Whereas some DuPage County college boards are going begging for candidates in subsequent 12 months’s election, the marketing campaign in Downers Grove’s Group Excessive College District 99 guarantees to be energetic, with six candidates — together with one with a well-known identify — going after three open seats.
Kara Casten, an insurance coverage government who’s the spouse of Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, has shaped a slate with tax legal professional Don Renner, who was on the board from 2015 to 2019, and buyer expertise skilled Ken Dawson.
Casten mentioned her choice to run was impressed partly by the reminiscence of her daughter Gwen, who died in June from what the DuPage County coroner known as a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. Gwen Casten had graduated from Downers Grove North two weeks earlier.
“We’re so grateful for the alternatives she had, the recollections now we have of highschool,” Casten mentioned. “I need to step up and assist advocate for the voices that aren’t heard as loudly in our group and guarantee each scholar in District 99 is included, welcomed, and given the identical alternatives as each different scholar.”
The nonetheless anonymous slate will face two district dad and mom who’re operating a joint race for the April 4 election. Keep-at-home mother Barbara Allen and well being care administrator Dana Cox mentioned their precedence shall be getting lecturers again on monitor after the challenges of the pandemic years.
“Actually fairness is essential,” Allen mentioned. “It’s one of many prime (points) that’s on the entrance of all of our minds, to make sure all college students are getting equal entry. However we have to be cautious that we’re not dropping focus and holding it on good public schooling.”
The sixth candidate, engineer Chris Erickson, is operating a solo race. He mentioned he’s involved with declining standardized take a look at scores.
“So lots of my neighbors, they began within the metropolis and moved out to the suburbs,” he mentioned. “While you’re selecting a suburb, usually occasions you’re doing that for the faculties. That’s why I need to become involved — to ask some questions and ensure (lecturers are) getting the due consideration.”
District 99 is centered in Downers Grove however its boundaries embrace elements of Bolingbrook, Darien, Lisle, Oak Brook, Westmont and Woodridge. Whereas the Illinois State Board of Schooling charges each of its excessive faculties “commendable,” the second-highest designation, there are variations: Downers Grove North is extra prosperous and fewer racially numerous than Downers Grove South, in accordance with state information.
Casten famous that the district’s voters handed a $136 million constructing enchancment referendum proposal 4 years in the past during which fairness was a part of the gross sales pitch: Downers Grove South, for instance, acquired a brand new performing arts auditorium.
“All of us need to be certain that all of our college students … obtain the assist, steerage and assets they want, to allow them to create their very own path and achieve success in life,” Dawson mentioned.
As in different cities, Downers Grove noticed loads of discontent over scholar masking coverage through the top of the pandemic. When a choose in February dominated that Gov. J.B. Pritzker overstepped his bounds in mandating the observe, Cox and Allen joined dozens of others asking District 99 to finish it.
“Please make masks non-obligatory,” Cox wrote in a public remark to the board. “Many youngsters will nonetheless put on them, however you will need to permit the selection. Denying college students their civil rights is in opposition to the legislation.”
The board ended up voting 6-1 to make masks non-obligatory in late February, however Cox mentioned the lasting impression was that “the group wasn’t being heard.”
The district additionally made information when some dad and mom challenged the graphic novel “Gender Queer.” Directors defended its inclusion within the excessive faculties’ library collections, however Allen objected at a June board assembly, saying that by making the e book accessible to college students, the district was selling sexual exercise and promiscuity.
“This isn’t about inclusivity,” she mentioned. “This isn’t about giving college students secure areas. No sexually specific supplies needs to be supplied by our faculties no matter sexual orientation, interval.”
Board members unanimously voted to maintain the e book within the faculties’ libraries. In an interview with the Tribune, Allen mentioned the difficulty didn’t determine into her choice to run for the board.
“It’s time for our group to heal,” she mentioned. “I really feel strongly that that’s behind us and we’re specializing in our future.”
She and Cox mentioned they’re extra occupied with addressing take a look at scores and a brand new hybrid “block schedule” that lengthens class durations on some days.
Renner mentioned he goals to maintain politics out of board discussions, although he allowed some voters would possibly assume the slate is being influenced by Sean Casten.
“It will be naive for me to affix a slate with Kara and never perceive that thatassumption shall be made,” he mentioned. “I’ve been a Republican my entire life. I’m probably not affiliated with that political celebration during the last 4 years below its management, however I believe the three of us come from very totally different political backgrounds.”