Dist. 214 board member says remote learning vote had 'no bearing' on decision not to run again
A slate consisting of three Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board members and one newcomer have announced their candidacies for next spring's election, but nine-year board member Todd Younger, a past member of the slate, won't be running again.
Younger, who has been part of the Supporters of District 214 slate, said his recent vote against the district's plan to start the school year remotely doesn't have anything to do with his decision not to seek another term.
"It's as much angst as I've felt since I've been on the board, but that had no bearing on my decision. I made it clear to the other board members at the start of the school year that I'm not running," said Younger, who was appointed to fill a vacant board seat in 2011 and was subsequently elected to full four-year terms in 2013 and 2017. "It's not the environment that got me to move along. It's really just the fact that I'd like to give someone else a chance."
Those who are running include incumbents Mark Hineman, Millie Palmer and Lenny Walker, and first-time candidate Andrea Rauch. While they have announced their candidacies for four spots on the board that will be up for election next April, others could still emerge. Candidates can start circulating petitions this week and have until Dec. 21 to turn them in.
But whoever decides to challenge Supporters of District 214 could face an uphill battle, since the establishment slate has been undefeated in local elections since forming in 2007 to oust board member Leslie Pinney following a book banning controversy.
As in most suburban school districts these days, the "remote versus in-person" learning debate has been a contentious one in District 214. School board meetings, usually less than an hour in length to approve routine business items, have turned into marathon sessions attracting overflow crowds of parents and students who've called on officials to reopen school buildings.
Younger was the lone board member to vote against Superintendent David Schuler's remote learning plan last month, saying he favored the original hybrid plan proposed in July that called for a mix of in-person and remote classes.
Still, Younger -- a one-time board president and vice president -- lauded the superintendent as an "innovator" who is working to bring students back to their schools.
"I 100% support the administration in their decision making. Where I kind of was slightly different ... I just thought we could have some in-person learning," said Younger, an Arlington Heights resident and fund and investor relations manager for Wingspan Development Group. "I wasn't disagreeing that the safety of students and staff was the most important. It's just I thought there was some compromise that could have been done to get some kids in school, especially kids who are struggling."
The three current board members who are seeking reelection are Hineman, a Mount Prospect engineer who has been on the elected panel since 2009; Palmer, an Arlington Heights attorney elected in 2017; and Walker, a Wheeling senior executive in the floral industry also elected in 2017.
In a news release, they cited the district's educational excellence and fiscal accountability as things they are running to maintain.
Taking Younger's place on the slate is Rauch, a senior advanced research and development engineer at Honeywell UOP in Des Plaines. If elected, the Arlington Heights mother of a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School would be the only parent of a current student on the board.
Rauch said she wants to do her part to maintain the district's excellence. She said the early days of remote learning have been overwhelmingly positive for her student, though she acknowledged other families have had the opposite outcome.
Rauch said she supports the remote learning plan, though she believes the district's metrics for a return to school should be continuously evaluated.
"All board members want to get all students back as soon as we can, but keeping their health and safety in perspective," she said.