By Bob Skolnik
Five candidates, including two incumbents, are running for three seats up this spring on the Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education.
Incumbents Phil Palmer and Barbara Rosinsky are running again, while incumbent John Polacek is calling it quits after serving for nearly 30 years on the school board.
Three newcomers -- Kari Dillon, Alison Kelly, and Ricardo Martinez Jr. -- are making their first runs for office.
Palmer, the co-owner of the popular Palmer Place restaurant in LaGrange is running for his third term on the school board.
"I really enjoy what I'm doing," Palmer said. "I've always enjoyed the education business, for lack of a better term. It always kept me involved when my kids were in school. I have a real passion for it. I think it's vitally important thing to have the best education system we can in our town for our kids."
Rosinsky, the mother of two recent LTHS graduates and of a LTHS senior, was appointed to the board in 2014 and elected to a full four-year term in 2015. She wants to serve one more term on the school board, saying that she enjoys working with other members of the board.
"I don't quite want to be done, but I also think new blood is good," Rosinsky said.
Dillon, a resident of Indian Head Park, is the mother of an LTHS freshman and a seventh-grader. She works as a project manager for Synergy Creative, a small advertising firm that specializes in higher education marketing. Dillon says that she wants to be on the school board because she is passionate about working to help young people.
"I really want to be a part of something big and I want to collaborate, and I know LT is a very good school district," Dillon said. "I really feel connected to youth and they inspire me and I just be part of that process and collaboration."
Dillon, a graduate of Willowbrook High School and Illinois State University, says she wants to focus on student safety, promoting good mental health among students and work on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Kelly grew up in LaGrange and graduated from LTHS in 1984. Five of her six siblings are also LTHS grads as are two daughters. She has a son who is freshman at the school and has many nieces and nephews who went to LTHS.
"LT has been amazing to me as a person," said Kelly, a graduate of Indiana University who moved back to LaGrange about 20 years ago. "It has taken care of 22 people in my family. … I feel like with having a freshman now and with two having already gone through, this is really a perfect time for me to jump in and give back to LT."
Kelly said she believes the current school board has done an excellent job and is running on no specific agenda.
"I'm really happy and pleased with the direction of what the school board has done," Kelly said. "I feel like the school is in a great spot right now."
Kelly has been very active at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in LaGrange, where she served as the theater director for many years. She also serves as the co-director of the Secret Santa program of the Rotary Club of LaGrange which provides gifts to needy children in the area.
Martinez Jr. 33, is campaigning as the candidate of change. His campaign slogan is Be the Change. Martinez grew up in Decatur in what he described as a low-income home and earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and an MBA from the University of Illinois. He works as an analytics and insights manager for Breakthru Beverage, a large liquor distributor.
"I think it could help to have a different voice on there and make it more diverse," Martinez said. "It could help to have a new perspective."
Martinez, who lives in Western Springs less than half a mile from the school district's South Campus, is married to Elizabeth Martinez, a French teacher at LTHS. They have two small children.
Martinez said he doesn't think it would be a conflict of interest to serve on the LTHS board while his wife is working at the school. He said he would vote based on what is best for the community as a whole.
"I don't make decisions for the whole community based solely on my wife," Martinez said. "If something came up that was directly affecting only her department or only her position, I would certainly offer to recuse myself and lean upon the president of the board, the superintendent, to help me make that decision."
Martinez says he knows a lot about what is going on at LTHS based on conservations that he has had with his wife and other LTHS teachers.
"I've talked extensively with her and her colleagues about what's good, what's bad, what's working, what's not working, at LT," Martinez said.
Martinez said that, if elected, he would like to explore the possibility of providing every LTHS student with a laptop computer and would look into beefing up the Wi-Fi capacity. He also said that he would like to look into the possibility of installing air conditioning throughout both campuses. Portions of both campuses have air conditioning at this time.
"Some of the classrooms can get very, very hot," Martinez said. "When the temperatures get into the 90s and the 100s, you better believe that's about the same temperature that some of those classrooms are going to be. A fan doesn't cut it."
Martinez plans to wage an energetic campaign. He already has established a Facebook page to promote his candidacy.
"I want to knock on more than a thousand doors in the area in all different communities and let them know who I am, why I think I'd be good for school board," Martinez said.