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Harvard School District 50 board candidates target better student achievement

HARVARD – Both sitting board members and election challengers want to improve student achievement at Harvard School District 50, as the district typically lags behind other McHenry County districts on various academic benchmarks.

Familiar and new faces to the District 50 board populate the April 7 ballot. In total, five candidates are vying for three spots on the district board.

The four candidates who replied to Northwest Herald questionnaires all highlighted past education experiences and emphasized the need to improve academic achievement. Candidate Patricia Bredehorst did not submit any responses.

Seeking a comeback, candidate Diana Bird said she is again running for the district board to force school officials to improve student achievement. Bird lost a re-election bid in 2013 after serving on the board for eight years.

“I want all District 50 students to receive an enriched education and to become lifelong learners,” Bird said. “All of our students should be graduating, and meeting or exceeding all educational expectations required by the state of Illinois.”

A leader behind the successful $22 million referendum that created Crosby Elementary, current board member Julie Lehmann was appointed to her spot in 2013.

Eyeing a full term, Lehmann, who has three children in the district, said she is ready to build on her board experience and work to bolster student achievement.

“The biggest education issue facing District 50 is academic achievement. ... The board must decide how to provide for the highest level of academic achievement possible for all of the students while utilizing the resources we have available,” she said.

Sharon McMillan was appointed to the district board earlier this fall, following a two-year stint on the board from 2008 to 2010. She also is the vice president for the Crosby parent-teacher organization.

Having two kids at District 50, McMillan said she is concerned about the quality of education all students receive. She highlighted how only 29 percent of recent Harvard graduates were considered ready for college coursework.

“Education needs to be the number one priority. These kids certainly deserve better,” McMillan said. “It is obvious there needs to be change to move D-50 in a positive direction.”

First-time candidate Sandra Theriault said she has spent more than 30 years in education as a teacher, administrator, coach and consultant.

On her campaign Facebook page, Theriault also has said higher student attendance and additional community partnerships would help students succeed.

She wants the district to use research-based education practices to provide programs and services that meet the needs of all students.

“I consider student achievement to be the biggest education issue facing District 50,” she said. “All children are entitled to a quality education enabling them to be college/career ready upon graduation.”

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