NEW LENOX – All 13 candidates for Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 were at Lincoln-Way Central High School in hopes of earning a spot on the district’s board, which will continue to face financial struggles and public wariness.
The Lincoln-Way Education Association, the district’s teachers union, hosted a candidates forum Wednesday that covered many familiar issues, such as district boundaries, finances, board governance and extracurricular activities.
The district has been rocked by controversies since it was put on the state’s financial watch list in spring 2015, and the board voted to close Lincoln-Way North High School as a result.
LWEA President Tim Conway said not many people attended to the previous candidates forums held by the teachers union.
“So I am really heartened we have such a great turnout this evening,” he said.
One question directed to board President Dee Molinare and board member Christopher Kosel was about the revelation of a 2014 memo from Superintendent Scott Tingley that anticipated a deficit despite presenting a balanced budget.
Molinare and Kosel were asked why they didn’t bring the memo to the public’s attention.
“The actual memo that you’re talking about, I do not recall that one, because, obviously, we don’t have it here in front of us,” Kosel said.
He said the financial problems of the district have been “widely spoken about” and that they “have not been secrets.”
Molinare said she was not fully familiar with the memo. She said that in spring 2012 the district was asked to initiate tax anticipation warrants and wasn’t aware of the district’s financial difficulties before then.
“Had I known some of what I know now … things would’ve been different,” she said.
An audience member pressed Kosel about why he didn’t speak up about the district’s finances.
“You stated you are a voice of dissension. Where did my money go?” the speaker asked.
Kosel said he was standing up and speaking but he was one voice among seven.
A question directed to the five-member Citizens For 210 slate – Karen Town, Lee Talley, Cathy Pleasant, Gus Yiakos and Ben Yomtoob – asked why they wanted information on individual budgets for each building and whether this was a precursor to gathering evidence to reopen North.
Town said the district would have to look at the costs for each building and make informed decisions based on it. She said she has repeatedly said she is not interested in changing the configuration of schools at this time.
“But I think we definitely have to look at all of those options for the future,” she said.
When asked about cutting electives, none of the candidates said they were interested in it. Talley, Yiakos and Yomtoob said they were interested in increasing the number of electives.
A question for board members Joseph Kirkeeng and Joseph Kosteck asked their position on freezing teachers pay as the district deals with financial difficulties.
Kirkeeng said education is the district’s industry and he is not interested in pay freezes. Kosteck also said he was not for pay freezes.