There wasn’t a whole lot of disagreement on display at a forum hosted for LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 school board candidates on March 12 at Lyons Township High School, but some differences among the candidates were apparent.
There are five candidates running for four seats in the district, which serves the southwest quarter of Brookfield. Four candidates, incumbent school board President Brian Anderson, Bessie Emerson Boyd, Leah Werab and Scott Wuggazer have been endorsed by the Delegate Assembly, a group that screens and endorses school board candidates. The other candidate is Jessica Mandra, multimedia designer at Harper College who lives in LaGrange Park.
Mandra was clearly the candidate most willing to be critical of the current state of the district.
“I’m hearing that we have issues in communication and transparency,” Mandra said. “I don’t think we’re engaging our stakeholders.”
Mandra said that she would bring a different voice to the school board.
“I also believe having a diversity of perspectives makes every board stronger,” Mandra said. “I believe my perspective as a professional communicator and as a working mother, seeing the impact of board policy in real time, will be of great value to the board.”
The other candidates often emphasized the need for consensus.
Wuggazer, a LaGrange Park resident who is the assistant superintendent for student services for Community High School District 99, which consists of Downers Grove North and Downers Grove South high schools, said that he would be highly collaborative should he be elected to the school board.
“I look forward to being on a board where we can actively work together to achieve the goal,” Wuggazer said.
Anderson, the only incumbent in the race, said he wants to continue the progress the district has made in recent years, specifically mentioning achieving financial stability, adopting a new strategic plan, implementing new curriculum in math, English and foreign languages, and a revamped web site.
“Our schools are excelling,” Anderson said.
Werab, a seventh-grade language arts and reading intervention teacher at Churchville Middle School in Elmhurst, said that she would always take a broad view of things should she be elected.
“If I am elected, I would not focus on representing just one school or one group of stakeholders or one agenda, I would consider the needs of all those impacted by the decisions that the school board makes,” Werab, who lives in LaGrange, said.
Boyd, a retired principal who does some part-time university teaching and who works as a realtor, said her experience as a principal would help her on the school board. Boyd also said the district needs to hire more social workers and psychologists.
Wuggazer, the father of twins who are in the sixth grade at Ogden School, agreed that social and emotional learning is important.
“Mental health is a huge issue right now,” Wuggazer said.
Anderson said he wants the district to continue to expand its offerings in the interdisciplinary science, technology, math and engineering field called STEM.
“I see STEM as a clear area for our continued growth and innovation,” Anderson said.
All the candidates said the district must continue its efforts to address the achievement gap between the academic achievement of minority students compared with their peers.
“We need to put a plan in place,” Mandra said. “It needs to be multi-tiered and coordinated.”
Boyd said the district must focus on equity and not treat every student the same, but instead give every student what they need.
A greater focus on African-American history could help said Boyd, the only black candidate in the field.
“I think it’s important for students to know their culture,” Boyd said.
Werab said she had mixed feelings about active-shooter drills, saying she just went through one at her school that wasn’t announced ahead of time, and it was disturbing.
“It created some emotional problems for both teachers and students,” Werab said.
Anderson, a LaGrange Park resident who works as the vice president for purchasing for Duracell Batteries and also teaches supply chain management and process control at Elmhurst College, says that he gets around the district and likes to visit schools.
“I am a tireless person when it comes to spending time in the schools.” Anderson said.