Despite widespread sentiment that Palatine Township Elementary District 15 has made strides toward righting its ship, voters will see the board's most crowded field of candidates in at least 18 years.
Nine people will seek four open seats in the April 9 election, first-term incumbents Peggy Babcock, Richard Bokor and Dave Seiffert among them.
"If you take a look at where the district is now and where it was when I was first elected, we have made some giant steps forward," Bokor said. "When you have built a foundation, you want to reap the benefits and see what comes as it makes its way to a completed structure."
Bokor, who said he'll run with Babcock as a cost-saving measure because they have joint campaign signs left over from the 2009 election, pointed to measures such as reaching a new teachers contract and a five-year deal to keep Superintendent Scott Thompson at the helm.
Board President Tim Millar isn't seeking re-election, instead deciding to run for the village of Palatine's District 1 council seat. He's unopposed in that race.
Another familiar name to join the field is Jim Ekeberg, a former District 15 board member who lost his bid for a second term two years ago. He said "public education is the backbone of a thriving democracy" and that he wants to again contribute in a professional manner to the District 15 board and community.
The 2011 election, which resulted in three challengers sweeping the entire incumbent slate, came on the heels of a controversial bond sale forced to referendum through a massive petition drive and subsequently voted down.
Helping to lead the community's campaign was current candidate Jennifer Zold, a member of the Citizens for Accountability group.
"I think the district has made a lot of progress in moving in a better direction from where it had historically been," Zold said. "I want to see us continue, especially on the path of being fiscally responsible."
Budget cuts and the new teachers contract helped reverse financial projections from showing the depletion of the district's fund balance to a surplus.
Other candidates include Abdul Javid and Ramnath Cidambi, both of whom are District 15 parents, IT managers for local companies and heavily involved in community service.
Candidate Donna Johnson said she wants to get involved and feels her business background in finance and project management would be an asset.
Also running is Matt Lyons, a mid-sized trading firm's chief information officer who after the 2010 bond initiative began attending board meetings and the district's Navigate15 community engagement sessions.
"I really think in the last couple years with the results of the previous election, things have improved from both a communication and financial standpoint, but I feel like (running) is a natural next step because I want to see the best for my kids," Lyons said.