Letter: Straight shooters needed on Kaneland School Board

By on April 2, 2009

As a current member of the Kaneland School Board and candidate for re-election, I was taken aback to see another candidate use what appeared to be misleading and false “facts” to get elected.

Last week’s letter by candidate Pedro Rivas was deeply disappointing. First, he states that the “school board should be made up primarily of parents of active students.”

Sorry, childless couples, grandparents, most retirees or parents of Kaneland alumni, you are not preferred on that envisioned school board. If you are a taxpayer without children in the district, send your tax dollars, but please do not run for his school board.

He goes on to say “the existing Kaneland Board is not made up of parents of active Kaneland students.”

Had he done just a little research, he would have found that four of the seven members of the board have a total of 11 children in the district. The other three members are parents of five recent graduates of Kaneland. In my view, 100 percent of the board members are Kaneland parents.

If anything, a case could be made that there are too many parents on the board and that we should have some non-parents speaking for other taxpayers. In that case, I sincerely urge you to vote for Cheryl Krauspe and Elmer Gramley, who are truly outstanding Kaneland citizens and are non-parents, according to Mr. Rivas’ definition.

Mr. Rivas goes on to ask, “Why is the district in a financial crisis?”

Making moderate cuts to insure the budget is balanced is not my definition of a financial crisis. I call it fiscal responsibility. We made early cuts to insure that down the road we would stay fiscally sound and not have to ask the taxpayers for more money. In the face of a deep economic recession, Kaneland is in relatively good shape compared to many school districts. Our auditors praise the district as one of the most fiscally sound districts around. Standard and Poor’s bond rating division just rated the district “AA.” This is a fairly high rating for a school district. Their reason? Because of our conservative fiscal management and financially sound position. Incidentally, this rating will save the district’s taxpayers 10s to 100s of thousands of dollars in interest.

Mr. Rivas asks “why are our ISAT scores not higher?”

Ninety percent of our elementary and middle school children scored at the “Meets or Exceeds” level. Three years ago, our score was 80 percent, so we are making good progress. The average of 10 surrounding districts is 87.5 percent. Would I like us to be at 95 percent, with Geneva? You bet, and so would Oswego at 87 percent, Yorkville and Sycamore at 84 percent, DeKalb at 82 percent, and Aurora West at 75 percent. Two years ago, Geneva’s score was 90 percent, like ours is now, so we are hot on their heels. However, I am curious to know why no mention was made of our high school PSAE scores, where we do in fact need to see marked improvement.

There is not enough space to answer all of his “why’s,” but the answers are available—they are just not short answers. At the candidate forum, Mr. Rivas indicated that the board needed to operate less behind closed doors and have more transparency. If Mr. Rivas had ever gotten involved in the district, or served on an advisory committee, or even attended board meetings before running for the board, he might have seen that we are transparent and that there are very reasonable answers to his questions.

This apparent misrepresentation of facts is not what we need on the Kaneland School Board. We have problems to solve, improvements to make and challenges to face, but we are making progress and not wandering around without a clue or hiding behind closed doors.

I am a retiree after 32 years as a professor and chair of geology at NIU and director of the Analytical Center for Climate and Environmental Change. I am familiar with the skill sets most students have and where they have deficiencies when they leave high school. I have served conscientiously on the board for four years. As a scientist, I believe in straight-shooting, critical thinking, common sense and no micromanaging.

I have a step-son in high school, although I am not sure if Mr. Rivas considers me a parent or not. Like many retirees, I am trying to figure out how to pay my property taxes out of a retirement nest-egg that has gotten a bit scrambled.

Who you vote for is your own business. Mr. Rivas seems like a nice man, but at least ask him to do his homework before he asks for your vote. And please tell him that people who do not have children in the schools are just as valued in our district as people who do.

Jonathan H. Berg
Blackberry Township