Endorsements: Schilling, Balanag, McGhee, Khan and Lawton for Libertyville District 70 board
Sharp divisions over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic spilled into school board races across the suburbs heading into the April 6 election, with the timing of students' physical return to school as the defining issue for many candidates.
Libertyville Elementary District 70 is no exception.
Nine people are running for five open seats on the board of education. Two are incumbents; five of the others are running on a slate that grew out of a push for a return to in-person learning last fall.
It's no surprise that the issue dominates, with a year of largely remote learning weighing on many parents, students and teachers. Yet, the in-person vs. remote debate might be nearly behind us, barring another COVID-19 surge like the one last fall.
Many other challenges await, not the least of which is dealing with the educational, emotional and financial fallout of the pandemic. A new teacher contract will be negotiated in 2023, within the terms of most board members elected this year. It's imperative to choose board members who are interested in all of the issues.
Two of the candidates, incumbent board President Wendy Schilling and speech pathologist Lauren Marks, are running for a single two-year term. Both would make good board members, but our endorsement goes to Schilling. A 58-year-old retired Cook County public defender, she navigated thoughtfully and respectfully through the chaos of creating a new educational system on the fly after COVID-19 struck Illinois a year ago.
Schilling will be an asset on what will be a relatively inexperienced board.
The other incumbent is Angela Balanag, who was sworn in last November to fill an open seat. Balanag, a teacher at Grant High School in Fox Lake, adds the valuable voice of an educator at a time of great change in how students are taught. We endorse her for one of the four open four-year terms.
For the remaining three seats on the board we endorse candidates who represent a range of voices and talents. They are:
• Travis McGhee, 39, who works for an online trading company, would bring financial expertise to the board. McGhee formerly was on the Green Oaks Plan Commission and is part of a slate of candidates organized around the push for in-person learning last fall.
• Jennifer Khan, a local real estate agent, is president of the parent association at Butterfield School. She said she first became interested in the school board during the process of hiring Superintendent Matthew Barbini in 2018.
• Brian Lawton, 39, a stay-at-home parent, said his goal is better listening by the board and improving the board's communication of decisions and changes.
Callie Johnson, Colin Lane and Evan Williamson round out the field, but we see the best combination of skill, experience and background in Schilling, Balanag, McGhee, Khan and Lawton. They are endorsed.