I waited two weeks to write this analysis of the recent Lake Forest School Board election because election specifics are only available 14 days after an election.
I would like to thank the 1,600 plus Lake Forest residents who gave me their vote in the recent school board election. Special thanks to my family: my wife, daughter, son and grandson who gave me wonderful support during the election process —— not a bad result for a five-member team and a couple of community angels.
Like our Lake Forest Caucus president, I too have made a study of recognizing when institutional changes are necessary. In the four school districts that I served as an Interim School District Superintendent, some significant changes needed to be implemented —— sometimes immediately.
The District 115 board election was especially contentious —— and to differing degrees there was a lack of civility on both sides. However, I believe the District 67 board election showed that a contested election can be a very professional and civil one.
Approximately 20% of Lake Forest’s population and land mass is contained in what I affectionately called “Southwest Lake Forest” which is south of Route 60 and west of Waukegan Road. However, of the 14 members of the two school boards NONE of them live in that area and more than 50% of Lake Forest real estate tax bills go to District 67 and District 115. One need only look at the election results from the 3 precincts voting at the west train station to see that voters in Southwest Lake Forest want and need representation. Perhaps an institutional change is needed here.
With the newly constituted boards, District 67 will have 3 of the 7 board members without children in the school system, and in two years 5 of the 7 board members will not have children in District 67. My 40-plus years of experience in elementary education has shown me that this is not a positive ratio. Perhaps an institutional change is needed here as well.
One of the major directions in elementary education has been to encourage and develop critical thinkers. It was interesting for me on election day to ask some voters for the names of the candidates on the District 67 ballot. They didn’t know candidates names but they produced what they referred to as a “cheat sheet” with the caucus-endorsed candidates names —— interesting critical thinking.
One last bit of data from the election shows a significant difference among the elections in Districts 65, 67 and 115.
The difference in vote totals between the highest and lowest successful candidates was interesting to note:
- Lake Bluff 65 (uncontested) —— a difference of 65 votes or 5%
- Lake Forest 115 (contested) —— a difference of 154 votes or 4%
- Lake Forest 67 (contested) —— a difference of 458 votes or 18%
I greatly appreciate the caucus volunteers’ willingness to spend countless hours encouraging volunteers for boards, interviewing candidates, and vetting them. Over the last 4 years I’ve had discussions with caucus members regarding the endorsement process. This is where I would strongly encourage an institutional change whereby all candidates who meet the caucus criteria are endorsed, allowing voters to make the decision of who is best qualified for a position on the board.
This can be done civilly as proven with the District 67 election this year and would generate more interest in the election process —— something we should encourage for young future voters.
In this election cycle I spoke with numerous voters who really do want a choice on their ballots. Uncontested District 67 elections have generated fewer than 700 voters in the past while this year there were more than 2,000.
My family and I have lived in this wonderful community for 28 years and I truly believe an active interest in elections would occur as a result of broadening the field and giving voters greater choices in the election process.
Patrick G. Patt
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