(clockwise from top left) Lisa Gaynor, Jennifer Leimberer, Mary Rose Mangia and Rachel Marrello

The past six months have been a challenge for the Riverside District 96 school board and decisions about how to move forward will be crucial.

While the knee-jerk reaction might be to simply call for a wholesale replacement of board members, we don’t feel that’s entirely reasonable or desirable. Some of the problem was the board’s lack of pushback against administrators who were either withholding information or not painting an accurate picture.

But we believe the board members also learned valuable lessons during the past six months and are better prepared to move forward next year with a new superintendent and other important district administrators.

For the four seats up for election in D96, we believe the candidates poised to meet the many challenges facing the board — facilities, curriculum, personnel and communication — are Lisa Gaynor, Jennifer Leimberer, Mary Rose Mangia and
Rachel Marrello.

The D96 school board needs to reclaim the role of holding administrators accountable. Board members need to ask tougher questions and demand that they be given the information to which they are entitled by the district’s administrators.

The relationship does not have to be, and should not be, adversarial. But the board should cast a more critical eye and demand more accountability from the administrators and other experts the board hires.

Gaynor and Leimberer remain solid choices for the D96 board. We believe both will push for the board to improve communication with parents and the community, continue to improve access to information and have a positive role to play as the district gears up for the implementation of the Common Core standards and a re-examination of technology and district practices related to special education and gifted programs.

Mangia will bring a much-needed independent perspective to the board. With no direct ties to schools, teachers or administrators, she comes into the district with no particular agenda other than providing responsible oversight.

She’ll bring a critical eye to an area the board has largely taken for granted — its finances — and says she’ll push for district committees to work more quickly to provide input and information on potential new curricular programs. She’ll also bring a balanced view of the role of technology in the district.

With children who have graduated from or attend Ames School, Marrello has a dog in this fight. However, we don’t believe that the Ames School situation is what’s driving Marrello to run; she sees a bigger picture.

She also has questions (much needed) about the extent to which the district levies taxes annually, and we believe she would be another strong voice on the board in terms of opening up communication with the public and holding administrators accountable.

We also feel her independent streak is an attractive trait for this board.