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updated: 4/4/2013 4:20 PM

Dist. 15 candidates share views on bus outsourcing at forum

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  • Peggy Babcock

      Peggy Babcock

  • Richard Bokor

      Richard Bokor

  • Ramnath Cidambi

      Ramnath Cidambi

  • James Ekeberg

      James Ekeberg

  • Abdul Javid

      Abdul Javid

  • Donna Johnson

      Donna Johnson

  • Matt Lyons

      Matt Lyons

  • David Seiffert

      David Seiffert

  • Jennifer Zold

      Jennifer Zold

 

Nine candidates faced nine questions -- some more controversial than others -- at a forum Tuesday for the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board race.

In front of about 75 people gathered at Sundling Junior High, candidates, who are competing for four open seats, shared their views on the new common core standards, class sizes and continuing the district's current communications forums. They also talked about hot-button topics including the late start/early release proposal, the idea of redrawing boundaries to ease building congestion and whether to outsource transportation.

The busing question drew the most varied responses at the forum, which was hosted by the Northwest Suburban Council PTA/PTSA.

James Ekeberg, a family physician who served as board member from 2007-2011, said outsourcing will be successful only if a substantial amount of money is saved. He said people he's spoken with in three neighboring districts aren't happy with it.

"Some of the things you have to consider you give up when you outsource is you're not hiring an individual, you're not training that individual, you're not observing that individual and you're not evaluating that individual," Ekeberg said. "You're turning that over to someone else."

Jennifer Zold, a part-time trust and property manager, said she and running mates Donna Johnson and Matt Lyons haven't made a decision on the issue due to the limited information being shared about the recent bid and contract negotiations with the transportation union. However, she said the board needs to research all options for improving how students are transported. Although she didn't say them by name, Zold accused first-term incumbents Peggy Babcock and Richard Bokor of not doing their "due diligence" by voting against pursuing outsourcing in December.

Bokor, an adjunct professor and retired teacher, said he voted against the process and how it was presented to board members. He said the board never had a discussion before voting, and that he doesn't believe in outsourcing unless the cost-savings are significant. Babcock, a homemaker, agreed.

"Everyone has talked about transparency," Babcock said. "I can't tell you what the new bid looks like or why we rejected the old bids, and I sit on the board."

Johnson, a part-time financial consultant, said she can't take a position without more information.

Lyons, CIO of mid-sized trading firm, said somewhat jokingly that contrary to some rumors, he and his running mates don't want to fire the bus drivers. He said it doesn't sound like the new bid will result in the higher savings originally projected.

"(But) I think it's been worthwhile to investigate," Lyons said, adding "my hope is that the (District 15 Transportation Union) negotiations turn out and we can keep things in-house."

Incumbent David Seiffert, a regional sales manager appointed to the board in 2011, said he's also awaiting more information, but reiterated that safety is paramount.

Abdul Javid, a manager at Motorola Solutions, agreed and said he wanted the community more involved in providing input.

Ramnath Cidambi, an IT director, said the district should be thinking outside the box and suggested looking into buses powered by compressed natural gas, which would save more than $500,000 in fuel annually compared to diesel. He said he realizes it's not simple to covert buses, but that the Environmental Protection Agency offers grants.

"We have to look at other possible solutions before we jump at outsourcing," Cidambi said.

• To see all our coverage of the District 15 board race, including candidate bios, go to dailyherald.com.

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