Why 7 people want to be on Geneva school board

The post doesn't pay anything, you have to do a lot of reading to prepare for making decisions, and people criticize you publicly.

So why do seven people want to join the Geneva school board?

Incumbents Mary Stith, Mike McCormick and Kelly Nowak, along with Tina Yagla, Taylor Egan, Evelyn Schneider and Ann Murtaugh seek the three, 4-year terms available. All live in Geneva or the Mill Creek subdivision except Murtaugh, who lives in Batavia.

"I think I'm hitting a really good groove" as far as knowing how the school district and the board operate, McCormick said in a recent endorsement interview. He is seeking a second term.

Furthermore, the next four years interest him, as now is when property tax payments for debt repayment start rising dramatically. "The real pain ... is yet to come," he said. "I think the next four years are still going to be particularly rocky." He said he wants to be involved in the financial decisions, such as budgeting and setting property tax levies. McCormick has voted four years in a row against raising the property tax levies for operations.

Yagla has also made focusing on taxes and fiscal matters a mantra. Throughout a candidate questionnaire, she finished answers with the phrase: "It's time for a taxpayer advocate on the board."

But besides monetary issues, she also said the district should be putting more emphasis on vocational training, so students are prepared for careers that don't require a four-year college degree. And she suggested that teacher contract negotiations be opened to the public.

"It's time for some fresh eyes and fresh ideas on the board," Yagla said in an interview.

Egan said she will bring to the board a perspective as a parent of children in the schools for at least the next decade. And among the top issues she feels important is the amount of testing students will undergo as the district adopts Common Core academic standards, and how to improve students' access to technology, such as iPads and Chromebooks, in a fiscally responsible manner.

"I actually gave it (running) quite a bit of thought this time," said Stith, who has been on the board for 12 years and is its most senior member. She served several years as board president. "I still have a passion (for education)."

When asked by constituents about the district's property taxes, Stith reminds them that since all the board members live in the district, they too pay those taxes. She points to the creation of a board finance committee as one of the best things the board has done recently to improve transparency regarding how the district spends and collects money.

Nowak said her first term "was a lesson in humility," as she learned the ins and outs of running a school district. The second term is where she felt she hit her stride. She has become more involved in statewide school politics, something she wants to continue. Nowak is chairman of the Kishwaukee Division of the Illinois Association of School Boards, and sits on two of the IASB's statewide task forces.

Schneider said she wants to "give back my knowledge," citing her experience as a teacher and school counselor. She said her expertise would be an advantage to the board, and that she thinks the board ought to have at least one professional educator on it.

"A school board would only flourish if a current member of the education world is elected," she wrote in her questionnaire. " ... The complexities of the world of education deserve a voice."

Murtaugh cited a desire to serve the community as one reason she ran. She also said more vocational training is needed for high school students, especially in health care services. The district caters, she said, to students preparing to attend college. "I feel there is more need to get out in the work world sooner," she said, and job training would help students do so.

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