Richmond-Burton High School District 157 candidates talk priorities, Patrick Elder

District 157 Board hopefuls discuss programming, Patrick Elder, more

Five candidates are running to fill three open seats on the Richmond-Burton High School District 157 Board in Tuesday’s election.

Those candidates are Theresa “Tracy” Highley, Steve Holtz, Robert Satkiewicz, Jennifer Read and Michael Baird. Holtz and Highley are incumbents.

Holtz, a lifelong Richmond resident, is seeking re-election for what could be his fourth term. He has been on the board for 12 years and is the board president.

Holtz said he was glad the district has been able to offer more programming. The board recently voted to implement science, technology, engineering and math labs for its students, he said.

The project should be complete by next school year, he said.

“We have been doing some really good things,” Holtz said. “I want to try to maintain different activities and programs we can offer [despite] dwindling student enrollment.”

The high school’s dean of students, Patrick Elder, is facing an aggravated driving under the influence charge after a 2017 incident. His trial was expected to begin in December, but it has been delayed. He is due back in court in May, and his attorney said he will push to transition Elder into McHenry County’s new “DUI Court” which focuses on high-risk, repeat felony DUI offenders.

Holtz said the board must “keep abreast” of the situation, but he declined to comment further because it is a personnel matter.

Two candidates had more robust opinions on the situation.

“Indecisiveness caused this to become a very big mess,” said Baird, a Spring Grove resident and former district employee. “It’s still a thing hanging over the district. I don’t think it was handled properly.”

Baird said if he is elected, he would start a conversation with Superintendent Tom Lind and the board about how to handle the eventual outcome of Elder’s case.

“Don’t wait until the end of the trial to start the discussion,” he said. “It can go two ways, and I would be asking Lind right now, ‘How does this play out?’ ”

Read said she would have liked to see the district separate from Elder entirely.

“This was very disturbing and one of my main motivators to get involved,” Read said. “I felt the board should have been able to act sooner to protect students. Someone with multiple DUIs has no place on staff.”

Read, a Spring Grove resident and retired business consultant, said if she is elected she would like to work toward enhancing curriculum in the sciences and arts. She said she also would like to develop partnerships with local skilled trade companies to ensure the district is offering students the right opportunities.

“There is a huge skilled labor shortage,” she said. “I would reach out to employers in the area and find out what programs the high school can provide to ensure a good skilled workforce.”

Baird is assistant principal for curriculum and instruction at District 116’s Round Lake High School, and he said his experience puts him ahead of the crowd.

“I am not [against] anyone on the board,” he said. “I am pro-school system. I bring more experience because I have worked at that school, and run staffing and curriculum at a huge school.”

Round Lake High School has a total enrollment of 2,158. Richmond-Burton High School’s enrollment is 666, according to the most recent figures from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Baird said he would like to bring programs that currently are outsourced – such as nursing, construction and automotive – back to the high school.

“Over the years, [Richmond-Burton] has slashed elective programming, and options are limited,” he said.

He said he understands those decisions were made because of expenses and a lack of space. The problem with sending students off-campus for courses, however, is that those tend to eat up large chunks of the school day, he said.

Highley and Satkiewicz could not be reached by phone for comment.

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