As the race to fill the five open seats on the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board heats up, one incumbent is raising concern that the five-member slate of challengers could bring partisan politics to the nonpartisan election.
Incumbent board Vice President Jim Ekeberg said the Palatine Township Republican Organization is endorsing Engage D15, and the move is troubling for the district.
"I think we should have local schools and local control and should not be beholden to any political party," Ekeberg said.
Engage D15 is made up of newcomers Mike Smolka, Anthony Wang, Lisa Szczupaj, Barb Kain and Frank Annerino, who ran for the school board unsuccessfully in 2015. Each candidate is listed on the Palatine Township Republican group's website as a candidate the organization supports, and the slate's fundraisers are listed as "upcoming events."
Aaron Del Mar, Palatine Township Republican committeeman, said organization is not endorsing the slate but may endorse some candidates. Del Marr said it supports the slate because the candidates share Republican views on small, effective government, and they all oppose the school district's $130 million bond issue proposal to build two new buildings and redraw district lines.
Del Mar said Ekeberg's criticism of the political organization is "a bunch of hooey." He said the local Democratic organization has supported Ekeberg in the past.
Matt Flamm, the Palatine Township Democratic Committeeman, said the Greater Palatine Area Democrats have made a point to never endorse in school board races. Flamm said Del Mar set a dangerous precedent when the Republican organization endorsed school board candidates in 2015, something neither township party had previously done.
"The schools are too important to the Palatine area to let them become a political football," Flamm said. "He's trying to politicize this race and we're not buying into it."
Del Mar said the Republican group is not going to officially endorse the slate because Szczupaj and Kain are Democrats. Del Mar said it would likely officially endorse Smolka, Wang and Annerino.
"We're working with a bipartisan group in this slate," Del Mar said. "Even though we're a partisan group, we're working for the best of the community."
The other six candidates on the ballot are running independently.
Board President Peggy Babcock said she is often lumped in with fellow incumbents Ekeberg and Gerald Chapman, but they are not running as a slate.
The other three candidates are David Border, Asad "Sid" Aman and Adam Bauske.
The two current board members who chose not to run for re-election are board Secretary David Seiffert and board member David Gurion. Gurion was appointed after board member Manjula Sriram resigned in November 2015.