District 128 candidates concerned about enrollment, funding, diversity
Growing enrollment and uncertain state funding are among the key issues facing Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128, according to the candidates for the school board.
One candidate voiced concern about a perceived lack of diversity in the district's two schools, too.
Five people are running for three seats with 4-year terms in the April 2 local election: incumbents Lisa Hessel, Katherine "Casey" Rooney and James Batson; and challengers Loubna Kiliouine and Elizabeth Bruckner.
Additionally, newcomer Don Carmichael is the lone candidate for a 2-year seat.
The candidates in the contested race talked about key issues in the school district and other matters in questionnaires for the Daily Herald.
Batson, a Mundelein resident who's been on the District 128 board member since 2011, said he's most concerned about maintaining the quality of education at Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools, both of which have been recognized as being among the top public high schools in the state and nation.
"Once a school or district experiences a significant amount of success, it becomes easy to sit back, assuming status quo will continue to produce great results," Batson said. "It takes great vision, leadership and hard work to continue providing excellent programs that meet the ever evolving needs of our students."
Additionally, Batson expressed concern about District 128's growing enrollment, particularly at Vernon Hills High. Enrollment there is at an all-time high with nearly 1,500 students, and it's expected to keep rising.
Batson supports a $26.2 million expansion planned at the campus.
Rooney, a Libertyville resident who was appointed to the board in August 2018, also said maintaining the quality of education at both schools while addressing the population growth at Vernon Hills is a priority. So is dealing with the aging infrastructure at Libertyville High, which is the older of the two schools.
"We must accomplish these goals while keeping fiscal responsibility as a top priority," Rooney said.
Bruckner, a Green Oaks resident who has never held elected office, expressed concern about the district's population growth continued effect on enrollment, too -- as well as state funding issues.
"It's possible the Illinois economy may be heading into a rough patch given the financial difficulties at the state level," she said. "We need to make sure we're not blind to the possibility that such macro trends may impact us locally, leading to an eventual reduction in local property tax revenue, if our local housing market is negatively impacted."
Hessel, a Vernon Hills resident who was appointed to fill a vacancy in May 2018, said educating students and keeping them safe should be the district's priorities.
Hessel also cited the ongoing negotiations for a new labor contract with teachers as a priority.
"(We) are committed to maintaining our position of being an employer of choice, attracting and keeping some of the area's very best educators," Hessel said. "We are committed to partnering with the teachers union to reach a win-win solution that everyone, including our community, can be proud of."
Kilouine, a Libertyville resident who has never held elected office, cited a lack of diversity in the schools among her concerns.
"Although (the district) adequately prepares students for college, the lack of diversity produces students that are less prepared to connect with others from different backgrounds," Kiliouine said. "I would encourage the district to introduce more curriculum (and) programs about social dynamics outside of the student current environment."
Kiliouine also said district officials need to improve communication efforts with the community. She suggested using surveys, ballot questions, the news media and social media to close the gap.