With early voting underway, it’s time to weigh in on a couple of local elections and we’ll start than the Geneva School Board. In the aftermath of a rather contentious teachers’ strike, there are nine candidates running for three seats. It’s a wide-open field with Mike McCormick as the only incumbent.
I’ve spoken with a number of that group and every one of them said the first question those front door voters ask is, “Who do you support? The teachers or the school board?” And while I certainly understand that post-strike logic, it’s sad to think this race will come down to an us versus them mentality.
Because the truth is, regardless of their platform, anyone with the gumption to run for school board deserves a hearty pat on the back, or perhaps a full mental evaluation. These contests generally cover more area than a mayoral race, there’s no salary involved, and if any of them think the campaign is the hard part, just wait until that first board meeting!
It’s an utterly thankless job involving parents’ two most precious commodities – their children and their wallets. And the only time the press pays any attention to you is when you screw up or you’re forced to deal with a grueling scenario like labor negotiations.
I advised a school board candidate in 2017 and my favorite threat to use against them is, “Do you want me to help you get reelected?”
So, the fact I’m supporting three candidates in no way relegates the rest to some sort of Anti-Christ status. It simply indicates that I disagree with the lack of balance in their D304 world views.
That’s all there is to it. I want to see those three seats filled with folks who understand that, whether the public shows up to board meetings or not, the taxpayers deserve the same consideration that district administrators and teachers do.
Mike McCormick was the first board member to sound the capital debt alarm and his consistent low-key leadership has been instrumental in the board attacking that major challenge head on. Two terms are generally enough for any politician, but I’d really like to see McCormick continue his fiscal work.
The Daily Herald was dead on when they endorsed Jessica Breugelmans, noting she “stands out from the crowd.” I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Jessica (Don’t make me spell her last name again!) a couple of times and I’ve been more than impressed with her intellect, her capacity to get to the heart of an issue, and her desire to serve.
If elected, she will certainly bring some badly needed balance to the D304 force.
Our third candidate is Wildwood Restaurant manager Al Gaston. Though he’s running a semi-unconventional campaign – you won’t see him on social media or find him on the Net – that doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of your consideration. In his own words:
Being a homeowner in Geneva for over 15 years, I would look to not increase property taxes any more than necessary. The school board has done a good job bringing down the debt created back in the early 1990s and I would work to continue that progress and process.
That’s all I ask! Ideological perfection is not the goal. It’s the capacity to see the big picture and act in a way that ultimately benefits everyone involved that really matters. There’s only “us” and no “them,” and these three candidates are pro-D304, not pro-teacher or pro-taxpayer.
Meanwhile, the other six hopefuls, and especially the trio endorsed by the Geneva Education Association, are decidedly pro-teacher as demonstrated by the educator signatures that dominated their nominating paperwork. They believe the 5 percent raises Geneva teachers are receiving for the next four years aren’t nearly enough.
When was the last time you got a raise, much less anything approaching the 5 percent mark?
The three union-backed candidates are:
- Alicia Saxton
- Katherine Frye
- Robert “Larry” Cabeen
Again, my wife is a middle school teacher and I know educators often get the short end of the salary stick. But with the Collar Counties already facing the highest property taxes in the nation, the education funding paradigm must shift such that Illinois teachers and taxpayers aren’t locked in an eternally bitter fiscal struggle.
It’s hardly a radical thought to decouple property taxes from education, but by those educators’ general reaction to that argument, you’d think I’d threatened to force them teach driver’s ed!
Of course, the three GEA supported candidates are the most sympathetic to their cause, and most Genevans, especially our senior citizens, cannot afford a return to the days of unsustainable school board incited property tax hikes. And that’s exactly what will happen if those candidates are elected.
Not only that, but unless your last name is “Dryden,” I have a real problem with former teachers serving on school boards. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but exactly how do Frye and Saxton set aside the fact they’re former teachers? And Cabeen’s wife was a long-time D304 high school teacher, so he’s in the same boat.
Considering their history and that union endorsement, I’m not willing to take that chance. And with three stellar school board candidates like McCormick, Breugelmans, and Gaston, there’s no need to. This isn’t a case of voting against somebody.
I know consolidated elections lack the glamor of their even-year counterparts, but considering the taxpayer stakes, please get out and vote by April 2nd. The Geneva teachers’ union will certainly be getting their people to the polls.