Editor’s note: Gwendolyn Crayton ran unsuccessfully for the Proviso Township High School District 209 board in April. She joins the REVIEW as an opinion columnist.
As a novice in politics and in journalism, I am excited to have the opportunity to share my personal journey as a candidate in the April 2005 elections. Whether you are a proponent or an opponent of any candidate, I urge you to advocate for good government that makes decisions with integrity and moral ethics in the best interests of all people.
As a newcomer to politics, I thought that my faith, education, experience, and integrity would be enough for people to elect me to help our children as a member of the school board. However, during my first journey on the campaign trail, I realized that good intentions and good qualifications contributed very little to winning an election.
My political confidant told me that the most qualified candidate does not necessarily win. As I reflect on other comments, it appeared that many people knew it was unlikely for me to win based on good intentions and highly qualified credentials. I told everyone that if I did not win I would be mad for a day and then I would resume my normal activities.
As you know, I did not win, but we ran a good race. I, of course, was very disappointed on April 5, and I resumed my normal activities on April 6. I am honored to know that over 4,300 people voted for me for the right reasons: good intentions and highly qualified credentials. However, I could not believe the actions and comments that I received from mayors, superintendents, board members, candidates, church leaders, and door-to-door citizens in Proviso Township.
As I began my campaign, I thought it would be good to talk to people already involved in the political process. I called 10 mayors expecting that all of them would want to hear my good ideas about school/community partnerships.
I called two mayors five times; their employees told me they relayed the message, but they never called me back. One mayor told me if I was not part of a particular slate, he did not want to talk to me. Another mayor told me that I could not use his name, he was not endorsing me, and he never kept his appointment with me. One mayor called back with several questions over the phone, but he did not keep his appointment with me. Two mayors were very cordial, listened to my ideas, and told me they supported a slate. One mayor was receptive, gave me a book, and said he would make calls and get back to me; he never called me, but he responded with huge slate signs in his yard. Two mayors embraced me, agreed with my ideas, and supported my campaign endeavors.
I also expected it to be a simple process for superintendents to talk to concerned community members. I talked with one superintendent who gave me a very planned presentation on issues that hindered our school success. I called every school district in Proviso Township to ask for the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the current and candidate board members. One superintendent requested that I complete a Freedom of Information Act for the information, and he sent me a legalistic letter quoting the law as to why I could not have the phone numbers. I asked another superintendent if I needed to complete a Freedom of Information Act, and he rudely stated that he did not release that information and he would contact his lawyers. One superintendent said this was public information, and she eagerly mailed it to me. Another superintendent asked an employee to give me the information over the phone. One superintendent looked for his handbook to give to me, but he asked his employee to mail it to me. Three superintendents never responded to the call and did not send me the information.
It was gratifying to have the candidates from all the races support me, and I was also pleased to receive the support of several church leaders and members of their congregations. One of our campaign assistants called numerous churches and was told that I would not be able to speak. I called the same churches, and I was granted an invitation to speak in seven churches. Some churches allowed me to distribute literature.
It appears that even our faith-based organizations become biased when it comes to elections. They only let their members who are candidates speak at their churches.
The door-to-door citizens, those with nothing to lose or gain, were the most honest people on the campaign trail. When I climbed all of those stairs with degenerative arthritis in both knees, I only encountered two people with profane comments and actions. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for listening to me at the door, school, store, street, car, and train station in our wonderful Proviso Township.
I invite you to join the honest door-to-door citizens and me as a member of the loyal opposition. As we oppose the decisions of the political parties and individuals in power, it is our responsibility to monitor the actions of our elected officials and hold them accountable to our students and taxpayers. We, the people, hold the power to change.
The loyal proposition will continue to plan, scheme, and count their votes by paying people to work the campaigns, spending thousands of dollars on slick literature, claiming success in programs that are dysfunctional, rewarding people with jobs, denying participation, withholding information, and making decisions for individual gain.
My political confidant told me that the results of a poll indicated that people were tired of political corruption. We must insist that good government includes integrity, transparency, and vision. Our politicians must demonstrate honest actions; clear positions on the issues; and evaluate programs, policies, procedures, processes, and personnel based on ethical standards to create a shared vision of success for our schools and communities.
If you have any school, community, or township issues that you want to investigate, monitor, and get results, let me know your thoughts at http://craytonbychoice.tripod.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 708-771-4273.