Endorsements: Clark, Nelson, Taylor for Glen Ellyn Dist. 41
The seven candidates competing for three seats on the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 school board in the April 7 election bring dramatically different views to the table when it comes to how they plan to address issues related to curriculum, all-day kindergarten, and challenges with space and facilities.
The field features a slate of three candidates -- Kevin Rath, Stephanie Clark and Kurt Buchholz -- who are worried about the direction the district is taking and dissatisfied with its response to their concerns. All three say the board's decisions should be data-driven, child-focused and taxpayer accountable. They believe the district implemented too many changes at one time regarding multi-age learning and teacher specialization, and they want to see more evaluation before such programs are continued or expanded. They're unhappy with some of the district's spending decisions and believe it has fallen short in terms of transparency and responsiveness. They support the idea of an anonymous survey of parents, teachers and other stakeholders to see if they agree or disagree with the district's direction. They give Superintendent Paul Gordon only middling marks.
Another group of candidates, and this would include incumbent Erica Nelson and newcomers Lori Taylor and Kristin Massey, are mostly supportive of the district's direction and satisfied it's on the right path. They express greater confidence in the superintendent's leadership skills and tend to think the district is doing a good job of listening to residents as it considers programs such as all-day kindergarten and options for improved facilities that range from constructing additions at current schools to building an early learning center to building a new elementary school.
The seventh candidate, Jeffrey Cooper, is most concerned with the district's finances and calls himself a "citizen taxpayer advocate." He says too many of his ideas are falling on deaf ears and his concerns won't be addressed unless he's elected to the school board.
All four of the dissenters deserve credit for regularly attending board meetings for more than two years and making their views known. They are not fly-by-night critics.
The challenge for voters will be to select three candidates who will give a fair hearing to all those disparate views and work together and with others to set a viable direction for the district and keep it moving forward.
Clark will bring an important alternate view to the board and provide a voice for those who want the district to slow down, reconsider or even abandon some of its recent decisions. A former engineer, she can provide a thoughtful and reasoned approach and stand up for what she and others believe without necessarily alienating those with whom she disagrees. She is endorsed.
Nelson, as the lone incumbent, has a wealth of knowledge. She has a strong understanding of the issues, is an excellent communicator and will provide continuity. She strikes us as a realist who will listen to other points of view, even if she doesn't always agree, and is a strong advocate for education and the district. She is endorsed.
Also endorsed is Lori Taylor, a relative newcomer to the board scene who has a degree in finance and who wants to work to close the achievement gap for minority students. She does not blindly support the district's policies and approaches, but neither is she a staunch opponent. In a district that will face multiple challenges in the coming years and that needs to find a way to bring together residents with widely differing views, Taylor has a chance to be a bridge builder.