The College of DuPage Faculty Association's political action committee says the three trustee candidates it has endorsed for the April 7 election -- Dan Bailey, Deanne Mazzochi and Sandra Pihos -- will bring critical thinking, political prowess and integrity to the school's beleaguered board.
The endorsements come at a key time for COD, with critics raising numerous questions about the seven-member board's financial oversight, its handling of President Robert Breuder's pending departure next March and how it will conduct the search for his replacement. They also come after the teachers union last September took a historic vote of "no confidence" in Breuder.
The union recently released a report detailing many of the concerns that led to that no confidence vote, including dissatisfaction with Breuder's financial priorities, a perceived loss of trust he has created on and off campus, and what it called his "coercive, authoritarian and secretive" leadership style.
Bob Hazard, the director of the association's political action committee, said faculty members are looking for candidates from the 12-person field who will concentrate on education at the college and "bring the focus back to instruction instead of construction."
The other candidates vying for a seat are Claire Ball of Addison, Charles Bernstein of Wheaton, Matt Gambs of Naperville, Joseph M. Wozniak of Naperville, incumbent Nancy Svoboda of Downers Grove, Frank Napolitano of Bloomingdale, incumbent Kim Savage of Darien, Roger Kempa of Darien and Dave Carlin of Naperville.
Mazzochi, Bernstein and Napolitano are running as a slate endorsed by Trustee Kathy Hamilton, a vocal Breuder critic.
Hazard said the faculty endorsed former state legislator Pihos of Glen Ellyn because she has been a longtime advocate of education and frequently questioned Breuder's actions.
He said the political action committee thinks Pihos is honest and has a lot of "political savvy" and connections to lawmakers in Springfield.
"In a post-Breuder era, we're going to need to heal a lot of rifts," Hazard said. "There's been a lot of damage done to our reputation downstate, and we think that she is poised and eager to help mend those fences."
Pihos, who represented the Glen Ellyn area in the state legislature and is a former Glenbard High School District 87 board member, said she has an established presence with students and faculty at COD because of the many times she partnered with the school and hosted events at the college.
"I am happy that the faculty appreciates my 32 years of experience in the educational arena and realizes my passion about the opportunities the College of DuPage offers to its residents," Pihos said in an email.
Hazard said the committee supported Bailey, of Wheaton, because he is a strong advocate for labor who is a longtime DuPage County resident and attended the college.
"He has a lot of integrity," Hazard said. "He has a lot of drive, he has been a union organizer in Wisconsin on the railroads, so he's strong and we think that he'll be a good voice on the board."
Bailey said he was honored to gain the faculty's support.
"It is the faculty who provide the exceptional teaching," Bailey said in an email. "We have to respect their contribution to COD's learning excellence. They know the type of individual who would best serve the interests of the student and community."
Mazzochi, meanwhile, is a lawyer from Elmhurst with "working-class roots," Hazard said. She is a smart, critical thinker and "she's not going to be pushed into doing something she doesn't want to do or she thinks is wrong," he said.
Mazzochi said she is grateful for the faculty endorsement.
"I look forward to ensuring that the next administration is as good as our faculty and addressing the structural issues that led to the faculty's historic 'no confidence' vote in Dr. Breuder last September," Mazzochi said in an email.
Neither Savage nor Svoboda, the two incumbents seeking re-election, received the faculty union's support. Both had received it in the past.
"The endorsement process with any organization is complicated and may not always reflect what all of the members want," Savage said in an email. "I was proud to receive the association's endorsement before, but it's the help and support I'm getting from individual members of the faculty now that really means so much to me personally."
"I heard that the decision was difficult one for the PAC," Svoboda said in email. "I trust there are some faculty still supportive of me and my contributions to College of DuPage and its people."
Carlin, a former COD board member seeking a return to the board, said in an email the union has "a long history" of supporting candidates who are "sympathetic to the faculty's economic interests."
"While I view COD's faculty as some of the best around, I'm unwilling to be a rubber stamp for the union during contract negotiations," he said.
Napolitano said he believes the association's endorsement would be nice, but the election will be decided by voters and not just members of the union.
"I have a proven track record of serving with fiscal responsibility, absolute transparency and being an open and accessible board member both on the Bartlett village board and on the (Elgin) U-46 school board," Napolitano said in an email.
Hazard said the candidates endorsed by the association are not expected to be "unfriendly" to unions, but faculty members don't think any of them "are going to be in (our) pocket," either.
"We don't want people who are going to do what we say or ask us what do we think all the time," Hazard said. "What we do want are board members who will be willing to meet with us, meet with faculty leadership, and talk about issues and listen to our perspective before they make a decision."
Although Pihos, Mazzochi and Bailey all have the faculty's support, they are not necessarily aligned on all issues.
Bailey recently called out Mazzochi and two other candidates supported by Hamilton, saying the group "is aligned heavily with groups that don't actually believe in public education."
Mazzochi struck back, saying she lives in Elmhurst because of the quality of public schools, she received an excellent education at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park and her mother was a public schoolteacher for decades.
"I would not be running for this position if I did not want COD to succeed as a public educational institution," Mazzochi said.
Hazard said the faculty wants diverse opinions on the board.
If the faculty's three endorsed candidates get elected, he said, "it'll be a much better board."