at 16, Colunga has immersed herself in the Gurnee community while also working for nearby District 116's Parent Outreach program. We endorse her along with three incumbents, each of whom demonstrates fiscal caution. Brian Weir brings a construction background to the board at a key time and helped negotiate the latest teacher contract. Stuart Merkel wants students to be on the leading edge when they enter high school and has advocated for classroom technology upgrades. And Tim Roegner, a department head in District 128, has experience with contract talks as a teacher and offers realistic expectations. Incumbent Becky Kotsinis is a hard worker who ran unopposed four years ago, but we feel Colunga's ability to serve as a bridge to a community that is sometimes misunderstood and often difficult to reach is what the district needs.