Endorsements: Dussling, Kreutzer and Fiarito for District 214 board

This endorsement is a consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is at an inflection point in its history.

That might seem a remarkable statement for a school system that's established an impressive record of academic excellence, financial strength, labor peace and stable leadership.

But as the April 4 election approaches, District 214 faces two key questions that will shape its future for years to come.

For the first time in 18 years, the district will have a new superintendent at the helm when the next school year begins, following the surprise midyear exit of the well-regarded David Shuler.

And as it navigates that change, the district must also decide how to address the proposed $5 billion redevelopment of Arlington Park and the Chicago Bears' efforts to obtain a massive property tax break - one that could cost the district significant revenues - to help pay for it.

Voters in District 214 are fortunate that they will have a strong field of board of education candidates to choose from next month when they decide who should help steer the district through these challenges.

The five candidates seeking three, four-year terms at stake April 4 are longtime incumbents Bill Dussling and Alva Kreutzer; Frank Fiarito, a River Trails Elementary District 26 board member who is running with Dussling and Kreutzer on the Friends of District 214 slate; Elizabeth Bauer, an actuary who's frequently criticized the current board over transparency and other issues; and Misa Edwardsen, an educator who says academics is her top priority.

Dussling and Kreutzer are easy for us to endorse. Each has more than two decades of experience on the board, and they share in the credit for the district's all-around success over that time. Having hit a home run with their hire of Shuler in 2005 - he was named the national superintendent of the year in 2018 - their judgment will be valuable in selecting the next top administrator and protecting District 214' interests at Arlington Park.

Choosing a third candidate is less simple. Fiarito, Bauer and Edwardsen each would bring individual strengths to the panel.

Bauer impresses us in many ways. She offers some valid criticisms of instances when the board could have been more transparent, and we appreciate her calling attention to the concerns of families whose students have special needs.

Edwardsen's educational background makes her an attractive candidate as well.

But ultimately, Fiarito is our choice. He already has 12 years of school board experience - albeit at a small elementary district - and possesses a strong understanding of the challenges facing District 214. We do have some concerns about choosing a candidate who may be closely in step philosophically with Dussling and Kreutzer - the benefits of a wide variety of viewpoints are obvious - but in our discussions with Fiarito, he distinguished himself as an independent thinker willing to disagree with his slate partners.

We endorse Dussling, Kreutzer and Fiarito.

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