To Challenge – Principled or Rebellious?

For weeks now I’ve been struggling with a decision to get involved or not in a local school board election.  I’ll be honest, I typically do not go out of my way to vote for local officials or parent organizations.  Not because I don’t care, on the contrary, it’s because I oftentimes have a tendency to care too much and inevitably end up disappointed and disheartened.  So I’ve pretty much taken the “I’d rather not know” approach to local issues and do my best to stay below the radar (unsuccessfully).  Yet when I hear, see or read something I consider an injustice, I can’t help the fact that I really do care, especially if it will affect my children.

So here is my burden of late, there is currently a school board election in progress at my daughter’s high school and it’s become a very heated debate over the rights of parents’ voices to be heard in terms of curriculum and as always, financial concerns. Mind you, I have completely oversimplified the issues for the sake of explaining my point and there is so much more to this story but I want to stay on topic.

Currently in place is what I would consider a mostly “old guard” board consisting of 7 adults.  I say old guard not in a disrespecting tone but just one of calling it as I see it type of thing.  Of the 7 current  board members, the “youngest” member has been serving for three years of a supposed four year term. The other current board members years of service run from 9 years to 30 years consecutively.  There are four seats coming up for re-election and 7 candidates either trying to maintain office or become newly elected members of school board District 125.  Of the 7,  three candidates are running as a team and seeking to unseat three veteran incumbents. The other four candidates in the race for four seats on the Adlai E. Stevenson High School District 125 school board are running as a group as well and consist of three incumbents and one newcomer.

Our village is diverse.

What I find most ironic is that the majority of the current board members do not even have kids enrolled in Stevenson High School let alone in a school!  This team of parents and grandparents apparently do such a stellar job of objectively being the voice of the community that to consider running against them is considered blasphemy and instantly wins you the privilege of being named an instigator, pot-stirrer and in this respect, a right-wing extremist.  Not only are you immediately labeled as an over-zealous, loose cannon, troublemaker and certainly an outsider, but you, your kids, your family and loyal friends (and I use this term loosely) become targets for alienation, gossip and are basically ostracized from the community and let me tell you folks, it isn’t pretty.  I don’t think it’s  that the three candidates running as a team do not have a formidable community of support, on the contrary, I believe there are many parents that agree with their concerns.  However, I think their supporters have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the other group’s very vocal, very connected and very aggressive support system. I would almost call it “bullying”. But in all honesty, who in their right mind would invite the inevitable grief and repercussions?  It’s so much easier to turn the other cheek and not ruffle any feathers. Lord knows that our lives are already extremely taxed for time and is complicated enough.  I can’t even imagine what compels people to run for Presidency and various local and federal offices.  But if not you then who? If not now then when? Two words come to mind, normalcy bias, but that’s a topic for a future post.

So yes, while the issues being raised are absolutely valid and important, I’m still trying to get past the fact that this board has been unchallenged for 18 years!  That’s almost two decades!  The old adage of “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” is sadly both laughable and pathetic at the same time.  And to knowingly, not to mention strategically, campaign against people with fresh or different ideas is shameful, plain wrong and extremely narrow-minded but then again this is Chicago politics only it’s in the NW suburbs.  The incumbents and their supporters speak of believing in a “Culture of Learning-where all members recognize and appreciate the diversity in the school community, encourage mutual respect, and promote social awareness among all school stakeholders.” Certainly sounds noble and fair to me and yet their actions and the actions of their supporters scream something altogether different.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for each and every day my kids have been able to be part of the schools in our community.  We’re originally from Florida and as many know; receiving a good education in Florida (let alone public) is few and far between. I’ve volunteered many hours at my kids’ school’s not out of obligation but because I genuinely respect and applaud the majority of the teachers’ time, effort and sincere concerns for my kids over the years.  It’s the politics and the cliques that I can do without.

I’ll finish by sadly predicting that the fallout and divisiveness of this election will be ugly.  And in the end, when the dust clears and the dirt settles, I’ll wonder yet again what lesson was learned and what good example was demonstrated all in the name of doing what is right for the kids.

I honestly haven’t taken sides and I’m not sure I want to, however, I do think that it’s important for each and every parent; especially those already involved; to be well informed and familiar with both sides.  Support or “liking” an organization’s Facebook page rings hollow if you only take the time to listen to the voices around you.  This campaign is generating a mob mentality so my question to the community is “are you independent thinkers”?

