It's no secret the seven-member Elgin Community College board of trustees is lacking in diversity. The fact that an entirely white board was serving a far more diverse student body led trustees to prioritize a shift in board demographics when faced with appointing a replacement for John Dalton, who was elected a circuit court judge in November.
Risé Jones, their pick in December, joins Angela Causey as one of two black women in the race for two 6-year seats that will be filled by voters April 9. Elías Palacios, originally of Peru, will run against Jones and Causey, as well as 18-year incumbent Clare Ollayos.
In a race for one four-year seat, Nadia Blanc Daley, originally of Haiti, will face off against Art Sauceda, a pillar of the area's Latino community.
Sauceda has spent the last 10 years as a member of Club Guadalupano, which offers scholarships to high-achieving Latino Elgin Area School District U-46 students. He said many of them go to ECC.
"Right now we have probably a 35 percent population of Hispanics at ECC and we don't have any Hispanic representatives on the college board," said Sauceda.
Palacios, too, mentions diversity as a key campaign issue though both make clear they plan to represent all voters if elected to the board.
While the race brings together an ethnically diverse group of candidates, they all would like to take on a range of initiatives as trustees. Several would like to focus on improving relationships within the college.
Blanc Daley said teachers and department heads consistently comment on a lack of respect by the board or members of the administration. Palacios and Causey said they have heard similar stories and both want to focus on improving those relationships for the good of the college.
Blanc Daley said teachers don't have enough access to board members and said limiting them to the three-minute public comment period at board meetings is insulting.
"They are the nucleus," Blanc Daley said. "Without good teachers you won't have any students."
Ollayos said she believes earlier in ECC's history relationships were worse and her experience on the board more recently has not been one in which she noted rifts within the college community. She said the structure for addressing the board is in place to minimize the opportunities for individual trustees to appear as though they are speaking for the entire board or micromanaging in college operations.
Jones said the job of a trustee has its limitations in that sense, but that people in policy roles can also take advantage of certain opportunities, supporting the human resources department in making decisions that encourage teachers or factoring in the faculty perspective in policy decisions and making time to hear their input.
"Structures allow for equal and fair ways for everyone to come to the table," Jones said.
• To see complete coverage of all the suburban races, including candidate profiles, endorsements and news analysis, go to dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/.