Candidates for the Diamond Lake Elementary District 76 school board shared ideas for a local marketing plan, stressed the need for improved staff evaluations, proposed a senior-citizen outreach effort and suggested offering more foreign language choices to students.
The ideas surfaced when the candidates were asked to discuss potential projects no one else in the district has proposed. Four candidates are running for three seats on the board, which primarily serves families in the Mundelein area. The election is April 9, and all three seats carry 4-year terms.
Hopefuls Keith Loeffler, Beverley Barton Seaver and Laura L. Vogt are incumbents, while Adam B. Plummer is a newcomer.
Plummer, Loeffler and Seaver were interviewed this week by the Daily Herald. Vogt could not attend the candidate endorsement session and participated in a separate telephone interview.
Plummer, a 38-year-old technology consultant, said he'd like to see communication to parents improved.
"One of the things that I experienced when going out canvassing and talking to people ... (is that) they don't know what's going on," he said. "Sometimes that's because they're not paying attention or seeking information. And in other cases, it's just because that information isn't reaching them."
Putting information on a website or a newsletter isn't enough, Plummer said. The fix probably is technological, he said, but he didn't have a specific solution. "There are many great things that happen within the schools ... that parents need to be informed about," he said. "There does need to be a concerted effort to make parents more informed."
When asked to promote a unique idea, Loeffler spoke about the need for new evaluations for teachers. Student achievement and test scores will need to be part of the process, he said.
The board recently signed a three-year contract with the teachers union, and the labor group would be part of any discussions, he said.
"I think our teachers do an outstanding job," said Loeffler, a 53-year-old chief financial officer who's been on the board since 2005. "As far as getting the best out of our teachers and having the best teachers in our district, I think this evaluation process will help us with that going forward."
Additionally, Superintendent Joseph A. Petrella is working on new evaluation processes for the principals of District 76's three schools, Loeffler said.
Seaver, a 61-year-old retired teacher and consultant, mentioned two ideas. First, she believes the district's community relations committee can help promote the schools and their programs in the area. She suggested asking local pediatricians to hang art created by Diamond Lake students in their offices. "I really want to work more on getting a positive image of Diamond Lake out to the community," said Seaver, a board member since 2009.
Additionally, Seaver wants to reach out to local senior citizens to build a team of mentors and experts in a variety of subjects who could share their expertise with the schools through volunteer advisory committees.
Vogt, a 44-year-old designer of recycled wool and T-shirt accessories and a former teacher, said she would like to see the district offer more foreign languages in addition to Spanish. She said such a move probably would mean hiring additional staff, which isn't in the budget at this time.
Vogt, who has served on the school board for five years, said she also thinks the district should create a STEM competition team for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
• Lake County editor/manager Pete Nenni contributed to this report.