District 70 candidates motivated by past and future decisions
As in many communities, the race for school board in Libertyville Elementary District 70 has drawn considerable candidate interest.
Nine candidates are seeking five seats on the board: one with a 2-year term and four with 4-year terms. Their reasons for running vary from dissatisfaction with the way learning has been handled during the pandemic to wanting to maintain a steady course when it eases.
For the 2-year spot, incumbent Wendy Schilling, a former Cook County public defender currently in private practice, is facing Lauren Marks, a pediatric speech language pathologist.
Incumbent Angela Balanag, who was appointed in November, and newcomers Callie Johnson, Jennifer Kahn, Colin Lane, Brian Lawton, Travis McGhee and Evan Williamson are running for 4-year terms.
Incumbents Tom Vickers, Chris Coughlin and Marc Grote are not seeking reelection.
Marks, Johnson, Lane, McGhee and Williamson are running as a slate called Parents Delivering Leadership.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates if they chose to run because the district was doing something right or something wrong.
Balanag, an English teacher at Grant Community High School District 124 in Fox Lake and the mother of a fourth-grader at Copeland Manor School, said having the voice of a veteran teacher on the board is important.
"I got into this race because I wanted to expand my perspective on how schools are run. I'm a lifelong educator," she said.
Kahn, a real estate broker, said she has long considered running.
"I really want to do this and think I can make a difference, especially seeing one child through District 70 and having another one coming up through the ranks," she said.
Lane, a field representative for a medical firm, has two kids at Rockland School. The way things were handled during the pandemic is among his reasons for running.
"The fact that our children have missed out on so much is unacceptable in my opinion," he said. Those who wish to continue learning from home should have the option, he added.
A stay-at-home parent, Lawton said he had planned on running in two years but moved up his timeline.
"I didn't feel on our side, the parental side, that we were getting the best communication from the board during the COVID situation," he said.
Lawton, who will have two children in District 70 schools next year, said having distinct voices on the board is beneficial. He is concerned a slate may not provide the best representation for all parents and children, he added.
McGhee, a financial services executive with three children, said the delay in returning to in-person learning was a catalyst for his candidacy. He called District 70 the "gold standard" in Illinois and doesn't want to see that slip.
"I don't want to see us fall behind and I want to play a proactive role in getting us where we need to be," he said.
Williamson, an associate director with AbbVie, agreed. He'll have two kids in the district next year.
"I believe the best way to predict the future is to make it," he said. "We've certainly seen we have opportunities for improvement and we want to build on the legacy of this district."
Marks, who has three children in the district, said a lack of communication from district leaders inspired her to run.
"That was really my motivation to meet up with like-minded parents of elementary schoolchildren because the board that was making those decisions did not have children in elementary schools, so they were not familiar with what we were experiencing at home with remote e-learning," she said.
Schilling said continuity is key as the election could bring seven new or relatively new people to the board.
"This pandemic will come to a conclusion, and there will still be work to be done," she said. That includes budgeting, overseeing capital improvements, and negotiating teacher contracts.
Callie Johnson is a nurse at Oak Grove Elementary District 68, which opened the year with in-school learning. A mother of two District 70 students, Johnson said she was motivated to run because of "the need for leadership" during the pandemic.
"We came together with a shared mission to put kids first," she said of her running mates.