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Six seek 4 spots on D-47 school board

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013 1:37 p.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – A curriculum change is a hot topic among those running for the District 47 school board, with two newcomers opposing the current board’s decision to implement ethics-based education.

Eileen Palsgrove and Donna Ricci disagreed with a recent decision to implement Character Counts next year.

The two, along with fellow challenger Betsy Les, are seeking one of the four open spots, while school board President Jeff Mason and fellow incumbents Robert Routzahn and Ruth Scifo are seeking to retain theirs.

When the board approved the new program, some parents at the time argued that the curriculum would teach controversial subject matter and introduce adult themes too early.

“[Character Counts] is not crafted well for adoption into the classroom, it introduces topics best left for parents to discuss with their own children, and it places an undue burden on teachers,” said Palsgrove, a former teacher.

Ricci, who is on the elementary school district’s Parent Advisory Board, echoed that sentiment.

“[My] main concerns included cost of program, teachers time and training, time away from core subjects, unclear implementation, how to measure the success, substance in lessons and protection of parental rights,” Ricci said in the Northwest Herald’s candidate questionnaire.

Another recent board decision to start full-day kindergarten next year was lauded by each of the incumbents as their most significant accomplishment of the past year.

“Now that we have the space to implement this program, it will better prepare our students from a younger age ... and is responsive to parents who have been requesting full-day kindergarten for a long time,” said Mason, who has been a board member since 2009 and previously from 1996 to 2002.

Routzahn went a step further, saying it was the highlight of his four-year term.

“This new offering will have a profound impact on the quality of our elementary education,” Routzahn said. “Detractors may complain about costs, but this investment in our children is well worth the expense.”

Scifo agreed with her fellow incumbents on the projected success of all-day kindergarten, but added that a balanced budget in 2012-13 was a boon for the district and for taxpayers.

However, it is something that could prove difficult in the future.

“[The budget is] balanced, which was difficult and demanded of us hard choices, including delaying the implementation of programs and improvements that would benefit children and reduce class sizes,” said Scifo, who has been on the board for 12 years.

Les, a former teacher, promised to be a financial watchdog, but stopped short of promising to freeze tax levies until the housing market rebounds, citing unknown variables such as the impact of pension reform and pending teacher contracts.

“A school board member must also weigh the impact of other resources that are coming into the district,” Les said. “... A tax levy that I will support will be based on the dollars needed to provide a quality education within District 47 and not simply based on the total amount of tax dollars available to us.”

Early voting has started for the April 9 election. Winners will serve four-year terms.

OUTBOX

District 47 school board candidates

Jeff Mason (incumbent)

Betsy Les

Robert Routzahn (i)

Donna Ricci

Ruth Scifo (i)

Eileen Palsgrove

Voters will select four people for four-year terms.

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