Frost, Gorson and Shang for District 125
When Illinois schools closed to in-person learning a year ago, few had any idea how long it would be before students would return to classrooms. In the months that followed, schools attempted a mix of solutions, as officials were forced to balance the community health threat of a pandemic that hit in dangerous, deadly waves and the very real concerns that students were suffering both emotionally and academically from remote learning.
Schools were in a no-win situation, we've said before. And one year later, the Stevenson High School District 125 school board, like so many others, is feeling the repercussions with a heated race in the April 6 election.
On the one hand in District 125, voters have Stevenson's three incumbents: Steve Frost and Gary Gorson have been on the board for more than 20 years; Fei Shang was appointed last year.
They stand behind the board's decision to continue remote learning through the fall, stressing that at most they could have brought students back for a few weeks before the second wave hit and Lake County health officials urged all county schools to switch to virtual learning. The Stevenson board opted for consistency in the fall; they are currently offering a hybrid half-day option with a full-day option starting April 5.
Challengers Barb Tolbert and Nicole Grimes argue the school failed its students by not getting them back sooner. They also take issue with school board finances and question the board's spending on construction, and in that, they are joined by a third passionate newcomer, Lalit Japtap.
We too urge school boards to carefully weigh spending decisions, keeping the needs of both students and taxpayers in mind. Yet, taking the reserves to 25 percent as Tolbert and Grimes recommend would be the wrong move. That's the minimum recommended by the Illinois State Board of Education. Stevenson's reserves are at about 61 percent, a healthy amount and well within the range of similar districts. In fact, incumbents point out, the board voted to abate taxes last month and refund student fees. And the construction, they say, is needed to accommodate an anticipated influx of students.
Stevenson is one of the top-ranked high schools in the nation, and its students are well-prepared for college or whatever their next step in life will be when they leave the Lincolnshire campus. It's hard to argue with that success.
Gorson cites the need for "steady and experienced" leadership, coupled with professionalism, to continue on that path and meet the challenges ahead. We believe Gorson, Frost and Shang are best able to provide that. They earn our endorsement.