Candidates face off in District 204 forum
BY David Sharos For the Sun March 4, 2013 11:04PM
Indian Prairie School Board candidates took part in two forums in the past week. The first was at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, where Education Association president Val Dranias, left, served as moderator. The second forum was sponsored by the Naperville Area Homeowners and held at the Naperville Municipal Center. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Indian Prairie School District 204 Board of Education candidates will take part in another forum at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St., council chambers. The event will be telecast on Naperville’s government access channel, WCNC, and streamed live and made available for on-demand viewing through the city’s website, www.naperville.il.us/granicus.html. It will be hosted by the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation.
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:14AM
The board that governs Indian Prairie School District 204 figures to have a new look this coming year as four spots will be contested among eight candidates in the April 9 election.
Monday night, a forum hosted by the Indian Prairie Education Association and the Indian Prairie Classified Association was held at Waubonsie Valley High School to give the public a chance to learn where those candidates stand on the issues.
Val Dranias, president of the Indian Prairie Education Association, served as moderator for the event. Candidates Cathy Piehl, Vasavi Chakka, Krishna Bansal, Michael Raczak, Soteria Kapsis, Maria Curry, Jazmin Santillan and Benjamin White were each given two minutes to introduce themselves and give an opening statement.
They were joined by Justin Karubas, who is running uncontested for the two years remaining on the term of Curt Bradshaw, who last fall accepted an appointment to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Audience members submitted questions on cards. Candidates were allowed two minutes to answer each question.
Before the forum began, Dranias praised the candidates regarding their commitment to the students of the district.
“Based on the bios I’ve read and other information, this is a very diverse and very well educated group of candidates,” Dranias said. “From what I’ve read and heard, they are all here for the students of District 204 and want to make sure the district stays where it is or even gets better.”
A crowd of about 150 gathered as the forum began, with a large number being either volunteers or students.
Meagan Geldernick, 17, a senior at Waubonsie Valley who plans to attend Ohio State University next year, said despite her leaving the school this spring, the election impacts her friends and their future.
“There are underclassmen here and even though the outcome of the election won’t affect me directly, it will impact the future of people I still know,” she said. “To me, a candidate has to constantly want to improve things and not accept the status quo.”
Those running for office offered comments about the ongoing financial crisis in educational funding and the new state testing standards, as well as comments about themselves.
Candidate Soteria Kapsis, 37, spoke about her commitment to the district as well as her experiences that she believes make her a viable member for the board.
“I have two girls here in the school system, and I’ve worked for 17 years in education as a teacher, a pre-school director, and a professional counselor,” Kapsis said. “I’ve served on the Indian Prairie Parent Council, and have been able to hear about the concerns regarding all the schools in the district, which I think is important when sources are limited. I feel I know what we have to offer and where we can improve support of our programs.”
Chakka, 48, explained that students need to be better prepared to handle “global competition” and that her candidacy is about “empowering youth and helping them reach their potential.”
“I’ve had all of my children go through the 204 system already and I’ve seen the strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “I really believe in giving back to the community and this gives me a platform for something I really have a passion for.”
District faculty members such as Katie Knopp, who teaches social studies at Neuqua Valley, also weighed in on the importance of the election. Knopp said the new board is a crucial player in the changes coming down from the state.
“We need a group that addresses the needs of the kids,” she said. “I don’t know how effective a forum like this is in terms of people learning about the candidates, but maybe it will inspire them to learn more.”
Science teacher Dwight Nelson, who teaches at Granger Middle School, expressed hope that the new board might be able to reach a better consensus.
“There seems to have been two camps or trains of thought with the current board, and I hope the next one is able to share more of the same views,” he said.
Dranias cautioned that the next board faces a broad range of financial issues, including cost shifts and further program cuts.
“This current board has made $40.5 million in cuts over the past four years,” she said. “We don’t know about state aid and if things will be paid on time. There is talk of a cost shift to the schools regarding pensions and what other programs might have to be cut.”
There is also the Common Core adoption and evaluation of student growth. We face a time with a lot of uncertainty.”