Who Is Running for Geneva School Board?

With just a few days before the first opportunity to file, Geneva School District 304 board candidates aren't making a lot of noise.

With just five days remaining before filing begins for Geneva School Board elections, there have been no formal announcements from potential candidates.

That's not unusual, of course. School Board elections typically don't carry the fanfare of some local races and generally aren't the ones that get the big headlines or column inches. But there's every reason to believe that the April 9 District 304 board races might be an exception.

For starters, few local elected bodies have had the scrutiny or the attention this board has received since August, during the sometimes-heated public debate over a recently approved three-year teachers contract agreement.

But the board hasn't shied away from any number of controversial issues in the past year, including but not limited to school boundary changes, the possible demolition of the historic Coultrap building, the"Enrollmentgate" controversy, the acceptance of a half-million-dollar anonymous donation to build a synthetic turf athletic field, kindergarten enrollment bubbles, state and national funding shortages and technology upgrades.

In addition, few boards have had such clear-cut, persistent and vocal political opposition as the Geneva TaxFACTS group, which has attended and spoke during virtually every School Board meeting for the past two years.

Those factors set the stage for what could be a very interesting election cycle, as voters determine what direction the board should take for the next two years. 

Four seats—presently held by Mark Grosso, Bill Wilson, Tim Moran and Matt Henry—are up for grabs in the April election, each for four-year terms. The board president is selected by the board as a whole and is not an elected position.

The public should start to get a picture of the School Board race starting Monday, Dec. 17, the first day candidates may file nominating papers with the Board Secretary. The final date to file petitions has been extended to 5 p.m. Dec. 26, due to the holidays.

Another important moment for candidates comes at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, when a lottery is held to determine ballot positions. The lottery is open to the public and takes place in the Geneva School District’s Central Office, 227 N. Fourth St. 

Ballot position is particularly important because School Board seats are "at large," which means they represent the entire district. In the April 2013 School Board race, the top four vote-getters will win election to the board, no matter the number of candidates.

Some studies have suggested that ballot order can account for as much as a 5 percent statistical difference, with a clear advantage to the candidate whose name is first on the ballot.

In the April 5, 2011, School Board race, then-Board President Mary Stith, incumbent Kelly Nowak and newcomer Mike McCormick won election. McCormick edged out incumbent Leslie Juby and challenger George George Jackowiec. Robert Cabeen finished sixth.

2011 Candidate Votes Mary Lynn Stith 1,514 Kelly B. Nowak 1,401 Michael T. McCormick 1,379 Leslie N. Juby  1,342 George Jackowiec 1,304 Robert L. Cabeen 625


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John R December 19, 2012 at 08:07 PM
@ Bob, I think it tells us that you guys have people lined up who you think will be electable. I don't know all the players but it appears that your going to get quite a few of your people on the ballot. Jay's in so no need for you to run....I guess. So I do think it's telling and a bit surprising that your not running for school board. Even though I've crossed pens with you several times I would not have minded seeing you on the Board. Over time I've learned to appreciate your drive, committment and conviction when addressing school board issues. I was shocked when I read that your going to run for Mayor. I think you really had a good shot at getting elected to the board and I think your presence on the board would actually have been a good thing. I don't think Jay has as good a chance as you. At any rate you have your work cut out for you. The Mayor is very committed to our community. He is a life long resident and by and large has done an excellent job as Mayor. I've had a couple interactions with him and they have all been extremely positive. He listens and responds to the concerns of residents. But I am glad that someone is running against him. I think it will make him a better Mayor in the long run. Good luck, John Rice
Bob McQuillan December 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
John Thanks for the kind words. I ran for school board in 2005 saying pretty much the same things that GenevaTaxFACTS has been saying since 2008. Since I moved here in 1997, I have been concerned with the district's spending. I believe that every district resident desires an excellent education for the children, The issue has been that much of the past spending went toward buildings that are way over the top. Those buildings don't directly mean that the educational process has improved for all children. The ironic thing is that if we didn't have so much construction debt, the teachers would probably be paid what they believe is a just salary. Hopefully the community has learned that you can't have both an excellent educational system and buildings that cost too much to build and operate. If GenevaTaxFACTS has gotten residents more involved in the entire process, we have accomplished our goal. I believe that having six new residents offer to serve as school board members shows that the town is dedicated to providing the best education at an affordable price. As to the Mayor's race, I'm looking forward to discussing the future of Geneva with both Mayor Burns and all residents. There is no question that Geneva is a fantastic town to call home. My goal is to make sure current residents can continue to call Geneva home for as long as they desire.
Jon Azavedo December 19, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Why is being a "life-long resident" some type of qualification for mayor? I look at it as someone who has no worldly experience, entrenched in the old ways. Mayor Burns used his position as a base for jumping up the political ladder, and got soundly defeated. County voters see him as a joke. He has no commitment to the community. And his management style reeks of an overseer.
John R December 19, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Dan, I'm glad to see that a couple guys that are "market savvy" are running for school board. Sure wish you had been around a few years ago when they did the bond deal. Maybe you would have been able to stop it but to late for that. I'd like to hear some of your ideas. I'm not running this time around but for the sake of dialog I'll engage your question. 1. Deal with Coultrap. Either tear it down, partially tear it down or moth ball the building. But letting it sit to use for board meetings is like throwing money out the window. 2. Hold the property out west and deal it once the market fully improves. We should be in no rush to sell that property. 3. Look for other property for a new high school. Like it or not the current high school is at capacity. We may need to build or expand. I'd be interested in building new and then doing residential development on the sight of the current high school. There is some land on the east side which I think could be good sights for a high school. 4. Sell and develop the current administrative building. They would be wonderful condo's and a developer could probably squeeze a mcmansion or two onto the property. The administrative offices could be relocated to leased or purchased space downtown. A win/win for the city and school district. 5. Continue the abatement process. I'm out of characters. What are some of your ideas? Thanks, John Rice
Dan December 20, 2012 at 01:59 AM
John Don't know all the facts, but have talked to existing board members and read past board materials - might change my mind after hearing full board discussions as these come up - ok, enough hedging? 1. Coultrap. I understand the study that was done recommended closing or razing the building. I agree. Keep the land, but raze the building. 2. The west land seems like a hold, until the market improves and we know when/how much construction will resume west of Mill Creek. I think we sunk $1000,000 into the land and it may be worth $800k now, but selling at a loss may be wise too, depending on highest and best use for us v. a potential buyer. 3. HIgh School is a cloudier issue. Trends in grade school and middle school populations, as well as what we do with Coultrap, would be part of it. Talking to teachers and administration for input would be my next step - likely the board already has researched and discussed this too. 4. Admin building? Again, I'd ask the people in the administration for input on usage, ideas for other locations, etc. HIghest and best use of that location may indeed be residential and 304 might be able to find alternatives at a cheaper price. Cost/benefit is easy on numbers, but less clear as to purpose and best fit without talking to the users of that space. 5. abatement, surpluses, tax levy and bond structure questions all go together. Reply size limits, doesn't allow for depth, but I hope a few words help frame things.


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