Endorsement in Kaneland: Kerry, Lopatin, Vorhees, Witt
Eight people are vying for four spots on the quarrelsome Kaneland school board.
Unit District 302 covers 149 square miles, nine townships and two counties. A big district with big controversies and candidates with big personalities makes for a complicated race.
On one side of the ring -- and the analogy is appropriate given the combative nature of many board meetings -- you have incumbent Tony Valente, who would like to see newcomers Jerry Elliott and Ryan Kerry join the board. On the other, you have incumbents Teresa Witt, Peter Lopatin and Gale Pavlak. Somewhere in the middle is newcomer Pamela Voorhees.
And there's the dark horse Dan Nagel, who has not attended any candidate forums, filled out any candidate questionnaires or responded to any interview requests (so let's count him out).
To further complicate matters, election rules prohibit more than three school board members being from any one township. In this election, that means that among Nagel, Elliott, Pavlak and Witt, only the top three vote getters could be seated, since all four are from Sugar Grove Township.
But we don't see a need to test those limits. From that group, we endorse only Witt, the board's current vice president. She is passionate about education and keeps a good balance between the needs of taxpayers and the needs of students.
Lopatin also is endorsed. His intelligence, business knowledge, strategic planning and desire to mend rifts will serve residents and students alike -- though he must be sure to recuse himself from votes that would affect his wife, an assistant principal in the district.
Kerry, a newcomer from Elburn, also is endorsed. Kerry has a good head on his shoulders, is asking the right questions and appears to be willing to listen to all sides. He may lack experience, but he is not naive.
Pavlak has served the board well in some capacities, but her letter of complaint about hiring practices after the district failed to promote her son demonstrates a clear inability to avoid, or even acknowledge, conflicts of interest.
Valente also has served the board well in some capacities but too often he has become more of an obstructionist than as merely the tough questioner he considers himself to be.
Vorhees, of Maple Park, is a fine alternative. She is a 22-year resident of the district with a strong career in finance, plus a history of volunteer work in education that will serve her well navigating politics at Kaneland. She is a strong candidate with clear leadership abilities and a focus on consensus building.
Together, Vorhees, Witt, Lopatin and Kerry would be a strong team that could work with the existing board leadership to keep finances in order, improve communication and serve teachers and students, while bringing an end to the present bickering that is a waste of taxpayer time and money.