Endorsements: Nowak, McCormick, Stith for Geneva Dist. 304
The good news for voters deciding which three people they'd like on the Geneva School District 304 board of education is that there are seven smart and capable candidates from whom to choose. Incumbents Kelly Nowak, Mary Stith and Michael McCormick have significant competition in Taylor R. Egan, Evelyn Schneider, Tina Yagla and Ann Murtaugh.
Yagla, active in the Geneva Township Republicans, says she wants to be the taxpayer advocate on the board and wants teachers' contracts negotiated in public (Murtaugh and McCormick agreed, the latter with some reservation).
Schneider, previously a teacher and currently a school counselor in a neighboring district, said the board should have at least one professional educator in its ranks. "The complexities of the world of education deserve a voice," she said.
Egan said she feels strongly about the volume of testing students will have as Common Core standards are adopted, and wants the implementation of iPads and Chromebooks done in a fiscally responsible manner.
Murtaugh and Yagla both encourage more vocational opportunities.
The district's debt (and debt service plan) are a concern -- with payments soon to sharply climb -- and a new teachers' contract must be negotiated before classes begin in the fall. The previous contract talks almost led to a strike.
McCormick, who has always voted against raising the property tax levy for operations, said "the real pain" is coming in the next four years with debt repayment. Stith, a board member since 2003 and its most senior member, said her priority is increasing long-term debt payments while approving a budget that is fiscally responsible and adequate for students' needs. Nowak, who has a banking background, says she is now just "hitting her stride" after her first term, and says the board has "judiciously used cash reserves" and wants "targeted use" of those reserves to offset the burden on taxpayers.
Overall, the board has managed its finances responsibly, including creating a finance committee to improve transparency in how the district collects and spends money. Even though the overall financial health of the district is stable, there is more work to be done. McCormick says keeping the budget under control is essential. Nowak says the board's decisions must reduce long-term debt expenses. Stith is realistic in that until debt reduction is improved -- along with state funding -- that the prospect of increased taxes is always possible. Nowak, McCormick and Stith are endorsed.