5 candidates vie for 3 slots on School Board
by Lynn Meredith
Three incumbents and two contenders are running for three openings on the Kaneland School Board. The elected candidates will serve four-year terms. Those elected will likely face budget issues and a slowed housing market. They have given his or her views on the current situation, as well as their hopes for the future.
Jonathan Berg wants to keep the core strong
With 35 years of experience in higher education, incumbent Jonathan Berg believes that education is the key to the success of our children and the well-being of our country. In the face of declining revenues, he believes the School District must keep the quality of education strong.
“The greatest challenge we have is not just to maintain, but to improve learning and achievements in our schools,” Berg said. “To do this, we will have to focus on our core-our core curriculum, our core instruction, our core values.”
Berg has served on the Kaneland School Board for four years. As a recent retiree living on a relatively fixed income, he is aware of the struggle to improve education while keeping taxes down.
“I am concerned about the high property taxes paid by all Kaneland homeowners. My purpose in serving is to strike the best balance possible between the needs of our students and the resources of our taxpayers,” he said.
He said the board has always tried to spend wisely and efficiently. In these tough economic times for Kaneland, Berg said the focus should be on cutting the budget as much as possible in operational areas rather than instructional areas.
The most important goal for the upcoming board, Berg said, is to address the standardized test scores. Scores remain too low, and the high school did not make its Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act.
“The district needs to continue to conduct its own thorough assessment of learning. It needs to review the curriculum to make sure it’s correct and comprehensive. It must ensure that instruction is of a high quality,” Berg said.
He said that Kaneland’s Strategic Plan needs to continue to be revised and further implemented.
“There is no point in having a strategic plan if we do not periodically revise it based on a changing environment and if we do not use it to guide our thinking and acting,” Berg said.
Berg said that effective board members do not bring an agenda or special interest to their seats. He believes that integrity, common sense and good judgment serve the interests of the district best.
“I believe the district is best served by board members who do not seek to micromanage or interfere with the day-to-day operations of the district,” Berg said. “We hire the best administrators possible and let them run the district. We provide oversight to make sure they are following our broad guidelines and objectives.”
Kenneth Carter says he has skills to move the district forward
As a contender for the School Board, Kenneth Carter is motivated by a desire to use his business experience to help the district meet its goals. He has lived in the district for four years and has two children in middle school and high school. He is employed by Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations as Vice President.
“I hope to use my business experience in budgeting, employee relations and project management as tools to help the district meet their long-term goals,” Carter said. “I believe my ability to research and make informed decisions and stand by them will be an asset to the board as we enter into a period of time in which the board will be making many hard choices.”
The biggest issue, Carter said, is the financial position of the district.
“As a result of the economic recession, our district, like many others, is facing a loss of revenue. If I’m elected, I would re-evaluate programs and discuss new ways to operate even more efficiently,” Carter said.
He also wants to continue to improve the quality of education that Kaneland already offers the community. The key to improving quality is recruiting and maintaining dedicated teachers and staff, improving standardized test scores and providing successful extra-curricular activities.
“I am running for this position because I am interested in helping the School District and community,” Carter said. “The role of a School Board member is to combine the wants and needs of community members, staff, administration and students as the district moves forward with its mission.”
Elmer Gramley wants to serve the needs of the community
Serving the community comes naturally to incumbent Elmer Gramley. He has been a School Board member for the past four years, a position he has found to be both challenging and rewarding. Prior to that, Gramley was on the Financial Planning Committee for two years, becoming president in his last year. He has served the community in other capacities as well.
“I have had experience with tax budgets and levies for 13 years with the Kaneville Fire Protection District. I was also an elected board member with the Farm Service Agency for nine years, three of which I was president,” Gramley said.
Gramley said that the most important issue facing the district is funding. Much of the board’s time is taken up with addressing the uncertainty of federal, state and local funding.
“The board, administration and financial advisors are working to make adjustments in the budget that will address the needs of both teachers and students,” he said. “To accomplish this will take all parties pulling together to not only balance the budget in the coming years, but to not end up with a huge debt.”
During his tenure on the board, Gramley said that a huge accomplishment was working with the administration to help bring the towns of Elburn, Maple Park, Sugar Grove, Virgil and Kaneville together in an intergovenmental agreement to negotiate with developers. The agreement benefited both the towns and the district, he said.
