Longtime administrator seeks re-election

Robert Ingraffia cites experience in bid for regional post

Republican incumbent Robert Ingraffia has some 32 years of experience working in the Suburban Cook County Regional Superintendent’s office, and is up for re-election as the regional superintendent next month.

Ingraffia said his administrative style is more cooperative and less heavy handed. Working with people to find solutions is often better than dictating, Ingraffia said.

“I’ve found I can get a lot more done without being a heavy hammer,” Ingraffia said. “We work with people. That’s how we do things here.”

Ingraffia has served as the regional superintendent for the last three years, and spent 27 years as the assistant regional superintendent.

The regional superintendent’s office oversees teacher certifications and licensing for 143 suburban Cook County schools. While this may be a staple of the office’s responsibility, Ingraffia said he wants to increase the public’s awareness of other services available to them. The regional superintendent can help school districts get better prices on specialty items and bulk purchases, mediate disputes over student attendance and help local board members become better stewards, Ingraffia said.

“We find that there are a lot of board members in the county that need guidance on their roles,” Ingraffia said.

To provide better access to his office, Ingraffia said he wants to open satellite hubs throughout the county. The regional superintendent’s office has one location in Westchester.

Ingraffia defended his office against criticisms that local board members who act improperly are not sanctioned appropriately by the regional superintendent. Though he does have regulatory powers, Ingraffia said his office serves largely as a service agency that relies on the Cook County state’s attorney’s office for such investigations. Ingraffia does have the authority to remove school board members for “willful failure” to fulfill their duties, but he can’t subpoena information. Also, the state and the courts have yet to define what constitutes a “willful failure,” Ingraffia said.

Challenger calls for overhaul of regional office

Charles Flowers says kids should be top priority

Charles Flowers is the Democratic challenger for the Cook County Regional Superintendent’s seat, an office he said is in need of a “face lift.”

Flowers, a District 209 Board of Education member and former special education teacher, said incumbent Robert Ingraffia has failed to avail himself to educators and parents alike. During his campaign, Flowers said he has spoken with hundreds of people who are not aware of the regional superintendent’s office or the role it plays.

“I think that speaks volumes of the work that needs to be done,” Flowers said.

To increase the visibility of the office, Flowers said he would use all forms of media including local cable access channels. These stations could be a way to inform parents of educational programs and opportunities available through the regional office that they might not otherwise hear of, Flowers said.

The challenger also criticized Ingraffia for failing to provide strong leadership on several fronts. Student test scores are down, he said, and districts are more often finding themselves on various watch lists. Also, personnel issues involving local administrators and board members need to be handled with more transparency, Flowers said.

“I have principle and my job is not contingent upon who I can get along with,” Flowers said. “My focus is on kids and his focus is on adults.”

Specifically, Flowers cited his opponent’s handling of an administrator’s qualifications in District 209 as flawed. He accused the incumbent of unnecessarily holding closed meetings in an effort to sweep the matter under the rug.

The impact of regional leadership may seem removed from the classroom, Flowers said, but administrative initiatives do affect student performance. His own record as a board member in District 209 demonstrates an interest in student achievement over political gain, Flowers said, and should be a welcome change for voters.

“I’ve never voted for anything that didn’t impact students and learning,” Flowers said. “My voting record will speak for itself.”