The six candidates seeking a seat on the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board at a Thursday night forum weighed in on a host of topics from deficit spending and union contracts to diversity and special education.
While budget woes have taken center stage in this race -- and many others -- candidates took the opportunity at the Northwest Suburban Council of PTA/PTSA-sponsored event to often bring the focus back to programs.
When asked what, if any, changes to the district's curriculum are needed, they provided a range of ideas to the audience of about 75 at Sundling Junior High.
IT consultant Scott Herr, who's running on the 1-3-5 slate with Gerard Iannuzzelli and Manjula Sriram, said in his allotted minute response that the district should closely monitor and try to lower the 25 percent of junior high students who have to take a remedial course in math or reading when they get to high school.
He also said Illinois standards aren't as stringent as other states, so it needs to continue transitioning to the multistate Common Core system. But that process will take years, so further changes need to be made in the meantime.
Physician Jim Ekeberg, who's running as a team with fellow incumbents Gerald Chapman and Dave Seiffert, said special attention should be paid to students who transfer into the district since they're outperformed by kids who are there kindergarten through eighth grade. He said programs are being developed to address the issue.
Seiffert, a sales manager and recent appointee to the board, said recommendations made by the public through the Navigate15 community engagement process should be taken into account, and he lauded Superintendent Scott Thompson's push to start a STEM Academy, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.
Seiffert also said he'd like to see students start learning a second language as early as second grade as opposed to junior high.
Chapman, the former Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 superintendent and current board president, said the quality of curriculum is at its best by recruiting and retaining the best teachers and administrators.
He said the board should monitor the results of curriculum and determine whether goals should be set for improvement. He'd also like the board to direct administration to emphasize innovation and flexibility in the programs offered.
Gerard Iannuzzelli, a director of technology, said students who are having some difficulties should be working on basic reading, math and language arts. He sees some of them doing very advanced work but struggling with the basics.
Sriram, a program director in information services, said the district needs to look at children as individuals and understand how each works. While math and science are key, she said it's equally important to support subjects that work the right side of the brain like art and music.
She'd also like to see math and science competitions for students of all levels, not just the highest performers.