When a slate of challengers defeated the incumbents in the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board race two years ago, communication and relationships -- or a lack thereof -- were a hot campaign topic among the victors.
The Daily Herald recently asked the nine candidates running for four open seats about whether the board has made strides in that regard as a group, with staff and with the community.
Some answers have been edited for space and grammar.
• Peggy Babcock, 60, homemaker; board member since 2009: We've made huge strides with stability, and there's more of an adhesion with the whole district. In the last two years, this board has really gotten through the storming and forming phases of a board. We don't all agree, but we do reach a consensus and come out together. I think in recent years, and to some extent even now, it's very personal. We've been hammered over the head with the (2010) referendum. There were things we could have done better, but it's not black and white. We try to be transparent as possible, but there are some things that can't be shared. I don't think it's anyone trying to be subversive.
• Richard Bokor, 65, adjunct professor and retired teacher; board member since 2009: If the board and ship are on smooth waters, everybody's happy. If there are contentious issues and the wind picks up, people look at how it affects them, and their small picture. The board has to look at a complete picture on how this will affect entire district and not just one segment or group. I think having the same superintendent and business manager for three years has been a major reason why we're moving forward.
• Ramnath Cidambi, 41, IT director: Communication by definition can always be improved. I think communication has improved a lot ... but in some meetings I've attended, a lot of people have wanted to talk on critical issues. But it disrupts board business. I think probably there are improvements on structure of board meetings to where some portion (can be more interactive).
• James Ekeberg, 64, family physician, served as board member from 2007-2011: I think it's is better. What was available was very limited. What (former board President) Dr. Chapman put forward with the administration was to put the full packet online because the two-page agenda is absolutely meaningless. What I'd like to see is, here's what the administration recommends. Of the three decisions before us, here's what we think is best. What does the educational professional think is best for the district? That's one piece of communication with the public I'd like to see is, what do the administrators really think.
• Abdul Javid, 42, manager at Motorola Solutions: There are still issues, issues that could have been avoided, i.e., the early release/late start. Even the transportation union issue. There's not a legal impasse now, but there are some contentious issues. I see some issues with the way the board is governing and I plan to bring that effectiveness. Maybe through more committees, (such as) a PR/public image or program effectiveness committee. I have ideas with how the board can be more participative with public.
• Donna Johnson, 54, part-time financial consultant: I think (the district and board) should let the community know more in advance so they feel they have a voice. They're on the right path to doing it, but they could do it more with these (contentious) issues. It needs to be a little better between the board and community so issues are being handled proactively and people aren't just learning things at the end. People need to feel they have a voice.
• Matt Lyons, 37, CIO of mid-sized trading firm: There are some tangible things the board and administration have done to reach out. The communication forums. Frankly, that wouldn't have even existed four years ago. It's better to allow that to happen than hide behind policies and not even engage the community. Members elected two years ago have really helped. When there's a potential hot-button issue, the board and administration seem like they've been caught on their heels a little where they haven't tried to get out in front of it to let public know -- hey, there is this thing coming up, here's what we understand about it right now, here's when we'll talk about it next. It causes a lot of fear and panic and angst.
• David Seiffert, 50, regional sales manager; board member since 2011: I think the communication has opened quite a bit with the public. We've held some committee meetings, been transparent and take public comments. I think the public as a whole thinks the board is working together as a group. Everyone on the board has their own opinion, but we try to vote as one entity. People see we've been working together.
• Jennifer Zold, 46, part-time trust and property manager: Within the board there will be differing opinions. I think everyone should listen and be respectful. I think it will be more important now than ever. Communication forums have been extremely beneficial. Last spring was a difficult point, we didn't know what was going to happen, so it was good for the board to communicate at that time. I think we're going in the right direction and need to increase it even more. We'll need to communicate some of the changes with regards to common core and when pension changes come down the pipe.
• To see all our coverage of the District 15 board race, including candidate bios, go to dailyherald.com.