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Eight seek election to District 303 school board

Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles School District 303 board, which had no contested races in 2011, now has eight people running for four seats.

The incumbents are Steve Spurling, Jim Gaffney (not pictured), Mike Vyzral and Corinne Pierog. Challengers are Jim Conro, Nancy Muzzey, Rick Leidig (not pictured) and Edward McNally.

The election for the four-year terms is April 9.

This two-for-every-seat race contrasts the spring 2011 election, which was noted in a lawsuit several families filed against the school district about the reconfiguration of Davis and Richmond elementary schools. They alleged District 303 was in violation of due process by withholding details of the plan until February and that knowledge of the proposal could have prompted more people to run for school board in April.

McNally, a science teacher at Proviso West High School, was disappointed by the way the decision to merge the schools was reached, citing a lack of transparency and insufficient time to research the proposal. That situation prompted him to run for school board, he said.

“As I watched that process, I just kind of realized we need more transparency in the way the information is disseminated,” said McNally, 50. “I want to make sure we have transparency.”

Leidig, a 43-year-old father of five, wants the district to be more forthcoming with parents about changes to school boundaries, a topic bound to be addressed as enrollment declines, he said. As a board member, he said, he will keep an open mind and listen to everyone.

“If I personally feel that it’s not the best thing for our community, I will not vote just to make a unanimous vote,” Leidig said.

Gaffney, 65, said it might have been better to spend more time on the Richmond-Davis decision, but he believes the end result would have been the same.

“We made a good decision as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Gaffney, who has been on the board about 10 years, said he has enjoyed the work and still has something to add as a businessman.

He, Vyzral and Spurling said getting air conditioning in the schools was one of the biggest accomplishments in the last year. Going forward, Gaffney and Vyzral said, the school board will have to address aging middle and elementary schools.

Board president Spurling, 47, said his first years on the board involved playing catch-up on issues while the past two years have been about moving the district forward.

“We’re doing some good things. I’d like to keep that going for one more term,” Spurling said, listing the declining enrollment and how it relates to building use as issues to address.

Other than continuing to provide quality education, Vyzral, 51, said he has no major issues he would want to address in his second term. He, as well as Gaffney, applauded the district for extending Superintendent Don Schlomann’s contract for another four years.

“That’s huge,” Vyzral said about having consistency in the district’s leadership.

Schlomann has said this will be his last contract with the district. Leidig said the next superintendent should come from within the community instead of an out-of-towner who wouldn’t know the community’s history and concerns.

Muzzey, who has 30 years of experience in leadership and dealing with governmental affairs in the United States and Europe, said she has been dissatisfied with the direction the schools have taken in the past decade, adding children aren’t ready for college or well enough educated to enter the workforce.

She wants a stronger academic curriculum and would support eliminating programs that do not meet the district’s high standards, the 54-year-old said.

“We need to focus on what we’re testing our children on,” Muzzey said.

Pierog, 61, said there’s always room for improvement and that the district needs to ensure various programs – such as early childhood education and the science, technology and math offerings – continue to grow.

Meanwhile, she said, the district needs to be aware of what state lawmakers are deciding regarding pension reform, program funding and cuts in transportation.

“We have to be very aware of what is happening right now in Springfield to make sure the resources are there, that our budget is prudently managed because it’s finite,” Pierog said.

Conro – a 64-year-old retired teacher with education in school finances, curriculum and school and community relations – wants the district’s students to be college and career ready upon graduation.

But his main interest is the safety of students and staff, he said. Conro, who attended the mental health summit meeting this month, said mental health needs to be addressed.

“To me, the psychology approach seems to be the best approach to work on,” he said, pointing out security measures, such as locked-door policies, haven’t stopped shootings at other schools.

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