Cuts in general state aid and school programs, teacher layoffs and declining enrollment are all issues facing the Riverdale school district as voters go to the polls next week to fill four open seats on the school board.
The six candidates running for four-year terms are incumbents Brian Plumb, Todd Caves, and Rick Kessler, and newcomers Todd Jackson, James Boyd and Thomas Walston. Three of the six — Mr. Kessler, Mr. Boyd and Mr. Jackson — are not listed on ballot but are official write-in candidates.
Mr. Plumb, the board president, is seeking his third term.
"Having been raised, educated and living in this community for more than fifty years, I feel I am connected with our parents and community members," said Mr. Plumb.
School funding is the most important issue to Mr. Plumb. With Illinois ranking lower than most states in providing aid, his goal is to convince the state to make education a priority.
After 16 years on the school board, Rick Kessler is wrapping up his fourth term and seeking a fifth.
The self-employed businessman is a Riverdale school district graduate, whose three children also have been educated in the district, two of whom have graduated.
Mr. Kessler's focus is on the budget and worries that $2 million has been cut in recent years. He said the board has worked well together through difficult times.
"We want to keep our programs and keep an eye on staffing levels," said Mr. Kessler. "We're trying to maintain the same level of services while spending less money — it's all about being creative."
Retired Riverdale High School principal James Boyd said he is running for school board because he misses participating in district decisions after being gone for less than a year.
After 30 years in the district as a teacher, coach, athletic director and principal, he feels he offers a solid background with professional experience.
"The district has had negative distractions in the past few years and I want to help it be in a positive light and grow," said Mr. Boyd. "I want to make sure the board has the integrity it needs to have so it has the trust of the Riverdale community."
Mr. Boyd said as a former teacher and administrator, he understands both sides of the fence. He said he wants to keep Riverdale one of the top districts in the area and see that the needs of all children are met.
Todd Jackson said he is running because he wants to also restore integrity to the school board.
As a previous board member with 8 years experience, Mr. Jackson said he has a vested interest in the district since two of his children attend Riverdale schools.
He believes the main issue facing the district is funding. He said the state has not addressed the issues facing most downstate school districts, and that financial survival matters most.
Thomas Walston shares the same concerns with funding and said he will explore all options when it comes to filling in financial gaps left by the state.
Two of his daughters attend school in the district and a third will start kindergarten in two years.
Candidate Todd Caves could not be reached for comment.