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updated: 2/13/2013 8:40 AM

U-46 orientation introduces board candidates to the district

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Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent José Torres hosted a prospective board member orientation Tuesday night to make sure those people elected to the office know in advance what they're getting themselves into.

But only two candidates showed up.

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Andrew Giggey, a senior at South Elgin High School, and Linda Campos-Moreira, a recruitment coordinator at Elgin Community College, took advantage of the learning opportunity.

Campos-Moreira said she was invited to the orientation about a month ago.

"I wanted to make sure I could get more information and get more clear on my actual role," Campos-Moreira said.

The overview included discussion of the responsibilities of board members, an introduction to key members of the superintendent's staff and an explanation of the Open Meetings Act. Campos-Moreira and Giggey got binders full of information about the board, the district and professional organizations.

Current board members warned the candidates about the steep learning curve to figuring out the workings of such a large organization.

"There's so much to this district that two years into this, I just feel like I'm starting to come out of a fog -- a dense fog -- in terms of just learning all that you need to know to try to be effective," said board member Traci O'Neal Ellis.

Board member Maria Bidelman explained the dissonance between what the public expects board members to control and what they actually do with a dance floor analogy. She said the board is in the balcony watching and orchestrating from afar, not directing each individual dancer.

"It is really important that the thing that we do the most is just to make sure that they're following the playbook," Bidelman said. "But they really have to execute it their way."

Torres said the orientation sessions have been going on for at least as long as he has been superintendent -- three election cycles. Candidates also will have the opportunity to attend an Illinois Association of School Boards meeting April 4, before the election, for another orientation. Torres said the district would pay their registration fee.

"We really believe in the education of our board members," Torres said.

Veronica Noland, Gary Percy, Frank Napolitano and incumbent Board President Donna Smith are also running for the three open seats.

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