District 25 candidates spar over transparency

The race for Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board has garnered a lot of interest with seven candidates seeking four open 4-year terms, including one challenger who criticizes the board president and other incumbents for not being transparent.

Chris Salituro, vice president of the ABC/25 Foundation board and a sociology teacher at Stevenson High School, says school board members should actively seek community input and be open to diverse viewpoints. He points to his experience contacting the board last summer as one of several parents concerned with the district's process for accepting students into the advanced language arts program.

Salituro said he tried emailing and calling board members individually, but only Charles Williams answered his call and board President David Page responded by email and said he was speaking on behalf of the entire board. Williams isn't running in this election because his term expires in 2019.

"That feels closed off. That feels like you're not representing your constituents or at least you're not open to them," Salituro said during a Daily Herald Editorial Board interview. He suggested the school board host a monthly coffee event and start a parent advisory group.

Denise Glasgow, a 12-year incumbent, and Erin Johannesen, the school board secretary who has been on the board since 2014, said they never received calls from Salituro.

Page said it's been a district policy - and a best practice used by other school districts - to have the board president speak for the board when addressing a particular group. In this case, Page said, Salituro was representing a group of parents who signed a petition.

"The last thing we want to be is a closed board," said Page, who was first elected in 2005. "I want to be open. All of us want to be open, and we are and we answer individual phone calls and emails."

Incumbent Richard Olejniczak said board meetings should have time for more open discussions, as opposed to the current setup where there's a "carefully orchestrated agenda." Olejniczak, elected four years ago, suggested the board revisit recording meetings and posting them on the internet.

The board studied videotaping meetings three years ago, but decided not to because of the low production quality resulting from taping meetings at rotating school venues.

Page, who is open to revisiting the idea, said one reason it was rejected was because it could lead to "people getting on their soap box and playing for the TV audience."

Joe Selbka, an attorney and village zoning board member, called Page's comments "offensive." Selbka is running his campaign with his brother-in-law, Salituro.

"One person soap boxing who President Page wants to dismiss is another person's and board member's belief as to an important policy position before the board that the board member wants the community to hear about," said Selbka, who favors at least audio recording every meeting.

Anisha Patel, founder of an educational consulting firm and a former District 25 curriculum coordinator and assistant principal, agreed with videotaping meetings to help solve a "communication gap," since many parents and residents don't attend meetings.

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