LAKE FOREST — When asked why they should be elected to the Lake Forest School District 67 Board of Education, the five candidates continually stressed their professional experience to more than 200 people during a debate March 12 at Lake Forest High School.
Voters will decide which of the five contenders—Mike Borkowski, Robert Lemke, Patrick Patt, Alice LeVert and Jeffrey Folker—will earn the four available positions on the board in the April 4 election. Early voting starts March 20 at Lake Forest City Hall.
As they were asked about the district’s shared administrative services with Lake Forest High School, the state of the district, bullying, the importance of kindergarten and the uncertainty currently created by the State of Illinois over school funding, they frequently pivoted to the ability their individual backgrounds gave them to deal with the issues.
- Folker said his experience as a realtor gets him close to the community.
- LeVert emphasized her background as a health care executive.
- Patt stressed his 40 years as an administrator in other North Shore school districts.
- Lemke said his job as an economics professor at Lake Forest College qualifies him to understand academic and financial issues.
- Borkowski said his position of the president of the LEAD board of directors and primary caregiver for his children puts him close to educational issues.
In the case of incumbents Borkowski, Lemke and Folker, they also stressed their experience working on the board. Patt and LeVert are looking for their first term.
Along with their opening and closing statements, the five candidates answered a quintet of questions posed by the moderator in this League of Women Voters of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff forum. Questions were submitted in writing by attendees and filtered by league members.
All five praised efforts of the district to deal with both face to face and cyber bullying saying training of everyone concerned was critical. Folker stressed the need to educate children beyond academics.
“It’s important to put the social emotional component in our learning program,” said Folker. “We have a program we have upgraded in the last two years.”
Starting with Superintendent Mike Simeck and other key administrators, District 67 shares services with the high school. All five candidates spoke about the uniqueness of the arrangement in Illinois and how it saves money. Borkowski said it did more.
“It’s financially best and it gives us continuity of curriculum from kindergarten through twelfth grade for our programs,” said Borkowski. “It’s a very good model.”
Answering a question about curriculum, the incumbents spoke about the long term planning of the district. Those hoping to hold the job for the first time stressed their own experience. Patt talked about what he did as a principal in Northbrook Glenview School District 30 and a superintendent in Oak Grove School District 68 in Libertyville Township.
“Curriculum should be reviewed on a five-year cycle,” said Patt. “There are new science standards that have to be implemented,” he said referring to nationwide programs crafted a few years ago.
One questioner asked about the importance kindergarten in a child’s education. All the candidates highlighted the importance with Lemke focusing on the non academic aspects of children’s initial experience in the district.
“They have to learn to clean up their own mess,” said Lemke. “We have to make sure school is enjoyable for them.”
Another area of agreement was conservative financial planning because of the uncertainty of school funding from the state and a potential property tax frequently discussed in Springfield. LeVert stressed the need for independent action.
“We have to focus on local autonomy and keep our options open,” said LeVert. “We have to plan for the long term when making decisions about finances.”