Election season is in full swing, and a forum held last week introduced candidates running for two school boards and the park district.

The event, hosted by Citizen’s United in Forest Park, a local, non-profit that focuses on community activism, was held at the Forest Park Park District building, 7501 Harrison, where two other forums will occur over the next two weeks.

In turn, the candidates for the park district, Elementary School District 91 and Proviso High School District 209 boards addressed the crowd. They introduced themselves and briefly discussed their campaign platforms.

Park district candidates appeared first: This year’s aspirants include President Cathy McDermott, Commissioner Roy Sansone, and John Hosty, the lone non-incumbent.

Up first, Hosty told the audience he was well suited for the job, having held several management and leadership roles in his professional life.

Hinting at the still-pending acquisition and rehabilitation of the Roos property, which will no doubt be front-and-center in voters’ minds, Hosty said: “After the referendum was passed last February, this is a great opportunity to see our village grow.”

Hosty, a product manager at Northern Trust Bank, said he wanted to make sure the Roos property was not “shortsighted.”

President Cathy McDermott followed, saying, “Although the progress, if you can call it that, has been slow, I remain determined to explore every possible option to secure this property for our residents,” McDermott said.

“We are proposing a designated teen center, a senior meeting area, preschool and
much-needed open space,” she said, referring to plans for the Roos. 

Incumbent Commissioner Roy Sansone continued that theme: “As for the ideas [for the Roos] that haven’t come to fruition yet, only time and money will tell, of course,” he said.

In February 2010, voters passed a referendum to tax local property owners 12 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation, to help fund the then-estimated $6 million Roos project. A week before that vote, McDermott told residents the Roos site would be operational in close to 18 months. Thirteen months have passed and the building is deteriorating.

After the park district candidates spoke, Dist. 91 hopefuls addressed the crowd. Sean Blaylock, a board member for six and a half years, explained that he brought leadership, experience and passion to his position. 

“The main priority of a board is to identify excellent leadership in terms of a superintendent,” he said, mentioning his role in hiring current Supt. Lou

In his address, board President Frank Mott mentioned the success of the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program. The system is based teaching kids appropriate behavior; not scolding them for acting in ways they might not understand is improper.”

“Each child learns differently, and each child has to have curriculum developed to his or her needs,” he said. “We have already seen positive changes.”

Rafeal Rosa, a board member who replaced former President Glenn Garlisch last year, said he is willing to dedicate the necessary time and effort to the demanding position. 

“I do a lot of work in science education with teachers, assisting them in improving their own science education classes,” Rosa said, describing his job as vice president of education at Chicago’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 

He said he wants to see an improvement in the district’s science curriculum and better communication with locals. Rosa also said the board must continue to find alternative ways to assess student achievement and not just focus on standardized testing. 

John Tricoci, an electrician, is the only challenger. He is the son of longtime board member John Tricoci Sr. He promised an “open door” and stressed the need “to get parents involved” in the school board’s decisions.

The District 209 candidates include Megan Sawa, incumbent Theresa Kelly, Frank Montgomery, Francine Harrell, Redith Esther, Eddie Anguiano and Carlos Anderson. Each candidate stressed the need for academic improvement: Both Proviso West and Proviso East are currently failing federal academic standards, the Chicago Tribune recently reported.

The same article noted that in 2009 only 26.9 percent of the district’s students met or exceeded the Prairie State Achievement Exam’s standards. The exam is a statewide, standardized test.

All but one of the candidates is running on three-person tickets with campaign platforms. Kelly, Montgomery and Sawa claim the board is too politicized.
In their presentations, Esther, Harrell and Anguiano focused more on academic achievement. Anderson is running independently of any ticket.

Roberto “Bobby” Sepulveda, who is running for trustee on the Triton University board, also
appeared last Wednesday.

Next up, Citizens United will host a forum for candidates for village commissioner, Wed., Feb. 23, on the third floor of the park district building. The event starts at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.