Teachers Dominate List of D122 Board Candidates
The New Lenox school board interviewed candidates to replace Sue Gillooley on Wednesday after she resigned last month following stalking accusations. Key issues discussed were fiscal responsibility and quality education.
The New Lenox School District 122 board Wednesday interviewed eight candidates to fill the position of Sue Gillooley, who resigned last month after accusations for stalking.
The board is expected to review the candidates' qualifications and an announcement of the selection is expected soon.
The New Lenox residents vying to fill-in until the April 2013 elections are: Susan Bultman, Rhonda Starklauf, Michael Burke, Phil Adair, Therese Barrett, Amy Zale, Bill Pender and Nikki Kline. A ninth candidate withdrew an earlier submitted application.
Interviews conducted in executive session ran from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Board President Nick DiSandro stepped out to welcome each of the candidates as they arrived.
What at least half of the candidates had in common was a deep background in education. Starklauf is a biology teacher at Lincoln-Way Central High School. Burke is a Spanish teacher at Providence Catholic High School. Barrett is a biology and environmental sciences instructor at Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet and Pender is an assistant principal at JCA.
The other candidates come to the table with a variety of professional backgrounds. Bultman is the director of fundraising at Cornerstone Services in Joliet. Zale is an attorney for a law firm in Evergreen Park, which focuses on providing legal counsel for schools and municipalities.
Adair is a former regional manager of sales for Hommel-Etamic Corp. He ran for the school board and lost in April 2011.
Kline spoke briefly before her interview with the board; she left before having an opportunity to expand on her background.
"I have been looking for a volunteer opportunity," Kline said. "I thought this would fit because of the wonderful things the school district does for the kids." She is the mother of two children. Her daughter is entering fourth grade at a district school, and her son just graduated from eighth grade.
While waiting to talk to the board, the candidates offered their reasons for seeking membership on the board. Each mentioned that it was a way to contribute to their community.
Having arrived early for her designated appointment, Bultman said the board is expected to face fiscal challenges while maintaining solid educational programs. A life-long resident of New Lenox and mother of an incoming first-grader, she said quality education and a positive environment are important.
"Kids spend so much of their day in school, so it's really important that they have a good foundation," Bultman said.
As a mother with two children in the district, Starklauf said her goal as a school board member would be to remain "fiscally responsible during the current budget crisis in Illinois while ensuring and maintaining the quality of education the children in our community deserve."
Burke said he wants to get involved to help shape the educational community in which his newborn daughter is anticipated to attend school.
"It comes down to politics," he said. "Politics has always been something that's fascinated to me. I want to serve the community. It comes down to how we best use our money."
A regular attendee at district school board meetings who ran and lost a bid in the last election for the school board, Adair wants to contribute his time.
"It's just the love of my school district and wanting to extend myself to the betterment of the district and the community," he said.
Now adults, Adair's children attended school in the district and subsequently flourished in their careers. A resident of the community for 40 years, he said, "I think the school district has grown and the expenses have grown. Financial concerns are always an issue."
Barrett said she is both interested in preserving the curriculum and being fiscally responsible. A New Lenox resident for 10 years, the mother of five children has seen the schools up-close-and-personal.
"I understand budget constraints as long as the cuts don't impact the education and learning," she said. "Teachers need training and support." In return, Barrett said she expects them to give the job their best efforts.
Pender, a father of three children in the district, said he wants to get involved. "I want to contribute something of value to my town." Having run unsuccessfully for the board three years ago, Pender said he is not diminished in his zeal to participate.
Zale has a second-grader in the district. She said serving on the board is a big commitment. However, she would like to volunteer her skills in a way that serves the community. Speaking of the district, she added, "they were left in the lurch by some unfortunate circumstances. I think my background (as an attorney) would be useful."
He added that budget discussions and preserving the tradition of quality education are sure to top the list of issues that the board will be grappling with.
Gillooley resigned June 11 following public accusations that she was stalking a resident. A Will County judge ordered that she and the accuser remain at least 100 feet apart for three months, giving them "an opportunity to calm down." Gillooley later said the disagreement was about a man they both dated.
Although Gillooley was re-elected to a four-year term in April 2011, the person appointed would only serve until the next local election, which is in April 2013. At that point, the appointee could run for election or leave the board. The winner of that election would then serve the remaining two years of Gillooley's term.
That means five of the seven board seats will be up for election in 2013. DiSandro and Maureen Broderick were also elected in 2011, but the seats of Deb Kedzior, Pat Martino, Kathy Miller and Sue Smith will be on the April 2013 ballot.