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D-428 candidates share similar views at forum

DeKALB – There’s a lot of agreement among the five DeKalb School District 428 board candidates on the issues and priorities facing DeKalb schools.

One week before DeKalb voters go to the polls, candidates Vickie Hernan-Faivre, Mary Hess, George “Joe” Mitchell, Victoria Newport and Marilyn Parker pitched their respective bids to about 30 people at a Tuesday night forum.

For instance, each of the candidates felt the $21 million grant the district has sitting in an account should be used to bring all of the buildings up to some kind of parity.

“All of their experiences should be equal,” Newport said when comparing Cortland and Lincoln students.

Mitchell emphasized the importance of having top-notch facilities, as they can be important factors for attracting teachers to the district.

“If facilities aren’t good, trust me, the best teachers aren’t going to come to this district,” Mitchell said.

Hess said she agreed with the administration’s current policy of asking the teachers at the schools what kind of improvements should be made there.

But the district is also operating with a $2.3 million deficit, one that is projected to eat away at the reserves if the district’s financial situation does not improve. That facet was not lost on Hess, Hernan-Faivre and Parker, who said they would use some of the money to pay down the district’s debt.

“We should not allow the debt to carry on to the next generation,” Parker said.

The forum was moderated by Amy Barnes and Cindy Lofthouse of the DeKalb Classroom Teachers Association, which partnered with the candidates to host the forum at Feed ’Em Soup in DeKalb. Each candidate had two minutes for opening and closing statements, and 90 seconds to answer each of the five questions.

Each candidate said education was their top priority, but each of their answers had nuances.

Mitchell, for instance, said he wanted to decrease the achievement gap that is present in the school district.

Hess said she wanted to maintain accountability and high expectations for both students and learning.

“Our district needs to maintain those high standards for learning, and also for teaching, holding our teachers accountable for achieving the outcomes that are associated with the Common Core standards,” Hess said. 

For Hernan-Faivre, how the district will be able to pay for the education was a top priority. If the district cannot pay teachers a decent wage, that will be a big problem, she said.

“We need to try to find a way to be as efficient with what we’re doing as we can be, and still try to get the best education we can give,” Hernan-Faivre said.

In addition to eliminating the district’s debt, Parker emphasized a focus on reading and writing that she described as essential.

Newport expressed similar sentiments, stating that every student in the district deserves the best education, and that the board needs to think outside the box in reducing the deficit.

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