Two slates of candidates have formed to run for three open District 99 school board seats and current board members have picked sides in advance of the April 5 election.
Julia Beckman, Terry Pavesich and Paul McCarthy are listed among the supporters of incumbent Allyn Barnett and newcomer Nancy Kupka on the Barnett/Kupka 99 website. Megan Shroeder, who recently dropped her own reelection bid citing family obligations, is named as an “honorary chairman” on the site.
Meanwhile, the One Community 99 slate of Mike Davenport, Cliff Grammich and Keith Matune has gained the support of board members Deborah Boyle and Bill White.
The split reflects the seven-member board’s changing alliances since the 2009 election, when White ran on a slate that included incumbents Barnett, Beckman and Pavesich. Boyle, one of two challengers, defeated Barnett, who was appointed in May 2010 to fill the seat vacated by Bob Lemke.
Lemke, who ran on a slate with Schroeder and McCarthy in 2007, cited his "growing frustration over the school board's processes" as the reason for his resignation. "Some people enjoy the fight so much they can't have a regular discussion on a topic without being defensive or on attack or threatened," he said.
White and Boyle had joined with Lemke in March 2010 to vote against an administrative recommendation to deny tenure to a popular North High teacher. The 4-3 vote, one of the most scrutinized in recent years, drove a wedge between White and some of his former slate mates, even as he and Boyle developed a rapport.
“We’ve just come together because we agree and we share a vision,” said Boyle. “Yes, we were on opposing sides when we were first running. [Now] we are great friends outside the board.”
“Bill and I share the same vision that we’d like to have a cohesive board that has differing opinions but believes in community outreach,” Boyle said. “These three candidates (Davenport, Grammich and Matune) have actually shown that. It hasn’t been lip service.”
She is impressed that the three candidates she supports have reached out to all the feeder-district school boards, as well as to the village council and park district—homework Boyle admitted she didn’t do during her 2009 campaign.
“The school board is elected by the community to represent the community,” White said. “Having talked to Mike, Keith and Cliff a lot, I believe they understand the role and I believe they’ll put a lot of energy into doing it.”
White, along with Boyle, had voted against the Barnett appointment. “I thought there were better choices,” he said. Grammich was one of three finalists for that appointment.
An amicable separation
However, White downplayed his differences with his former slate-mate. “Based on the five candidates we have right now, I’m not opposing anyone,” he said. “All five are fine; there’s three I think are stronger.”
“Allyn has been a board member for a long time; I think he’s a good board member,” White said. “But the three others bring a lot more energy and understanding that we need to be proactive in reaching out to the community.”
Barnett was surprised to hear White is supporting One Community 99 but "harbors no animosity," he said. "I don’t think we have found any disagreement as we’ve sat together on the board."
Kupka said she teamed up with Barnett after the incumbent reached out to her when she first decided to run, offering advice through the filing process. The two have "complementary philosophies" and had "been talking about [forming a slate] on and off," she said.
"We both believe in participatory government," Kupka said. "We both have the belief that there is a lot of change coming our way just because of the world being what it is."
Beckman, the board president, said Barnett, Kupka, and Schroeder (while she was still in the race) requested her support. "That was sort of a matter of timing and since they had approached me and I had worked well with two of the three for many years, I said that I will certainly be associated with them," she said.
After speaking with White and Boyle, members of the One Community 99 slate discovered “they seem to have similar goals and priorities [as we do],” Davenport said. The slate members each have different strengths, but are all family men with young kids who value fiscal restraint and see the board as an intermediary for communications between the community and the district, he said.
Residents may have been heard by the board in the past, but not “listened to,” Davenport said. “We need new people on the school board. We need new people with fresh ideas.”
“It has happened on our board from time to time where differing options are not listened to,” Boyle said. “We don’t need any internal strife.” She supports the One Community 99 slate because the board needs to be “injected with some fresh perspective," she said.
Schroeder said the board communicates well with the community already and passed Boyle's words off as campaign fodder.
In addition, Boyle and White agree with the rest of the board on most issues, Schroeder said. "I’m not sure what fresh perspective is when you agree with us 99.9 percent of the time."
Schroeder also suggested White is seeking a board majority in order to carry out a “hidden agenda.”
White said he didn’t form the One Community 99 slate and the election is not about him or a hidden agenda. “I’m not running and she’s not running and there is no point going into that.”
“I believe everybody’s capable of positive change,” White said. “If my candidates don’t win, I’m not going in with the assumption we won’t make it work.”
Beckman said the prospect of a divided board is "troubling," but she is confident the competing endorsements won't be a problem.
"If there are personal issues, generally that does not get in the way. It’s not unusual at all to have personal differences," Beckman said. "We're very civil and we get a lot done. I’m sure that that will continue."