Opposition to the “Equity Journey” that will likely lead to new Elk Grove Township Elementary School Dist. 59 boundaries and grade level schools have inspired three candidates to run for the board of education in next year’s election.
Elk Grove Village Library Trustee TR Johnson, Sarah Dzak, and Lucas Szczesny said they are running. Dzak, of Elk Grove Village, and Szczesny of Mount Prospect, both said they have not held elected office before. All three candidates have children who currently attend, or will begin attending, Dist. 59 schools next year.
Others whose terms end on the Dist. 59 board next spring are President Randy Reid, along with board members Courtney Lang and Patricia “Patti” Petrielli.
Contacted for comment Wednesday, Reid said he is not running for reelection, “for personal reasons.” Reporters were unable to immediately contact Lang or Petrielli for comment.
Candidates’ nominating petitions must be filed with the Cook County Clerk’s Office between Monday, Dec. 12 and Monday, Dec. 19 to appear on the Tuesday, April 4, 2023 ballot.
Johnson, Dzak, and Szczesny said they are all opposed to Dist. 59’s Equity Journey plan and said they met and decided to run for school board after attending meetings of the Save Our Schools group, which formed in opposition to the Dist. 59 Equity journey plan.
School board members are expected to vote on the Equity Journey plan on their Monday, Dec. 12 board meeting. Johnson, Dzak, and Szczesny each said if the measure is adopted and they are elected, each would vote to scrap the plan once in office.
Johnson said his term on the library board ends this spring. He said he had previously planned to step away from the library board after eight years as a trustee at the end of his term before deciding to run for the school board after seeing the Equity Journey rolled out.
He said the Equity Journey discussion exposed mistrust within the community of the district, citing mismanagement within the district and other issues including a lack of curriculum, something district officials have said they are working to address.
Johnson said he wants to see more data, including a 20-year rolling average to see how things have changed in the past. He said there may be needed building capacity changes, but said those changes should be implemented more gradually than boundary and school grade level pairing changes proposed in the Equity Journey.
Johnson said the school board’s role is to set policy and board members should not micromanage the superintendent, but said at the same time, on bigger issues, board members need to listen to the community and take a balanced approach when necessary.
He said on the library board, he served as president, and worked with others to hire a new library director. Johnson said he would bring that government experience to the school board, along with lessons learned from his father, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, who TR said would help advise the campaign.
TR Johnson currently works as associate vice president of ticket sales and strategy for the Chicago Fire professional soccer team and previously worked for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Mayor Johnson said his son’s name recognition, “Opens the door, but you have to have the substance to get through that door.”
The mayor said he is proud of his son decided to step up to run and address issues in Dist. 59. Mayor Johnson has also been publicly critical of the Equity Journey plan.
Dzak is a teacher with seven years in the classroom, two as a substitute and five as a full-time teacher.
She said, if elected, she would use her voice on the board to advocate for teachers and kids. She said students are behind academically and suffer emotionally because of COVID lockdowns and remote learning. She said the district needs a strong evidence-based curriculum.
Szczesny works for a Chicago area technology company. He said his experience in project management and consulting has helped him solve the problem for a variety of clients from big companies to smaller nonprofits, working to find positive results to please stockholders, employees and customers. He said he would bring that skillset to the Dist. 59 board if elected.
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