Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was written by Todd Burgener of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy on Reader Forums.
My name is Todd Burgener and I am a candidate for election to the Lake Forest High School District 115 Board of Education. I have been privileged to serve as a member of that Board for the past five years, having been appointed to a vacated seat in 2008 and elected to the position in 2009. During my term on the Board, my fellow Board members and I have helped to oversee the completion of a transformational referendum project and to successfully navigate the District through some of the most challenging economic times in its history.
Both have been done with minimal disruption to student programming and with the strategic and limited use of financial reserves. We have worked to recruit and hire a tremendously talented new superintendent and to negotiate through the first teacher strike in the school’s history; successfully bending a major cost curve and linking future compensation growth to then current economic indicators in the process. Throughout, student achievement has continued to grow and the school remains highly competitive among its peers.
My goal in seeking re-election to the High School’s Board is focused on providing continuity and supporting the new administration in its efforts to achieve the success that it deserves and on ensuring that the quality of Lake Forest High School programming remains high; doing both in an economically responsible and accountable manner. In November, I gladly received Lake Bluff School Caucus support of my candidacy and, as a consequence, support from the Lake Forest Caucus followed.
During the last meeting of the Board of Education, I was made aware of certain anonymous communication being transmitted within the Village concerning my residency and suggesting less than honest interaction with the Caucus about the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Prior to submitting my application to the Lake Bluff School Caucus, I had extensive and well documented communication with the group’s leadership advising them of my family’s efforts to sell our home in the Village and our intentions to purchase a new home in Lake Forest. At every point of those communications I expressed my desire to continue on the Board, but always made our intentions to leave the Village known. Only after hearing no objections from the Caucus did I submit my application materials for their consideration.
Shortly after my submission was made, the Caucus advised me of their by-laws’ requirement that a supported candidate must agree, upfront, to resign from their position should they move to Lake Forest after being elected. Upon learning this, I refused to make such a commitment and advised the Caucus that, without a waiver of that requirement, I would withdraw my submission for support. I did this believing, as I do today, that Board members are ultimately elected by the voters of the entire district, and not just by those in a particular member’s immediate community or its caucus. Further, once elected, a board member must represent the entirety of the District, not just their pe
rceived “home” community. To commit to the Caucus, in advance, to resign for simply moving from one community to another, while always remaining within the District, would have been dishonest and would show complete disregard for the voters in that district. In the end, being fully aware of my intentions to move within the District, the Caucus asked for no such commitment from me. Instead, I was interviewed and vetted by the Caucus and determined to be the best candidate to serve the District over the next four years.
Having spent the vast majority of the past 44 years as a resident of Lake Bluff, with family remaining in the Village and with children who love their Lake Bluff school, leaving the town was a very difficult choice for my family. Unfortunately, circumstances beyond the scope of this letter made remaining in the Village a less than favorable option for us. So, after growing up in and spending more than 21 years as a home owner in the Village, we have given up the only home our children have known and one into which we had poured great energy believing, and hoping, that it would be our home for life.
Nevertheless, my concern for local schools, and the kids who attend them, remains high and my long history as a Lake Bluff resident assures a continued “voice of the Village” on the Board. I am the only current candidate for the High School Board with such deep Lake Bluff roots. That is why I seek to continue in my role on the Lake Forest High School Board of Education and why I am grateful to the Lake Bluff School Caucus for its support, thoughtfulness and understanding of my family’s unique situation. I am also thankful for the support of the Lake Forest Caucus, which has respected the decisions made by their Lake Bluff counterparts. Both organizations go to great lengths, and draw on the collective wisdom of their diverse memberships, to attract and evaluate candidates; filtering out those whose agendas do not, necessarily, include the best interests of the community or its schools. Both should be applauded for their efforts.
Todd R. Burgener