D-3 candidates talk finances, curriculum ahead of election

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 11:43 p.m. CDT

FOX RIVER GROVE – Maintaining an academically successful school district while keeping a balanced budget are key issues for candidates running for the District 3 school board.

Five people are running for four seats in the April 9 election: Tim Hatfield, Michael Olencheck, Patrick Riley, Patrick Wall and incumbent Stephen Pickering.

Hatfield, 54, an eighth-grade history teacher at Canton Middle School in Streamwood, also serves as an assistant football coach at Cary-Grove High School.

“I thought since I have experience in education and have a master’s in curriculum development, I might bring a unique perspective to the board,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield said he was glad discussion on a possible consolidation between District 3 and Cary District 26 did not lead to a merger recommendation, saying District 3 should not merge with District 26 and its past financial problems.

He said he wants to work on improving curriculum and maintain District 3’s high test scores.

“[High test scores are] what government wants to see; I know better than that,” Hatfield said. “What’s really important is the relationship with students and teachers.”

Hatfield said curriculum changes are coming from the state, and the district will need to make decisions.

“My goal is to make sure kids’ needs are considered in these decisions,” Hatfield said.

Olencheck, 30, said there is a need to have fresh faces on the school board. He said, if elected, he would stay a maximum of two terms.

He has been a firefighter in town for five years.

“We have to look for the best interests for taxpayers as well as children,” Olencheck said.

He said he wants to tighten the budget of the school district. To save money, the district would need to do so through negotiations with its teachers union, and “never cut on the children side; they are the future,” Olencheck said.

The district could look into a salary freeze for teachers, “just like every other district is doing,” Olencheck said.

Stephen Pickering, 48, is the only incumbent running in the election. He wrote in a questionnaire from the Northwest Herald that his top priorities would be to maintain the district’s fiscal and educational strength.

“District 3 schools continue to be recognized as some of the top schools in McHenry County, while the district’s budgets remain balanced,” Pickering said. “We have done this while continuing to offer sports, music, art and extracurricular activities to our students.”

The software support analyst for CVS said he wants as many residents as possible involved in the district.

“There is a perception that only parents of students get involved in school districts, but a strong school district has benefits for the entire community, not just the students,” Pickering wrote.

Patrick Riley, 41, works in sales for EPI Marketing Services.

He said his top priority would be to create and maintain a positive educational environment.

“Demographic changes in the district, implementation of Common Core [State] Standards, and the current difficult financial environment all demand prudent and judicious leadership if the goal is educational excellence,” Riley wrote.

Riley said he disagreed with District 3’s approval of a feasibility study on consolidation with District 26; the study found consolidation was not feasible.

“I did not understand how consolidation could benefit the children in our community. As a taxpayer, I questioned why we should consider merging our financially sound district with one that has been struggling for many years,” Riley said. “Overall, I did not understand the motivation and desire to spend time and money on this project.”

Patrick Wall, 37, is an attorney.

He said he agreed with the board’s decision to hire a consultant to look into consolidation.

“I think the desire to look at change and merger shows the board’s willingness to identify new ways of educating our children to prepare them for the next stage of life,” Wall wrote on a Northwest Herald Election Central questionnaire.

Wall said his priorities would be to continue educational successes of the district, and keep a balanced budget. He said he would not support a tax levy freeze.

“I do not favor freezing a tax levy based upon the factor of a private home sale. These factors should not intersect,” Wall wrote. “Linking home prices, a fluctuating number, to levy for spending would be irresponsible, and would leave the district hamstrung to provide for the students.”

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