WOODSTOCK – Nearly all candidates on the April 9 ballot agree that finding a top-notch replacement for outgoing Superintendent Ellyn Wrzeski is a key issue facing the Woodstock School District 200 board.
Wrzeski, who has served as the district’s superintendent for 13 years, has announced her intention to retire in June 2014.
“This selection, along with the goals and strategies that will come with it, will set the stage for growth and advancement of the school district for years to come,” said Bill Nattress, of Woodstock.
Nattress is one of six candidates looking to win a four-year spot on the District 200 school board. Incumbents Camille Goodwin, Katherine Lechner and board President Paul Meyer seek to retain their spots while Nattress, Carl Gilmore and Michael Wellwerts hope to find their way into one of four open seats.
Incumbent David Shinherr, who joined the board in December after the early-November death of Sue Palmore, doesn’t face opposition for the remaining two years of that seat’s term.
“[Wrzeski] does a tremendous job in moving this district forward,” said Meyer, a 12-year veteran of the board. “I feel that prior board experience will be very advantageous when conducting this search.”
Candidates also expressed a need to balance a high-level education with fiscal responsibility.
“Financial management of the district is always a priority, and increasingly more difficult with the uncertainty and frequent delinquency of payments by the state, not to mention the uncertainty of what the state will do about the Teachers Retirement [System],” Goodwin said.
Candidates shied away from committing to a freeze of the tax levy in coming years, saying the decision would be based on several circumstances still to be determined.
Lechner said she didn’t think a freeze is a wise idea at this point.
“While District 200 has continued to try and keep the levy as reasonable as possible so that taxpayers are not so burdened with additional costs, we still need to run the district,” Lechner said. “We, the board, have a responsibility to educate the students in our district with or without government funds.”
Wellwerts, of Wonder Lake, applauded the financial efforts of the school board, and said he’d like to help maintain those efforts while continuing to provide what he already believes is a high-quality education.
But while the other candidates elected not to present disagreements to moves made by the board in the past, Wellwerts stated a criticism.
“I disagree with having the non-curriculum teachers [physical education, art, music and technology] work at multiple schools and rotate between those schools on a daily or weekly basis,” said Wellwerts, who has two children in the district. “I don’t see how that benefits the students or teachers.”
Gilmore, of Woodstock, said he aims for expansion of advanced placement programs, exploration into international baccalaureate programs, support of fine arts and other extracurricular activities, and high involvement from parents toward the education of their children.
“Improving education does not have to lead to increasing the budget, but will require resolve, curiosity and creativity,” he said.