Park Ridge-Niles District 64 board races draw eight candidates
The way Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 board members have been feuding with each other -- and the public -- over COVID-19 prevention efforts, kindergarten programs and other issues, it shouldn't be a shock that upcoming races for board seats will be crowded.
Eight candidates are seeking four seats on the board in the April 4 election.
Six of the hopefuls are competing for three seats with 4-year terms. A separate contest for a two-year term drew two candidates.
Seeking the seats with 4-year terms are incumbent Carolina Y. Sales and newcomers Rachel Georgakis, Monica Milligan, Monika Penksa Rossi, Matthew Doubleday and Francine D'Amico.
Facing off for the 2-year term are incumbent Denise Pearl and challenger Bryan Mercado.
Pearl has been on the board since 2019 and has been its president since 2021. Sales also was elected in 2019.
Incumbents Tom Sotos and Larry Ryles aren't running. Sotos has been on the board since 2015. Ryles was appointed to fill a vacancy earlier this year but also served from 2017 to 2021.
The board and administration have been lightning rods for controversy, particularly over matters relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September 2021, Park Ridge parents who were forced to pull their three children from school because the kids hadn't quarantined after a trip abroad sued the district.
The following February, after hours of comments from audience members and internal debate, a push to make protective masks optional for students and employees failed when the board vote came down 3-3. Pearl and Sales were among those opposing the effort; Sotos was among the trustees who favored changing the district's mandatory mask policy.
Mask-wearing has since become optional in District 64 and in schools across Illinois, based on federal, state and county health guidelines.
Sotos also was a regular voice of opposition when it came to the district's plans to launch all-day kindergarten classes and spend up to $26 million to expand school buildings. Pearl and Sales supported those proposals.
This July, a controversial proposal to pursue stationing police in two middle schools failed when the board again split 3-3. Pearl and Sales were among the plan's opponents.
And at board meetings in November and December, some parents called for the firing of Superintendent Eric Olson over a plan to reschedule a winter holiday concert to spring 2023 and other issues. Other community members supported Olson.
D'Amico was among the District 64 residents upset about the proposed change, while Georgakis supported Olson.