He also has seen the problem of overcrowding in the Meredith Road Middle School reach a solution in the building of a new middle school and the boundary discussions that accompanied it.
“I helped deal with the large number of students being housed in the Meredith Road Middle School. That issue will come to an end this fall with the opening of the new middle school. I have been a part of the boundary meetings for most of the elementary schools in an effort to keep the numbers as close to capacity as possible without making the bus time too long,” Gramley said.
He looks forward to getting the district not only financially stable but to continue to provide quality education for students and clear communication within the district.
“I hope to provide courses and programs that excite and encourage students to learn. I hope to provide a link between taxpayers, parents, teachers, administration and the board of education. I hope to keep Kaneland moving forward smoothly on sound financial ground,” Gramley said.
Cheryl Krauspe says she is passionate about public education
Incumbent Cheryl Krauspe values public education with a passion, she said. In the four years she has served on the board, the district has gone from managing rapid growth and a booming housing market to coping with an economic slowdown and negative financial markets, she said.
“The guardianship, stewardship and wise expenditures of scarce tax dollars are the biggest issues,” Krauspe said. “(We have to) provide the highest standards of education possible within the limited resources that we have.”
Some of the accomplishments during her term in office are completing the auditorium, gaining approval from the community to build the new middle school, completing two contract negotiations, approving a new teacher evaluation plan and increasing the monitoring of test scores and student achievement, she said.
“One of the most significant accomplishments was the district’s leadership in forming the intergovernmental agreement regarding impact fees,” she said. “(Also), the Kaneland community is to be congratulated for the new construction of the Kaneland Harter Middle School. What some don’t realize is that if that building referendum had not passed two years ago, we would still be in dire shape for space and desperately looking for places to simply ‘warehouse’ students.”
Krauspe said that she takes very seriously the expectations and trust of the community that elected her.
“I have found my service on the board to be hard work with lots of time committed, but I continue to be passionate about my value of public education. I work to study the issues and feel that I am prepared to give voice to those that I represent,” Krauspe said.
Krauspe said that during these tough times, the board needs members who have seen where the district has been and where it is going.
“My leadership will provide some needed continuity to the processes that we have undertaken. It would be easy to walk away and say, ‘It’s not my child; it’s not my problem,’ but that attitude does not serve a common purpose, nor does it define who I am,” Krauspe said. “Kaneland is my shared community. Excellent schools benefit all of us.”
Pedro Rivas wants to find answers by getting involved
As a resident of Sugar Grove for the past 16 years and a parent of two sons in elementary and middle school, Pedro Rivas has had the opportunity to ask questions about the district. Now, instead of sitting on the sidelines thinking about it, he has decided to run for the School Board, he said.
“I believe that parents should be involved at all levels, especially the board of education,” Rivas said. “Like many Kaneland residents, I have wondered ‘why?’ throughout the years. Rather than continuing to ponder, I’ve decided to get involved.”
Some of the questions Rivas is asking are why the district is in a financial crisis, why registration fees are so high, why some grades are blocked and others are not and why district test scores are not higher.
“These are just some of the many questions that I have had and have heard from those around me,” Rivas said.
The school system is not the only place Rivas has become involved. He was a basketball and baseball coach for the Sugar Grove Park District for five years. He has also volunteered with Junior Achievement, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and the Boy Scouts.
Currently, he works in the equities capital industry as a quality assurance analyst engineer. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and a license in real estate.
Teachers mean a lot to Rivas because some good ones were there to support him when he came to the United States as a child and spoke no English, he said.
“I spoke no English and there were no ESL programs in my school. I owe so much to the caring teachers who spent time, much of it personal, teaching a scared and confused 7-year-old a language that was foreign to him,” Rivas said. “I respect teachers greatly and the energy and effort it takes to do their job.”
Rivas wants to represent the interests of parents with school-age children and wants to preserve the best interests of students in the school system. He said he will bring that perspective to the board.
“It’s time for a change, for a fresh look and a fresh opinion. I look forward to and am excited about the challenge. I hope to be a fresh face on the Kaneland Board of Education,” Rivas said.