With controversy swirling around both the school board and administration in Riverside District 96, it’s no surprise the 2013 election has resulted in a contested election there. But there is just as much competition in Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95, where six candidates will vie for four 4-year terms plus one candidate who will run to claim the single two-year term up for grabs.

No matter how things shake out, there will be plenty of change on the D95 school board. For one thing, the next school board will have a new president for the first time in six years.

Board President James Landahl, who has been on the board for the last 12 years, chose not to run for re-election in D95 in order to make a run at a spot on the school board at Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208. Also leaving the board after 12 years is Chuck Snyder, who is running for a spot on the District 208 board as well.

Running for the four-year terms are incumbents Pasquale “Pat” Speziale, who was appointed to the board first in 2007 and then elected to the board for a four-year term in 2009, and Brian Elwart, who lost a bid for election in 2011 only to be appointed to the board in September 2012 when Doris Stanek resigned 16 months following her election.

Speziale, if re-elected will become one of the most experienced members of the board, having served six years already. He was part of the board that approved a landmark teachers’ contract that did away with step raises, calling the result something that was “truly a win-win.”

“There are two main things about this job,” said Speziale. “First is that it’s all for the kids going to the school. The second thing is it’s for the taxpayer, and are they getting the best value for their dollars.”

Speziale said increased enrollment and less state funding will continue to pose a challenge for the district. Other important issues in coming years will be implementing Common Core standards, continuing to upgrade technology and negotiating a new teachers’ contract.

In the months since his appointment, Elwart said he’s “learned that there’s a lot more involved than I originally thought, but at the same time, great things are coming around the bend, with the implementation of Common Core and standards-based reporting.”

Elwart said negotiating a new teachers’ contract will be key. He hoped the district could “keep up the same concept implemented in the last contract,” which limited base pay raises to a percentage of the consumer price index and eliminated step raises.

He also said the board needed to keep an eye on ongoing infrastructure issues, particularly plumbing and electrical issues that have periodically been a problem.

“It’s not major, but they are things we need to focus on and pay attention to,” Elwart said.

Joining Speziale and Elwart on the ballot will be Brookfield residents Barbara Garvey and Brian Conroy and LaGrange Park residents Rebecca Zoltoski and Michelle Maggos. All are, coincidentally, parents of fourth-graders at Brook Park School.

Garvey, the wife of Brookfield Village President Michael Garvey, previously served on the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees from 2001-11. She is a kindergarten teacher in River Forest School District 90 and has children in first, fourth and seventh grades in District 95.

As a teacher, Garvey said, she can bring a different perspective to the board, particularly related to upcoming changes related to learning standards and teacher evaluations.

“Having that knowledge base really helps,” she said.

Garvey said one area the district needs to focus on is technology and getting its infrastructure up to the task of supporting contemporary technology.

“I know there have been some stumbling blocks,” Garvey said. “We live in a technological age. It’s not going away; it’s part of what we do every day. We have to do our best to keep pace with that.”

Conroy, who has a second-grader and a fourth-grader at Brook Park School, is a neighbor of D95 board member Christopher Blackburn, who encouraged Conroy to run.

“The previous board did a great job, so it was easy to let them do it,” Conroy said.

But with two more veteran board members leaving, Conroy said he felt the need to step up. Areas Conroy would like the school board to focus on are technology and foreign language instruction, particularly Spanish. He would like the district to move toward digital textbooks and having students use tablet devices.

Being able to speak Spanish, he said, would be advantageous for D95 students.

“Being able to speak Spanish has opened an incredible number of doors for me,” said Conroy, sales representative for a Rockford-based company. Part of his responsibilities at work include servicing customers in Latin America.

“I’d love to see our kids exposed to Spanish from the first day they walk into kindergarten.”

Zoltoski, the mother of a fourth-grader at Brook Park School, is associate professor of biological sciences at the Illinois College of Optometry. She has a Ph.D. in pharmacology and neurosciences from Wake Forest University and teaches biochemistry at ICO, where she’s been for 15 years.

Working with post-graduate students, Zoltoski said, she has come to recognize the kinds of skills students need to learn to succeed in college and beyond. Use of online technology and emphasis on self-directed learning are key, she said.

“We need to be setting them up for success later on,” Zoltoski said.

Maggos is also an education professional but at the elementary school level. For the past five years, Maggos, a lifelong LaGrange Park resident (and Brook Park grad), has taught first grade at Piper School in Berwyn.

As such, she’s involved in Apple’s 1-to-1 laptop program. Every one of her first-graders has a laptop — a change, she says, that’s completely altered her approach to teaching.

“My instruction is completely different now,” Maggos said. “I have 28 students working at all different levels.”

Maggos said she’d like D95 to explore such a program, to see “if it fits students’ and teachers’ needs.”

Running to complete Stanek’s term on the board, since Elwart is running for a full four-year spot, will be longtime D95 board member John LaBarbera. Presently serving as the board’s vice president, LaBarbera has served on the board for 10 years in both appointed and elected capacities.

It’s likely that these next two years will be it for LaBarbera.

“It’s probably enough after 12 years,” he said. “But I’m still interested in making sure the schools operate well.”

With a teachers’ contract to negotiate — the present contract expires in June — and the district wrestling with new models for evaluating student progress, LaBarbera said he feels his presence would provide some stability.

“It’s allowing for the new board members to come on and transitioning them in a way that makes sense,” he said.

LaBarbera isn’t looking to replace Landahl as president, he said. Rather, LaBarbera said he’d support Lynn Waterloo as the new president.

“I think Lynn would be a good choice,” he said. “She’s very level-headed.”