Sylvia – An SHS Parent

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  1. LG resident and SHS parent says

    Great, concise writing!
    I don’t know any of them personally but because of the lies and cliquey behavior (and adult bullying), I am tending to go with the underdog- who just might NOT be the underdog.
    I can see how much you are torn here-people you saw before with bells on now
    have a dark shadow around them for poor behavior.
    It seems like a mob mentality. Childish maybe. Ignorant…Selfish…
    I see kids and parents trying to “get their way” by any means.
    Sometimes right is right, and wrong is wrong. Sometimes there is no justifying it-but sadly most do and move on.
    I see many kids with behaviors that should be punished..but instead they are praised. Why did my parents raise me a certain way- why didn’t theirs? Were my parents odd- or theirs?
    Why doesn’t it seem odd to some to offer a book with a teen having sex with an adult in a back seat, and have it required reading (but you can opt out). Why IS THAT promoted. Same sex or not- it’s a pedophile…you know a crime.
    Why did the Northwestern English teacher who taught a sex class assume it was okay (but you can opt out) to show a woman with a sex toy hooked onto a powertool (last week for those who didn’t see it). Why didn’t it cross the teachers mind before-it was odd. Was he going to show a human with a sheep when they covered beastilogy?
    So Sylvia- you are right to wonder. … So whose the oddball-……….
    the people who question the “authority” or the lazy ones that don’t! The friends that are friends when things are good-or the one’s that lift you up. I don’t know about you- but I am too old for cliques…
    As for me- I sleep well knowing my kids don’t need to have trash as an education.
    After all- you are what you eat so your mind is what you take in!

    • says

      Thank you LG Resident and SHS Parent for your comments and input.
      At the very least, I think this election has awakened a lot of people in this community in one form or another on a subject that is critical to the welfare and success of not only our kids but our futures. And for that I am so very grateful to all 7 of them.

  2. says

    Thank you N B, for taking the time to voice your opinion. I really thought it was me and somehow I missed the memo informing me that being an involved or caring parent is considered radical.

    I’ll be honest, writing this post was difficult and actually hitting the print button was even harder. But I felt it was important to stress and encourage parent’s to get informed and make sure they know the facts and not just the whispers.

  3. N B says


    Being a SHS graduate, myself, and having children that will be going there, I wholeheartedly can identify with your comments. Though I am grateful for those oldies that have been there for so long–even to my days of being there–is it so wrong to want to have fresh ideas and have anothers’ input into what is best for the kids?

    Having a diverse board is important in restoring and keeping balance in our main government. It is important for the well-being of our country to not have a House, Senate and President all of the same party. It is in turn important for the community to keep a good perspective and balance in our education system to make sure that voices are heard and that we make sure that there are a variety of people helping to ensure that proper perspectives are taken into account. We have a much more diverse community than what it was twenty years ago.

    Because of the excellent quality of teachers in this area, we have had many people of many backgrounds move into this district. We now need to be more sensitive to making sure that the voices of all of the people are heard.

    I have heard the same shallow-minded comments that have come from the incumbant side. I am perosnally involved in the election, but I still respect anothers right to believe how they want and vote how they want. I have the same desire that anyone who is voting not just follow the “Prom Committee” and join the bandwagon because they are the loud voice, but rather get informed and understand the issues. I would then hope that they take an introspective approach and find out which of the parties or individuals running has the most in alignment with what they feel also is best for the community. Go to the neighborhood meetings. listed under EVENTS has many meetings where you can go and in a smaller group ask your questions directly to those running for the board. GO!! ASK!! Don’t just listen to the gossip and read the newspapers where reporters also have the right to write as they please. I know the other side has meetings, too. Get informed! Learn about them each individually. Read the websites put out by the parties. Be cautious about just listening to what is in the media and what seems to be the cool trend of the neighbor.

    For the first time in 18 years, we have a choice and the agenda of each party is polarizing. For the first time in 18 years, the vote does make a difference, because it will determine the future of our kids education, the ability for individuals to make this a community they can afford to still live in after the kids are in college, and can make this an area where all people, regardless of their background, can feel that their ideas are valued.

    Respect eachother, don’t let this election turn into a “Boston Tea Party.” Become informed so that you can indepedently make the decision of what is right for you.

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