Election 2017 - School board candidates unopposed, but face important issues

The new elementary school in the Reed-Custer School District will open in the 2017-2018 school year. Management of district funds, including those used to build the new school, is just one of the issues facing those up for re-election to the school board.
Marney Simon
Staff writer

It may be news to some, but there’s an election headed this way.

The April 4 consolidated election shows only a handful of local elected seats up for grabs, with many of the candidates in contests running unopposed.

One of those contests is four seats on the Reed-Custer School Board. Those seats are each being sought by incumbents with no challenges. The board members up for election but who will be retained are Kris Van Duyne, Devin Dransfeldt, Michael Grace, and Jesse Morris.

While the election won’t change the current composition of the School Board, there are still a number of important issues facing the candidates. Namely, the completion of the new Reed-Custer Elementary School, funding challenges from the state of Illinois, and the changing face of public education on a national scale.

The Braidwood Journal reached out to the four candidates to ask their opinion on a handful of topics affecting the Reed-Custer School District and education in general. Here are a few of their answers:

What is the most important issue, in your opinion, facing public education over the next several years, and how will you help the Reed-Custer School District navigate that issue?

Kris Van Duyne

I believe the most important issue facing public education is funding. There is currently a lot of uncertainty with public school funding, especially in Illinois, as state lawmakers continue to debate changes to state aid funding formulas and pension reform. These funding issues make it difficult for school districts to set and maintain budgets when lawmakers can shift some or all of the state’s current public school funding responsibilities to our school districts. Superintendent Mitchell and the Board of Education have been keeping informed of all the legislative issues concerning school funding and anticipating possible changes during the budget setting process. I know that we will continue to watch for further developments with these issues and respond accordingly.

Jesse Morris

I believe that the most important issue facing public education the next several years is funding. There never is enough money. Or is there? My philosophy is “cut spending before you ask for more money.” We at Reed-Custer thankfully have been blessed with enough funding, but I think much of this can be attributed to a fiscally responsible business model.

Funding for the new elementary school was made possible without adding a tax hike. How will you participate in negotiations with Exelon to insure that Reed-Custer continues to benefit in the long run from having a nuclear power plant as part of its tax base, so that future improvements at the new school or the middle and high school can also be accomplished without an added burden to tax payers?

Kris Van Duyne

The Reed-Custer School District and several other local taxing bodies are at the beginning of a seven-year agreement with Exelon that established the value of the station and funding for the school. So, any negotiations with Exelon over the tax base is years down the road and would be up to the school administration and board at that time. If I am a part of that board, part of the duty of being a school board member is being fiscally responsible to tax payers and the community. I would work with the Superintendent, the school board, and Exelon to reach the best possible deal that does not burden the tax payers.

Jesse Morris

Our current Superintendent, Mr. Mark Mitchell, has done an excellent job representing the Reed-Custer School Board during negotiations with Exelon. I am extremely confident that Mark will continue this stewardship should the need for more negotiations become necessary.

What is your plan to communicate with the public about the ongoing issues that face the board, and to promote transparency of board actions?

Kris Van Duyne

Communicating with the community and promoting board transparency can be accomplished in a number of ways. First, all of our board meetings are public. We encourage everyone in the community to come to our meetings and voice their opinions about the issues our district faces. Also, we hold special community forums whenever there are big issues facing our district. For instance, we held a few of these community forums to communicate our plans for the new Reed-Custer Elementary School that is now nearing completion. We felt these meetings were important to not only inform the community of our plans, but to also get input since there may have been different ideas or concerns that we had not thought of. Finally, we invite community members to participate in strategic planning sessions that set the long-term direction for our district. I have been a part of two of these sessions during my time on the board, and I appreciated the guidance and ideas we received from the community members.

Jesse Morris

We will continue to keep the public informed through the local newspaper, the school website, and social media.

What is the best thing about the Reed-Custer School District?

Kris Van Duyne

I believe the best thing about the Reed-Custer School District is the people that are a part of it. We have great students that have done and continue to do many wonderful things academically and in sports and extra-curricular activities. We also have terrific administration, teachers, bus drivers, and staff that do a great job of educating our children, getting our children to and from school safely, and keeping the district running smoothly. Last, but not least, I am proud to be part of our School Board. All of the members of our board work together to do what is in the best interest of our students and our school district.

Jesse Morris

It's impossible to choose just one thing about Reed-Custer Schools. We are far from perfect but the good far outweighs the bad. Our team of administrators are progressive and forward thinking, while also maintaining the fundamentals. Because of this foundation the entire district is an excellent place for our kids to get a education.

Candidates Van Duyne and Morris were the only board candidates to respond to the questionnaire by press time on March 28.

Here’s a look at some of the ballot issues for voters in Braidwood, Reed Township, Custer Township, and Godley:

Reed-Custer School Board (vote for 4)
Kris Van Duyne
Devin Dransfeldt
Michael A. Grace
Jesse Morris

Braidwood Fire Trustee (vote for 1)
Michael Dillon

Park District full term (vote for 2)
Robert Grivetti, Jr.
Scott Howard

Park District unexpired 4-year term (vote for 1)
Andrew F. Kaminsky

Fossil Ridge Library Trustee full term (vote for 2)
Teri L. Jones
Mike McCain

Fossil Ridge Library Trustee unexpired 4-year term (vote for 1)
Leone J. Heberer

Fossil Ridge Library Trustee unexpired 2-year term (vote for 1)
Danell Morrison

Reed Township Supervisor (vote for 1)
Sherrill Knorr

Reed Township Clerk (vote for 1)
Angela Hutton

Reed Township Assessor (vote for 1)
Melanie Noramczyk

Reed Township Highway Commissioner (vote for 1)
John Dixon, Jr.

Reed Township Collector (vote for 1)
No candidate filed

Reed Township Trustee (vote for 4)
Raymond Favero
Steve Bolatto
Robert Stehlik
Brian Knorr

Custer Township Supervisor (vote for 1)
Bruce Tammen

Custer Township Clerk (vote for 1)
Christine Olson

Custer Township Assessor (vote for 1)
No candidate filed

Custer Township Highway Supervisor (vote for 1)
Edward G. Sanderson
Rick L. Hall

Custer Township Collector (vote for 1)
No candidate filed

Custer Township Trustee (vote for 4)
Dianne Schaal
Mary Reich
Jonathan 'Jon' Furlan
Denise Norris

Village of Godley Trustee (vote for 2)
Bonnie DeMarse
Clara 'Punky' Willis

Village of Godley unexpired two-year term (vote for 1)
Cynthia Trainer
Monica Mack

Godley Park Commissioner (vote for 2)
Edna Alton
Darrell R. Schott
Marvin Mack