Endorsements: Noland, Owens, Crigler for U-46 school board

It's perhaps a testament to Elgin Area School District U-46 that in an election season in which many districts have two or three candidates lined up for every seat, U-46 has just four candidates vying for three.

And one of those openings comes because 20-year board member Donna Smith is not seeking reelection.

We find ourselves wringing our hands here. Each of the four has her own strengths and perspectives to offer.

In a district as large and racially and geographically diverse as U-46 it's important to consider a good balance on the board.

Veronica Noland is the only Hispanic member - and the only one running. Given that the student population is 55% Hispanic, that alone makes her an important voice.

But Noland is not just a Hispanic voice. She's been a solid board member since she was first elected in 2013.

Noland admits the district could have done better in explaining its decision-making processes regarding the opening and closing of schools during the pandemic.

Incumbent Melissa Owens was elected in 2017 after serving on the district's Citizens Advisory Council, a proving ground for would-be school board members. She, too, is a steady hand.

Dawn Martin has been an active sports volunteer with the district for years while her kids have been at school. Her criticism of the board is that early on in the pandemic it was far too conservative and unquestioning of the superintendent's approach to keep students learning from home. Her willingness to challenge decisions is a valuable perspective to bring to a board whose makeup will remain largely the same as it has been.

LeJewel Crigler is the wild card.

Crigler, who is Black, put one child through school in U-46. She decided to home-school her second child, citing concerns about the culture in the schools her first experienced.

U-46, along with other districts, face the challenge of changing the way Black, Latino and Asian history and culture are taught in the schools to make the curriculums more culturally inclusive and reflective of diverse student populations. A large focus will be on how Black history is taught.

Given Crigler's personal experience, she feels she can lend a lot to that conversation. And we agree. Noland, Owens and Crigler are endorsed.

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