In the next few years Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 will face a change in leadership, possible financial challenges and a major review of the district's special education program, in addition to implementing the common core curriculum and dealing with technology changes in education.
During a candidate forum on Tuesday night the five candidates competing for four seats on the District 25 school board answered questions about how they would deal with those issues, and others, if elected. Incumbents David Page, Denise Glasgow and Phil Crusius are facing challenges from newcomers Herb Ruterschmidt and Richard Olejniczak. Incumbent Kenneth Nielsen is not running for another term.
The candidates were mostly in agreement about what to look for in a new superintendent when Sarah Jerome retires next year: A strong leader able to communicate a vision for the district.
They also all stressed the importance of community involvement on a variety of issues, including any changes to school programs that would be made in the future. Ruterschmidt said he would like to change the way monthly board meetings are run to create a more open discussion between the board and the community.
Although the district recently decided to discontinue its Chinese language program at the 4th and 5th grade levels, several candidates said world language is an important area for the district.
"I am a strong proponent of world languages. Having a foundation in other languages is key in our global economy," Olejniczak said. He added that he would look at the demographics of the community and what languages are offered at the high school level before deciding how to move forward.
Page said he is interested in learning about what can be offered before and after school for elementary students to learn other languages and that the board will be discussing world languages at its April 4 meeting.
Candidates were also asked about crowding at Olive Mart Stitt Elementary School, but all said that redistricting is not an option right now and would be an absolute last resort.
"We would only look at that if we absolutely had to," Crusius said. "It's very difficult to change boundaries because it tends to change neighborhoods."
Each of the five candidates avoided a question about what programs they would cut if the district was in a dire financial situation, saying that those decisions would take meetings and analysis before coming to any conclusions.
The controversial Futures Education report, a review of the district's special education program that has been met with frustration and questions from parents, was also discussed by the candidates, although Ruterschmidt admitted he had not yet read the report.
"One positive to the report is that it has opened quite a bit of dialogue with parents, teachers and the community," Glasgow said.
"But that report is not an end all. I view it as just one component in the larger special education review process."