Dist. 204 board members cast cautious eye at DeSart House run

  • Dawn DeSart

    Dawn DeSart

Published8/27/2009 12:06 AM

Indian Prairie Unit District 204 had its fair share of controversy last year, from an alleged sexual assault involving middle schoolers to concerns surrounding the opening of a new high school.

So many board members were eager for the fresh start that often accompanies a new school year.


Then their phones started ringing.

Dawn DeSart, one of three new board members elected in April, was calling each of them Monday evening to let them know she was contemplating a run at Republican Rep. Darlene Senger's 96th District House seat, which covers western Naperville, eastern Aurora and a small part of Warrenville.

DeSart, a Democrat, said party leaders had approached her about challenging Senger and she wanted to inform each board member personally before they read it in the next morning's newspaper.

Board President Curt Bradshaw said he was "surprised" to learn DeSart was contemplating not finishing her four-year term. He said he hopes her political decisions don't affect the district negatively.

"I expect all of our board members to fulfill their obligations to the public, whether or not they are running for another office," Bradshaw said. "The entire board will work together to ensure that we remain focused on the public's business, rather than politics."

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Cathy Piehl, who was appointed to the board in 2008 and was elected to her own term with DeSart in April, said she was "a little taken back" by the news. Piehl said she advised DeSart to consider the move carefully.

"Dawn is really good at presenting herself to the public and doing things like that so I am not totally surprised that she was approached," Piehl said. "But either way, I don't see this interfering too much with our business until it gets closer to the election. Then I probably won't enjoy the attention that brings to the (school) district."

Chris Vickers, who was re-elected to her seat in April, said she's excited DeSart is getting the opportunity to tackle something she aspires to.

In confirming her interest in the House seat on Monday, DeSart said she's long been interested in a political career but hadn't planned to pursue it for another decade or so.

"Who would have known? I don't think she planned this. This just fell in her lap so what are you going to do?" Vickers said. "But that's not something I would do. I think you risk disappointing your constituency. I mentioned that to her, that that's a risk you take because those are the same people that you hope will vote for you for representative."


Board member Mark Metzger declined to comment on DeSart's decision, saying he "tends to run in the circles of the opposing party."

One person not holding back is Aurora resident Mark Rising, who finished fourth in the race for three available school board seats in April. He ended up just 105 votes behind Vickers.

"DeSart and I agreed on a lot of issues and I said regardless of my finishing runner-up on school board I would support the incoming members in their job as school board members," he said. "I wish Dawn the best of luck in her future endeavors if she chooses to run for the 96th District House seat. I will, however, be disappointed if she does not fulfill her commitment and her seat in District 204 that the voters elected her to."

If she won the November 2010 general election, DeSart would have served less than half of her four-year school board term. She said she doesn't think voters would hold it against her.

"I think people in this district are savvy enough to realize that most people running for an office already hold a lower or equal office," DeSart said Monday. "I still have my number one job and that's the school district. I will not and I have not been shirking those responsibilities."

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