GLEN ELLYN — Candidates for Glenbard Township High School District 87 Board of Education laid out their positions on multiple issues facing the high school district during a Glen Ellyn League of Women Voter’s forum March 19.
Three incumbents — Robert Friend, board President Richard Heim and Tom Voltaggio, who has served on the board for more than 20 years — touted the districts successes in turning around a dire financial situation of a $24 million deficit to a $12 million surplus. They also lauded continued student achievement across the district.
The challengers — 2011 Glenbard North High School graduate Anthony Schullo, retired teacher Judith Weinstock and Jennifer Jendras, a mother of two in the Glenbard system — said the School Board needs new perspectives. As a recent graduate and current North Central College student, Schullo said he brings a student perspective, while Weinstock said she provides the perspective of faculty members. She said teaching 32 years at Glenbard West High School gives her “an inside view of what’s best for the district.” Jendras, an employee of the U.S. Department of Labor, stressed the importance of having a parent of current students on the board.
The candidates fielded a variety of questions from audience members, expressing their views on issues such as pension reform, physical education waivers for seniors and the need for additional vocational training courses.
The candidates said pension reform is an issue that will dramatically impact the finances of the district, and most likely not for the better. Voltaggio and Friend said the unfunded liabilities of the Teachers Retirement System create serious problems for long-term funding plans.
“The state is bankrupt. As a community we need to decide what the sacrifices and what the issues are as to how we decide to provide an outstanding education to our kids,” Heim said.
Jendras agreed, saying taxpayers are at a “breaking point” and could not shoulder more financial irresponsibility.
As a former teacher Weinstock said she worked hard for her pension and does not support any changes to her plan.
Schullo agreed that teachers deserve their pensions. He suggested voters send a new slate of legislators to Springfield to handle true reforms.
The six candidates all supported senior waivers for PE classes, saying the time can be better used exploring various artistic or academic electives.
The six candidates also all touted the various vocational training programs in the Glenbard system that provides students with another avenue for future employment. The candidates agreed also that the vocational programs could be better advertised to the community so parents can talk with children who may not be planning a university future.
One area that divided the incumbents from the challengers was how often board members should be inside the schools. The three incumbents agreed it was best practice to rarely visit the schools, except for public events or walkthroughs with the administration. The three challengers each said as board members they wanted to meet with students and teachers inside the schools on a weekly basis.
Four of the six candidates for the College of DuPage Board of Trustees also addressed the audience. Incumbents Dave Carlin and Joseph Wozniak did not attend due to a conflict with a scheduled COD board meeting.
Kathy Hamilton, a certified public accountant with a focus on corporate finance, said she’s seeking a seat to serve as a budget watchdog, make sure academic offerings are “relevant to the community” and make sure both the faculty and administration are accountable to the community.
Retired architect Edward Agustin said he has been encouraged to run by some incumbents to serve as a watchdog over the numerous construction projects on campus.
“I have the experienced, educated eye to watch what’s going on and know what’s going on,” he said.
Challenger Frank Flores said he is running to “help alleviate the acrimony between the board and the faculty” and see “higher completion and transfer rates” at the college.
Mike Lanners, a retired College of DuPage employee, said he wants to reduce costs at COD and keep an eye on school spending.
“I am not a rubber stamp. ... I would rather say no to any kind of taxes or more exorbitant spending,” he said.
The four candidates also expressed a need for more transparency beyond what state sunshine laws demand. Lanners said the board has a reputation for not responding to messages from constituents. He said he would talk to as many people as often as he could.
Flores criticized the board for passing its most recent budget at the end of a long board meeting after many people in the audience had left. He said weighty matters like the budget should be addressed early in meetings.
Hamilton coupled transparency issues with the feud between the college administration and faculty leaders. By the time things get to the board level, she said issues were voted on as part of a consensus agenda without much debate.
Agustin said the board needs to post meeting information on the school website much earlier than it already is. He said that will give the public more time to “absorb the information."