Who are they? - Plainfield School Board Candidates

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Some of their names might be familiar. You may have seen them coaching, leading or even selling hot dogs at a football game.

There are seven candidates are vying for three spots on Plainfield School Board which means the winners will have a voice on who will be the next superintendent for the fourth largest school district in the state, teaching 29,000 students. Superintendent John Harper is retiring in June 2014 so the new board will help choose the next chief for one of Will County's largest employers with 3,100 employees.

So for many voters out there, who ends up on the board, is a very important issue.

Five candidates - Kevin Kirberg, Tommie Van, William Dargan Jr., Anthony Scala and Greg Nichols are hoping to unseat incumbents Roger Bonuchi and Dave Obrzut. School board President Stuart Bledsoe is not running for re-election.

The Herald-News asked the candidates to return questionnaires.
Here's a little bit more information about them, such as where they went to school and where they grew up and if they have children in the district.

Name: Kevin Kirberg
Occupation Higher Education Administrator and Faculty Member
Age: 38
Hometown: Carman, Illinois
Education: bachelor's degree Western Illinois University; master's degree from Northern Illinois University
Public service (accomplishments, including number of terms served in public office): I have not previously served in public office, but I have served on a number of private, non-profit organization boards, including within District 202 as PTO President, Foundation for Excellence Trustee, and CAPE Board Member.

Q: Do or did you have children who attend/ed schools in the district and what insight did that give you?

KIRBERG: I have one son who is in 5th Grade at Freedom Elementary. He has been a student in District 202 for 8 years, including 2 years at Bonnie McBeth. By being very actively engaged in his education by volunteering at school, serving as PTO Board Member and President, attending conferences and almost all school events, I understand what our teachers and staff do for our children and how valuable that role really is in helping prepare our kids to succeed. I also see how organizations such as parent groups and the business community can support our schools and some of the specific needs our buildings have for positioning this additional support.

Name: Anthony Scala
Occupation Construction, President and founder of the Mr. Charity
Age: 45
Hometown: Chicago
Education: High school at Elgin School District
Public service: PTA and PTO boards for Lincoln, Charles Reed, Aux Sable and Plainfield South High School Boosters. CAPE board president for two years and vice-president for one year.

Q: Do or did you have children who attend/ed schools in the district and what insight did that give you?
SCALA: Yes my daughter (Gianna) is a freshman at Plainfield South High School.

Name: William P. Dargan, Jr.
Occupation: Sales Manager. Hostess Brands, Inc.
Age: 50
Hometown: Chicago
Education: Bachelor's degree in applied sciences from Western Michigan University
Public service: (accomplishments, including number of terms served in public office): To this point in my life I have never served in public office. I have been very involved in many youth organizations including Plainfield Junior Cats, Plainfield Athletic Club and Plainfield Soccer Association. He has volunteered for the Plainfield Central High School Boosters for 11 years, serving eight years as concessions manager; two years as vice-president and two years as president. Through the Boosters, they have netted about $15,000 per year in profits and reinvested that back in to the athletic program.

Q: Do or did you have children who attend/ed schools in the district and what insight did that give you?
DARGAN: I have three children. Over the past 16 years each of them has attended grammar school through high school in the district with my youngest having graduated two years ago. The insight received was the importance of the teachers, coaches, support personnel and involved parents that interact with the kids on a day in day out basis. We have some great assets in the employees in the district and we are not doing all that we can to keep them and influence the long term development of our kids.

Name: Greg Nichols
Occupation: Engineering Executive
Age: 46
Hometown: Plainfield, IL
Education: Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering - University of Wisconsin 1987
Master of Business Administration - Cardinal Stritch University 1995
Public service:(accomplishments, including number of terms served in public office): This is my first attempt at seeking public office. I have served in many capacities on various Boards, including The Salvation Army, our Homeowner's Association and a private corporation.

Q: Do or did you have children who attend/ed schools in the district and what insight did that give you?
NICHOLS: My oldest child was in the first graduating class at Plainfield North High School and is now attending school in another state. My second child is currently a junior at Plainfield North High School. My third child is in seventh grade at Ira Jones Middle School. My fourth child is currently in second grade at Walker's Grove Elementary School.
Dealing at all these levels simultaneously allows me to get a very detailed picture of what happens within the district. We work to comply with district initiatives (of showing improving performance) by teaching to the test in elementary and middle school levels while the kids (and consequentially the schools) fail to perform at the high school level. The bottom line is that I see the impact of our curriculum and the damage done by experimenting with "the latest fads" in education.

