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Kara Casten, wife of U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, running in Downers Grove school board race

While some DuPage County school boards are going begging for candidates in subsequent year’s election, the marketing campaign in Downers Grove’s Community High School District 99 guarantees to be vigorous, with six candidates — together with one with a well-known title — going after three open seats.

Kara Casten, an insurance coverage govt who’s the wife of Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, has shaped a slate with tax legal professional Don Renner, who was on the board from 2015 to 2019, and buyer expertise skilled Ken Dawson.

Casten mentioned her choice to run was impressed in half by the reminiscence of her daughter Gwen, who died in June from what the DuPage County coroner known as a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. Gwen Casten had graduated from Downers Grove North two weeks earlier.

“We are so grateful for the opportunities she had, the memories we have of high school,” Casten mentioned. “I want to step up and help advocate for the voices that aren’t heard as loudly in our community and ensure every student in District 99 is included, welcomed, and given the same opportunities as every other student.”

The nonetheless anonymous slate will face two district mother and father who’re running a joint race for the April 4 election. Stay-at-home mother Barbara Allen and well being care administrator Dana Cox mentioned their precedence shall be getting lecturers again on monitor after the challenges of the pandemic years.

“Certainly equity is important,” Allen mentioned. “It’s one of the top (issues) that’s at the front of all of our minds, to ensure all students are getting equal access. But we need to be careful that we’re not losing focus and keeping it on good public education.”

Chris Erickson, running a solo campaign for the Downers Grove Community High School District 99.

The sixth candidate, engineer Chris Erickson, is running a solo race. He mentioned he’s involved with declining standardized take a look at scores.

“So many of my neighbors, they started in the city and moved out to the suburbs,” he mentioned. “When you’re picking a suburb, often times you’re doing that for the schools. That’s why I want to get involved — to ask some questions and make sure (academics are) getting the due attention.”

District 99 is centered in Downers Grove however its boundaries embrace elements of Bolingbrook, Darien, Lisle, Oak Brook and Westmont. While the Illinois State Board of Education charges each of its excessive colleges “commendable,” the second-highest designation, there are variations: Downers Grove North is extra prosperous and fewer racially various than Downers Grove South, in line with state knowledge.

Casten famous that the district’s voters handed a $136 million constructing enchancment referendum proposal 4 years in the past in which fairness was half of the gross sales pitch: Downers Grove South, for instance, bought a brand new performing arts auditorium.

“We all want to ensure that all of our students … receive the support, guidance and resources they need, so they can create their own path and be successful in life,” Dawson mentioned.

As in different cities, Downers Grove noticed loads of discontent over pupil masking coverage through the top of the pandemic. When a choose in February dominated that Gov. J.B. Pritzker overstepped his bounds in mandating the observe, Cox and Allen joined dozens of others asking District 99 to finish it.

“Please make masks optional,” Cox mentioned in a public remark. “Many kids will still wear them, but you must allow the choice. Denying students their civil rights is against the law.”

The board ended up voting 6-1 to make masks non-compulsory in late February, however Cox mentioned the lasting impression was that “the community wasn’t being heard.”

Parents Barbara Allen, left, and Dana Cox have teamed up to run for the District 99 school board next year.

The district additionally made information when some mother and father challenged the graphic novel “Gender Queer.” Administrators defended its inclusion in the excessive colleges’ library collections, however Allen objected at a June board meeting, saying that by making the e book obtainable to college students, the district was selling sexual exercise and promiscuity.

“This is not about inclusivity,” she mentioned. “This is not about giving students safe spaces. No sexually explicit materials should be provided by our schools regardless of sexual orientation, period.”

Board members unanimously voted to maintain the e book in the colleges’ libraries. In an interview with the Tribune, Allen mentioned the problem didn’t determine into her choice to run for the board.

“It’s time for our community to heal,” she mentioned. “I feel strongly that that is behind us and we are focusing on our future.”

She and Cox mentioned they’re extra in addressing take a look at scores and a brand new hybrid “block schedule” that lengthens class durations on some days.

Renner mentioned he goals to maintain politics out of board discussions, although he allowed some voters may suppose the slate is being influenced by Sean Casten.

“It would be naive for me to join a slate with Kara and not understand that thatassumption will be made,” he mentioned. “I have been a Republican my whole life. I’m not really affiliated with that political party over the last four years under its leadership, but I think the three of us come from very different political backgrounds.”

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Twitter @JohnKeilman

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