NEW LENOX – Two slates competing for the Lincoln-Way District 210 school board are at odds over a campaign flyers that has reignited controversy over the closing of North high school.
The three-member slate consisting of board members Joe Kirkeeng and Joe Kosteck and non-incumbent Aaron Janik has distributed flyers accusing the five-member Citizens For 210 slate of “taking a second bite at the apple to reopen North” and focusing on closing West, Central or East high schools.
The board approved the closing of North in 2015 as a cost-cutting measure in response to the district’s dire finances. Many residents objected to the board’s decision, including the Lincoln-Way Area Taxpayers Unite group, which has since disbanded but before doing so initiated an unsuccessful legal effort to block the closing of North.
In a statement, the Citizens For 210 slate disputed the flyer, stating “nothing could be farther from the truth” because their slate sees “all of our [school] buildings as assets to the district” and wants to figure out how to “best use all of them.”
“We want to get in there and see what’s going on with all four buildings, actually, and doing assessments on what needs to be repaired,” said Lee Talley, a Citizens For 210 slate member and former LWATU member.
Talley said the slate thinks the flyer was “uncalled for” and a “bit of a low blow.”
Kirkeeng said his slate used information quoted from past statements of Citizens For 210 members and from the rival slate’s website for the flyer. Among some of the claims, the flyers state that at a Feb. 11 meet-and-greet, the Citizens For 210 slate indicated it wants to “revisit North’s closing.”
The flyer also states none of the candidates gave a direct answer at a forum March 8 when asked whether they favored the current school configuration at the district.
“It was a noncommittal response,” Kirkeeng said.
At the forum, all the candidates said they favored the current configuration with the exception of some Citizens For 210 members who said they needed more information or wanted to weigh all options.
The slate was asked at the forum if their purpose for gathering financial information such as building budgets was a precursor to reopening North. Slate member Karen Town said she’s repeatedly said she’s not interested in changing the current school configuration but “we definitely have to look at all of those options for the future.”
Kirkeeng said Citizens For 210 has circulated campaign literature that paints current board members with a “very broad brush,” such as one flyer that stated the district continues its “fiscally irresponsible practice of borrowing tens of millions of dollars each year.”
Slate member Ben Yomtoob said the flyer didn’t name any candidates and wasn’t meant to conclude the board is doing something wrong. Yomtoob said his issue with the other slate’s flyer is that it drew the wrong conclusion based on the information it had presented and took one quote referring to the slate’s frequently asked questions document out of context.