D204 candidates meet again at Naperville forum
By David Sharos For The Sun March 7, 2013 9:06PM
The next forum for School District 204 Board of Education candidates will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. March 14 at the Crouse Education Center, 780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora. The event will be hosted by Naperville League of Women Voters in partnership with Indian Prairie Parents’ Council.
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:43AM
Candidates for the Indian Prairie District 204 School Board offered another chance for taxpayers to get to know where they stand on the issues Thursday night, as the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation provided a forum for those running in the April 9 election.
The event was held at the Naperville Municipal Center. Candidates Cathy Piehl, Vasavi Chakka, Krishna Bansal, Michael Raczak, Soteria Kapsis, Maria Curry, and Benjamin White appeared once again, along with Justin Karubas, who is also running uncontested for the two years remaining of the unexpired term of former board member Curt Bradshaw, who accepted an appointment to the Illinois State Board of Education last fall.
An eighth candidate, Jazmin Santillan, announced her decision Thursday to withdraw from the election and indicated through a phone message that there would be a forthcoming statement regarding her decision. Vice president of the Homeowners Confederation, Bob Fischer, read a single sentence from the four-paragraph statement saying that “due to personal reasons, Jazmin Santillan withdrew her candidacy for the District 204 School Board ...”
None of the other candidates was aware of Santillan’s decision when the forum began.
Chakka described the development “as a shame because Jazmin had a lot to offer.”
“She’s worked very hard to where she has gotten, and this was an opportunity to give some of her skills back,” Chakka said.
On March 4, the Indian Prairie Education Association and the Indian Prairie Classified Association held a similar forum at Waubonsie Valley High School.
Dr. Bob Buckman, president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation, served as the timer for the Thursday event. The format included questions about teacher pensions and Common Core Standards, as well as other questions generated by the audience.
Buckman called the elections for the District 203 and 204 boards “critical,” adding that the confederation offered the forum “to continue its mission to educate the public about educational and key political issues.”
“We feel the easiest way to understand the issues is by getting people to attend these forums in person or follow them on the local TV network, and then when it comes time to vote, people can’t say they didn’t have the chance to get informed about the issues,” he said.
Candidates including Bansal said they hoped the forums were providing a way for voters to compare those running for board positions.
“There is only so much you can say when you are given a 30-second or two-minute platform,” Bansal said. “These forums do give people an opportunity to see what each of us brings to the table and help differentiate who is the right person. Everyone running wants to help and brings his own area of expertise.”
During his prepared statement, Raczak, who is a career educator, spoke about pension options.
“The state is still trying to determine what it wants to do and it appears there might be a move to institute an incremental cost shift to the school districts regarding pensions,” he said. “We need to look at what those costs would be and determine what to do. We have to begin with our mission statement and goals. A tax hike and eliminating the tax cap isn’t something that looks to be abolished soon. We can’t ask for a referendum.”
Residents including Anupama Srirangan of Aurora expressed concerns about the election.
“I’m here to learn more about how our tax dollars are being spent, and I care about how schools are preparing students for leadership roles,” she said. “I’m a director of technology and I hire a lot of people. A lot of them have the technical skills but they lack communication and leadership skills. People need to be organized in their thoughts. I know there are going to be budget cuts, but we need to find innovative ways to deal with them so they don’t negatively impact students.”