Name: Roger Bonuchi
Occupation: Managing Senior Technical Architect - AT&T
Age: 54
Hometown: Joliet
Education: Joliet West High School
Master Board Member, second level - Illinois Association of School Boards
4000+ hours of computer hardware & software class room education
Illinois Professional Development Series
Illinois Professional Emergency Manager - IEMA
Illinois Search & Rescue Manager
Public service (accomplishments, including number of terms served in public office): Plainfield District 202 Board of Education Member - 6 years, Illinois Association of School Boards Master Board Member, second level. (unpaid volunteer)
Vice President - 1 year, Plainfield District 202 Board of Education
Site Management Committee Chair/member - 6 years, Plainfield District 202 Board of Education
Ways & Means Committee Member - 4 years, Plainfield District 202 Board of Education
Captain - Plainfield Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) - 9 years, Search & Rescue Manager, Illinois Professional Emergency Manager certificate. (unpaid volunteer)

Q: Do or did you have children who attended schools in the district and what insight did that give you?
BONUCHI: Yes, my son Tony graduated from PHSCC in 1997. He attended all four years of high school in Plainfield. We were a "band" family, my son being a trumpet player in the symphonic, jazz, and marching bands. My wife Margie and I got deeply involved in the Band Boosters and still are. Working together for the benefit of kids in such a group is very rewarding. We have continued to raise funds for the band program as well as supporting as many other school fundraisers as possible. We have seen the value of students programs such as band, choir, sports, and other clubs and their positive effect on student learning and development. We've made life-long friends and became ingrained in school functions.

Name: Tommie L. Van
Age: 48
Hometown: East St. Louis Illinois
Education: Graduate of East St Louis Senior High School
Attended Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Public service (accomplishments, including number of terms served in public office): Served on executive board of Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation and on executive board of Downers Grove Chamber of Commerce. He served as president of Parent Teachers Group at Commons Lane Elementary School in Missouri. He was elected to Ferguson Florrisant School Board, but moved to Chicago before he could take office.
Q: Do or did you have children who attend/ed schools in the district and what insight did that give you?
VAN: Yes, I have two children that attend Plainfield South and as I mentioned before of my prior involvement in the school district in Florissant Mo. It was time to get going again.

Name: David Obrzut
Occupation: Production Supervisor
Age: 46
Hometown: Chicago, IL.
Education: Graduate of St. Rita H.S.
Public service: (accomplishments, including number of terms served in public office):I'm finishing my first term on the Board of Education. I was co-chair of the Citizens for Classrooms; the committee that helped pass a $252 million dollar building bond referendum. I also coach football for PJC.
He represents Plainfield School Board on the WILCO Board of Controls. WILCO is a career and technical education school where students can learn important skill and trades in areas including culinary arts, fire science, auto body and child care.

Q: Do or did you have children who attend/ed schools in the district and what insight did that give you?

OBRZUT: Two out of my three children still attend our schools. On the one hand, all of my children's insights are very valuable to me, however like most children, their insights are typically limited to topics like the amount of homework; how strict certain teacher can be; and what's on the menu for lunch. On the other hand, I have come to learn that if I take advantage of those times I'm helping them with homework, or sitting with them in the bleachers watching a game, and I ask them about a teacher's expectations/rules or ask them why they think a teacher assigns the amount of work they do, my children have reminded me how valuable and important virtues and personal traits such as respect, compassion and listening (high, yet reasonable expectations), all play in our classrooms.

For Monday: What was the main issue that made you want to run for school board and what do you think needs to be done in the district that is not being done now?

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Honestly, it seems like Greg Nichols is the best qualified, my vote goes to him.

Do any you find it a little concerning that the Union and our district have NOT COME TO TERMS yet. I do not have a problem with the teachers, it is the teachers UNION. You are not hearing from our actual teachers BECAUSE they are worried about their jobs, or hearing from the union. Plus they have been instructed NOT TO COMMENT about this election. Back to the contract, if any of these candidates are elected into office. I will demand for each of them to abstain from the vote, because it is a HUGE “Conflict of Interest” if they don’t. Especially when they are receiving MONEY from the union. I ask before and I am asking again. Ask your teachers at your children’s school if they voted on which candidate the teachers union should back. THEY DID NOT, this decision was made by the UPPER MANAGEMET of the union.
So the three candidates: Mr. Dargan, Mr. Kirberg, and Mr. Van. whjy not tell us how much money you receieved from the unio!

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Catherine Ann Velasco

Catherine Ann Velasco has covered education and children and family issues for The Herald-News since 1997. She keeps an eye on schools in Will and Grundy counties. Her best stories always come from readers’ tips or public comment during a board meeting. So if there’s some good news or bad news at your school – she’d like to know. Join the conversation about the twists and turns and surprises that pop up on her beat. And, find some extra news that she just can’t wait to tell you.


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This page contains a single entry by Cathy Velasco published on March 18, 2011 4:15 PM.

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