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Candidate forum held with election on DeKalb's horizon

DeKalb Park District commissioner candidate Keith Nyquist (right) gives his two-minute opening statement Thursday after Bryant Irving (center) and Dean Holliday (left) during the candidates night forum at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.
DeKalb Park District commissioner candidate Keith Nyquist (right) gives his two-minute opening statement Thursday after Bryant Irving (center) and Dean Holliday (left) during the candidates night forum at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.

DeKALB – About a month before the April 9 election, voters got their first broad look Thursday at the candidates for DeKalb School District 428 board and the DeKalb Park Board.

The five candidates who are competing for three spots on the school board – Vickie Hernan-Faivre, Mary Hess, George “Joe” Mitchell, Victoria Newport and Marilyn Parker – each touted their personal and professional experience to the public.

“I am not a politician. I am an advocate of education,” Mitchell said in his opening statement. “The success me and my wife have achieved is because of education.”

Meanwhile, the four candidates running for a six-year unexpired term on the park board – Per Faivre, Dean Holliday, Bryant Irving and Keith Nyquist – each raised their own concerns about the planned renovation of Hopkins Pool.

“Because of this, I support an effort to slow down the process to renovate the facility,” Nyquist said. “I want the final result to be something we can all be proud of.”

The school board and park board candidates who spoke at Thursday’s forum at the Egyptian Theatre each had two minutes to deliver an opening statement and two minutes to deliver a closing statement.

The forum, sponsored by the DeKalb Area Chamber of Commerce and local media, also included candidates running for DeKalb mayor and aldermen in the 2nd and 4th wards.

School board candidates have vested interest

Each of the school board candidates spoke of the importance of maintaining quality education at a time when districts such as DeKalb are facing difficult fiscal times. District 428 entered the 2012-2013 school year with a $2.3 million deficit.

Payments from the state are prorated at 89 percent, and general state aid to schools is expected to fall next year.

Hernan-Faivre said her business experience and willingness to make tough decisions would make her an ideal candidate for the school board.

Hess also cited her volunteer experience with the district, serving on Cheseboro Elementary’s parent-teacher association before the school was closed.

“I see myself as a youth advocate,” Hess said. “It’s what I do for a living, and it’s what I do personally.”

Many of the candidates cited their children as their motivation for ensuring DeKalb schools offer high-quality education, and Mitchell was no different. In addition, Mitchell said the district needs to form stronger relationships with Northern Illinois University and Kishwaukee College.

Newport outlined what she would seek if elected in her closing statement. She said she wants to keep the current school configuration, lower class sizes, reduce the budget, improve the conditions among the different schools and improve the school bus service.

“We need to determine where savings can be found in the budget without compromising the quality of education,” Newport said.

Having worked as a high school special education teacher in a Chicago public school, Parker said she would be a strong voice if elected to the board.

“I will be the voice for the students, faculty and staff of our schools, and I intend, if I am elected … to be that voice for our parents, students and faculty members. And I will be heard,” Parker said.

Shared concerns about the pool

The four park board candidates who were present Thursday shared concerns about renovating Hopkins Pool. The fifth candidate, Joan Berkes-Hanson, the board’s current president, was not present.

Built in 1974, the pool is approaching the end of its 40-year lifespan. The district wants to borrow $5 million for the project, and repay the loan without raising taxes.

Citing the engineering degree he earned at the University of Illinois, Faivre said he knows how to solve problems. He felt the park board should move slowly in approving the new pool.

“I want to make sure whatever is decided upon is something we can proud of,” Faivre said.

The size of the pool is one of the primary concerns Holliday and others have had.

The new pool is projected to have a size of 1,100 bather loads. The current pool has about 1,400 bather loads.

However, when Holliday attended the public meetings the park board had about the pool, he said he did not hear any complaints about it.

Like Faivre, Irving cited his experience with construction. Irving said the three biggest issues facing the district are the pool, restoring the Nature Trail after ComEd clear cthe trees there, and acquiring Kiwanis Park from the school district.

“I want to do the best interests for the citizens of DeKalb,” Irving said.

Nyquist was the only candidate who addressed the Nature Trail issue at length. He praised the work of the restoration committee that has been formed to fix the damage ComEd had done. However, he said it should be on the utility’s dime.

“I will work hard to see funding for this plan does not come from the taxpayers,” Nyquist said.

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