District 204 Candidates Weigh in on Boundaries, Budget

Article excerpt

Seven candidates are running April 17 for three open 4-year terms on the school board of Indian Prairie Unit District 204, which serves portions of Naperville, Aurora, Plainfield and Bolingbrook.

The field includes incumbents Curt Bradshaw, Mark Metzger and Alka Tyle, and challengers Steven Calcaterra, Michelle Davis, Kevin Knight and Leanne Lyons.

The Daily Herald asked the candidates to address several key issues facing the district in 150 words or less. Here is the second in a series of reports on their edited responses:

Q. Are you satisfied with the board's approach to high school boundary decisions?

Curt Bradshaw: I'm satisfied with the outcome of the boundaries to accommodate Metea Valley and my role in the process.

The new boundaries provide greater parity in terms of demographic composition and academic achievement across the three high schools. And I'm proud many district residents have commented on my integrity in this process.

While I'm satisfied with the outcome and wouldn't vote to change it, I'm dissatisfied with the larger process used to arrive at it. As we consider middle school boundary decisions, the district must clearly define and prioritize the criteria that will be used to draw the boundaries. Defining and prioritizing the criteria up- front will replace much of the subjectivity and emotion with objectivity.

Steven Calcaterra: The district's process of redrawing the boundaries was a travesty and an embarrassment to the community.

The board created a variety of proposals without sufficient input from the community and without establishing any set criteria for the new lines. The incredible opposition displayed by thousands of our residents was the only reason that we were finally asked for input before a decision was made.

Board members are elected to be a voice for the citizenry. As such, they are obligated to inform the public of issues and to do their best to ensure that the will of the electorate is followed. In the future, it is vital that the district establish a clear set of criteria based upon public concern before developing boundary proposals.

Although it is impossible for everyone to be completely satisfied when boundaries change, the district must listen to the public and do their best to satisfy those concerns.

Michelle Davis: What I witnessed at boundary meetings compelled me to send a communication imploring the board to refrain from pitting neighbors against each other. I cautioned that repercussions for community relations would result.

Survey findings refute a need-to-know, so meetings appear to have been orchestrated as a means of gaining voter attention. Did the end justify the means? The referendum was successful, but unresolved issues remain.

Creating learning communities is more than crunching numbers in a hurried process. It requires comprehensive, outcome-driven analysis across all grade levels.

Weighted evaluations balance geography, social networks and energy costs. Alignment of socio-economics and achievement provide the formula for creating equitable enclaves of learning.

Current boundaries, drawn using elementary enrollments, yielded less than optimal outcomes. Scores of middle school children will relinquish meaningful relationships at a developmentally sensitive age.

I support comprehensive review of boundaries, facilitated by subject matter experts, as the best long-range approach.

Kevin Knight: When considering boundary changes, the board must use good judgment and fully utilize the available data.

District 204 has one of the most liquid housing markets in the country - with many families moving in and out. That means our district is dynamic - we cannot be content to "set boundaries" and then walk away as if we will never have to address it again. There should be a process for ongoing re-evaluation with trigger points for action. …