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updated: 3/30/2011 6:48 PM

Gurnee District 56 seeks four for school board

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Four incumbents and one newcomer running for seats on the Gurnee Elementary District 56 board have different ideas on what they see as the key issues facing the district.

Newcomer Maria Colunga is facing incumbents Becky Kotsinis, Stuart Merkel, Tim Roegner and Brian Weir in the April 5 contest. Four, 4-year terms are up for election on the ballot.

The candidates offered the following responses when asked to identify key issues in the race on a Daily Herald questionnaire and in interviews.

Colunga, 47, was active in organizing support in the Hispanic community for the referendum to replace the flood-plagued Gurnee Grade School and said she wants to give that community input on future board decisions.

"Hispanics make up 30 percent of the district population," Colunga said. "They need to have a voice on the board and become more involved in the district."

A substitute teacher finishing her first term on the board, Kotsinis, 34, said she believes an environmental audit of district buildings should be on the board's agenda.

"An environmental audit would identify changes we need to make in building operations," she said. "Any changes we make will lead to cost savings."

Merkel, 49, is the senior pastor at Faith Community Church, said he is confident the district is on solid financial ground.

"I do not see District 56 facing any major budget issues," Merkel said. "The district has done a great job under the leadership of (Superintendent John) Hutton to manage the budget and be responsible with taxpayers' money."

Roegner, 47, a teacher and administrator at Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128, said he is looking beyond the building of the new Gurnee Grade School.

"Expanding the programs at Gurnee Grade School once the new (grades) 3--5 building is complete and GGS moves into the larger O'Plaine campus," is a goal for the future board, Roegner said.

A construction manager for Aldridge Electric, Weir, 54, said he is uniquely qualified for the district's future.

"I would like the opportunity to bring my 30-plus years of construction knowledge to help oversee the construction of the district's new school in Wadsworth," he said.