D203 school board candidate overviews

Consolidated county election to be held April 6

William Tong, Online Managing Editor & Editorial Editor

A consolidated DuPage County general election will be held on April 6. In addition to open seats for Naperville city council, Naperville Township governance positions and Naperville Park District Commission, there are four open seats on the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 Board of Education.  

Of the nine candidates running, Kristin Fitzgerald is the current president of the board, Donna Wandke is the current vice president and Charles Cush is a current board member. 

After board member Janet Yang-Rohr was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives and stepped down from her post, Anthony Casey was appointed by the current Board on March 1 to fill her spot.

What is the Board of Education? 

The Board is a governing body of seven elected members, each with one vote, that provides oversight and guidance to the district administration. They have the power to budget, set goals for the district and vote on larger policies the district is looking to implement, including curriculum changes and contracts with third parties. Additionally, the board has the authority to hire and fire the district superintendent or any other district employee. District administration has the power to implement board policies and run day to day operations. 

The board holds regular biweekly meetings, where they listen to public comments, provide information to the public through reports from the board president, superintendent and student ambassadors, and vote on new policies and programs. 

You can read the board’s policies here and board meeting agendas here.

Who are the candidates? 

Click on each candidate to see each interview.

Thomas Andrew Binkowski
Charles Cush
Bill Eagan

 

Kristin Fitzgerald

 

Christi Helm
Amanda McMillen

 

 

Rob Reed

 

 

 

Adam Russo

 

 

 

 

Donna Wandke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central Times spoke with the candidates for District 203’s school board. Responses have, in some cases, been edited for length and grammar, though we have made every effort to preserve each candidate’s messages. Statements made by candidates are opinions held by the candidates, not the Central Times. You can also visit the DuPage County Board of Elections website to find out how you can get involved and cast your ballot. 

What are some campaign issues in this election?  

Like most things this year, the board election will largely be centered around the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some community members are concerned by the lack of in-person learning their students are receiving, others about potential COVID risks that come from attending classes in a building and many a mix of both. 

During the Aug. 17, 2020 board meeting, the current board passed a “Resolution affirming the authority of the superintendent to implement Return to Learn plan for 2020-2021 school year.” The fifth provision of the resolved clause, which states that the “Superintendent shall have the authority to further develop, revise, and implement the [Return to Learn] plan consistent with the parameters set forth herein; consistent with further guidance from the State of Illinois, consistent with the Illinois School Code, and in consultation with the Board of Education,” has drawn considerable controversy from the district community. 

Proponents of the resolution point to the fact that this is a structure of communication and oversight that the district’s board and any district’s board has always used, and that the resolution has not taken away any power they had before. Opponents view it as the current board relinquishing their decision-making authority to the superintendent. 

Keep in mind, however, that the four-year term of board members begins within 21 days of the election as per board policy 2:50, meaning the successful candidates will likely assume office in mid or late April. Much of their work will therefore pertain to the 2021-2022 and subsequent school years. The new board will probably be more focused on helping the district recover from learning loss (academic, emotional and social) and teacher fatigue. 

Additionally, as incidents of police brutality and hate crimes dominate the news, the board will also evaluate the district’s progress in educating students to be respectful and inclusive in a safe and equitable learning environment.