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St. Charles to hold candidate forums for School Board

League of Women Voters, St. Charles Women's Club to hold forums

St. Charles East High School building
St. Charles East High School building

ST. CHARLES – St. Charles School District 303 residents will have the chance to learn more about the seven candidates running for District 303 School Board during two upcoming candidate forums.

Garrett Seaman, incumbent Board President Kathleen Hewell, Jillian Barker, Becky McCabe, and Michael Bryant are running for three four-year terms on the board. In addition, Poonam Gupta-Krishnan and incumbent Board Vice-President Nicholas Manheim are running for an unexpired two-year term on the board. The election for the four seats on the District 303 Board of Education will take place on April 2.

The League of Women Voters of Central Kane County will host a candidate forum for the School Board and St. Charles City Council at 7 p.m. March 14 at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles. In addition, the St. Charles Women's Club will host a candidate forum at 7 p.m. March 18 at the St. Charles Public Library, One South 6th Ave., St. Charles.

The St. Charles Education Association, St. Charles Educational Support Personnel and St. Charles Transportation and Maintenance Association hosted a St. Charles School Board candidate forum on Feb. 9. During the forum, the candidates were asked their views on a variety of topics, from class sizes to what they view as the board's role.

In answering a question about class sizes, Manheim, who is serving his second term on the board, noted board members looked at the issue last year after parents complained that class sizes were too large.

"We looked at ways to reduce that," he said. "So the administration came up with some ideas and we took action on that. I know it reduced it by some and I know we could do better. I think we took a good step in that direction last year."

In responding to a question about what she views as the school board's role, Barker, executive director of curriculum and instruction for a group of therapeutic day schools in the area, said that while the district's staff is responsible for the instruction to the students and responsible to those families they are serving, "in turn, we're all responsible to those families that we're serving."

"We all need to interact together," she said.

McCabe, a former District 303 assistant superintendent, said she thought it was important for the school board to have a vision "to make sure that instruction is the best it can be."

"The school board has the responsibility to hold people's feet to the fire," she said. "We're here for all kids, we're here to make sure they succeed at whatever level and have the opportunities to grow and do their best work."

Gupta-Krishnan, who previously taught middle school math and science in India and who currently mentors St. Charles East High School students in the Incubator Program, said she doesn't believe in dictating to teachers how to teach a class.

"The board is an umbrella which listens, absorbs, strategizes and help makes things happen," she said.

Bryant is a business education teacher with the Batavia School District. He said that many factors need to be considered when evaluating a student's success.

"Are they growing socially, are they growing emotionally, are they growing athletically and academically?" he asked. "You have to consider all those factors to really determine the effectiveness of programs and so forth."

Seaman has worked as a classroom teacher and district administrator in Illinois. As a school board member, Seaman said he would look for opportunities to talk directly with staff members.

"I'm really looking forward to the chance to go into every single building and connect with as many teachers in classroom environments as I possibly can," he said. "First and foremost, it's opening up my ears, opening up engagement."

Hewell said she believes the school board represents the community.

"We're supposed to be out there representing the community and available to the community to hear their input," she said. "For myself, I am out in the schools, I'm out in the town. I've never not taken someone's invitation to meet and talk. So I feel in that way I have been very open."

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