Endorsements: Kozminski, Gericke and Kelley Black for Naperville District 203

  • Kristine Gericke

    Kristine Gericke

  • Joseph (Joe) Kozminski

    Joseph (Joe) Kozminski

  • Melissa Kelley Black

    Melissa Kelley Black

  • Gilbert R. Wagner

    Gilbert R. Wagner

  • Ronald Amato

    Ronald Amato

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted3/15/2023 1:00 AM

There may be a plethora of reasons why an estimated 150,000 suburbanites have chosen to make Naperville their home, but undoubtedly at the top of the list for many is the quality of its schools.

Students in Naperville Unit District 203 consistently outpace their peers across the state in a variety of metrics, from SAT and math proficiency scores, to the percentage of ninth graders on track to graduate and the narrowing of achievement gaps among minority students.


While other suburban school boards may be tasked with addressing financial shortfalls or upgrading subpar facilities, it could be said that the focus of the next District 203 board is to keep the good times rolling.

Hoping to serve on that next board are five candidates seeking 3, four-year terms at stake in the April 4 election: incumbents Kristine Gericke and Joseph Kozminski and newcomers Ronald Amato, Melissa Kelley Black and Gilbert R. Wagner.

As one might expect, the experience Gericke (six years) and Kozminski (four years) have on the school board give them a leg up on understanding the inner workings of the district and the challenges it faces. But that's not the only reason they both make strong candidates.

Kozminski, a physics professor at Lewis University, brings a needed data-driven, scientific approach to decision-making, but also recognizes that social-emotional learning -- not just facts and figures -- is a valuable part of the student experience.

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Gericke, who works as a copy editor, is a strong proponent for all students, recognizing the importance of "meeting kids where they're at" on their academic journeys. We also appreciate Gericke's openness to hearing all perspectives on an issue, and willingness to recognize that positive intentions can exist even where agreement does not.

Among the newcomers, Wagner stands out when it comes to experience, having served eight years on the West Chicago Elementary District 33 board. An HVAC sales manager, Wagner said he would bring a "blue collar" voice to the board and more attention to students inclined to seek vocational training after high school. That combination of experience and a focus on an often-overlooked segment of the student population make Wagner a solid candidate.

Amato, an attorney and insurance claims consultant who has two children attending district schools, says it is important to focus on core academic subjects, such as math, science, English/language arts and literacy and social studies. Though he lacks experience in elected office, he's served as a board member for the KidsMatter, a local organization that aims to steer teens away from destructive choices, and city's Fire Pension Fund Board.

But we give our nod to Kelley Black, a former educator and business owner who recognizes not only the importance of serving students' academic well-being, but also their mental well-being. That's not just lip service at a time when research shows students continue to cope with the mental health fallout from the pandemic, and in a district that has experienced more than its share of heartbreak. Like Kozminski, she's also a strong advocate for using data and technology for assessing student achievement and needs.

We endorse Kozminski, Gericke and Kelley Black.

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