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posted: 1/25/2013 9:42 PM

Cary school board race draws a crowd

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All four incumbents up for re-election to the Cary District 26 school board are trying to keep their positions. But five challengers are hoping to unseat them.

The crowded school board race brings together a passionate group of individuals hoping to right a financially struggling district that cut art and music during the 2010-11 school year to save money.

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Julie Jette, one of the incumbents, said interest in the open board seats is a good sign for the community, though she hopes she'll get the chance to stay involved.

"I would really like to see this through until we return specials to the district," Jette said.

Jennifer Crick is a developmental therapist working with students from birth to age 3, many of whom transition next into District 26.

Besides her own three children, Crick has a vested interest in the quality of education for the students with whom she works.

Crick said the "slash and burn" cuts the district made mean her kids are in too-large classes and teachers have no planning time to engage with parents.

"There are some things that I think we need to do better with, as far as moving forward in the district," Crick said.

Chris Jenner, the incumbent board secretary and chairman of the policy committee, is running for re-election to his District 26 seat while setting his sights on a board position at McHenry County College.

Jenner said both positions are completely volunteer with no conflict of interest.

If elected, he is confident he would be able to serve both roles at once.

Scott Epstein, an equities broker-dealer, started attending board meetings almost two years ago when he learned more about the financial problems in the district.

He hopes to improve the level of communication between the board and the community and increase transparency.

Bruce Ritter, another concerned community member, is a regular commenter -- along with Epstein and Crick -- on the District 26 Parents with a Voice Facebook page.

Bradley Slavik has put his name in for past appointments to the school board but has never been chosen.

He will take on the final two incumbents, Floyd Myers and Christopher Christensen, along with Josh Howell, the fifth challenger who is a member of the Community Engagement Committee.

Howell said some good steps have been taken in District 26 with much progress after tough decisions.

But the crowded field of candidates is a clear indication that concern for -- and frustration with -- the district is not unique.

"I think a lot of us have very similar goals in mind," Howell said. "But the journey may be a little bit different on the destination we want to reach."

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