Concerns over state school revenue may be one of the reasons 240 Lake County residents have decided to run for school board positions in the spring election, school officials said.
The large turnout of candidates shows up in races through the county but is particularly evident in several particular districts. For example, 11 candidates are seeking five board seats at Woodland Elementary District 50, nine have filed for four seats at Grass Lake Elementary District 36, and eight candidates have filed for two board seats at the College of Lake County.
Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff said her office is trying to determine if the number of candidates makes the April 4 consolidated election the largest school election in county history.
Roycealee Wood, the Lake County Regional Superintendent of Schools, said concern over state revenue seems to be one of the driving forces behind the large turnout.
"I think how the ongoing state budget crisis is affecting some schools is definitely one of the reason why it seems more people are running for those positions," Wood said. "I think there is a lot of concern at the local school board level."
The large CLC ballot features some familiar names, including Grayslake High School District 127 Superintendent Catherine M. Finger, who is due to retire in June. She is joined by former Lindenhurst village presidential candidate James Creighton Mitchell Jr., former Lake County Board District 18 challenger Gerri Songer and former Lake County state's attorney candidate Matthew Stanton. Songer and Stanton lost their November election bids.
Others on the CLC ballot are Loretta K. Dorn, Michele Vaughn, Jim Walsh and Julia B. Shroka. No incumbents are seeking re-election.
At Woodland District 50, a whopping 11 candidates are seeking five open seats -- four 4-year terms and one unexpired 2-year term.
Incumbents Anthony DeMonte, Carla Little, Bill Barnabee and Renea Amen are joined by newcomers Joseph De Rosa, Jennifer Haack, James Hurd, Joyce Mason and Richard Payne for the 4-year seats. Incumbent Vincent Juarez and newcomer Elizabeth Helgren are running for the 2-year seat.
One potential issue may be Woodland's rocky relationship with Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake and a protracted legal fight that ended in March. The Illinois Supreme Court would not review an appellate ruling that dealt a loss to Woodland's case seeking to overturn a state commission's decision that granted another five-year charter to the choice school.
District 50 officials have been at odds with the 432-student capacity charter school over money for several years. Court documents show Woodland typically has been required to send about $2.8 million in annual state aid to pay for more than 300 children whose parents choose to send them to Prairie Crossing.
Woodland's estimated legal tab was $212,281 for the case from June 2014 to March, officials said. The charter school incurred at least $150,000 in legal bills in the case.
Grass Lake District 36 also features an unusually large race as nine people have filed for four seats governing the Antioch-area district. Each seat carries a 4-year term.
Incumbents Cynthia S. Collins, Debra Fogel, Ron Lobodzinski and Susan Kozenski are being challenged by Andrew F. Williams, Jim Heischberg, John Frendreis, Russell Page and Susanne Tauke.
One potential issue is a proposed merger with nearby Emmons Elementary District 33. It was pushed by Grass Lake but rejected by Emmons officials.
Grass Lake and Emmons are one-school districts and their buildings are less than 3 miles apart. Grass Lake has 188 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade, while Emmons has 322 students in kindergarten through the eighth grade.
Grass Lake Superintendent Terry O'Brien formally asked Emmons officials to consider forming a joint exploratory committee to review the pros and cons of consolidating. Emmons officials declined after being advised that consolidation is an issue for voters to decide.
The filing period ended Monday, but the list of school board hopefuls already has one candidate withdraw from a race. Diamond Lake Elementary District 76 incumbent Laura Lynn Vogt of Mundelein initially filed to run for re-election and also for a seat on the Mundelein High School District 120 board. Vogt withdrew her petition for District 76 after learning that state law prohibits people from holding some elected offices simultaneously because of potential conflicts of interest.