David Pollard reported this week on the race for four seats on the Bellwood SD88 Board. Take a read:
Candidates running to fill four Bellwood Elementary District 88 School Board seats all say that education over politics is the priority and it will be implemented if elected.
Ronald Anderson, one of four incumbents, is part of a slate called "Education First Party" made up of three newcomers: Patricia Crawford, Beverly Graham and Leakey Shearill. Anderson said if their slate is elected they will lead by example.
"Our educational background and resumes compared to any other candidates are second to none," he said.
Taking the politics out of running the school district is another pledge he and his running mates stand by.
"If we can eliminate the politics in the district, construction and Stone Park drama, we can increase teacher pay," he said.
He says increasing teacher pay is one of their priorities and believes it would increase student performance. He said the recidivism of teachers in the district is high due to the district's pay.
"We're one of the lowest paying school district's in the state and we're focusing on construction, hooking buddies up and things of that sort," he said. "If you pay teachers right they are going to volunteer after school more. When I was going to school at McKinley Elementary School (in Bellwood) we had way more (afterschool) programs."
He said veteran School Board member's time to make changes in the district has come and gone, pointing out an opponent, Marilyn Thurman.
"Thurman has been on the board 16 years," he said. "We will put education over politics that has deprived our kids of a quality education for the past 16 years."
Marilyn Thurman, who is one of four candidates who make up "Team 88" slate, consisting of fellow board member Maria Castrejon and newcomers Drena Lanier and Dorothy Smith, a member of Bellwood Library Board.
She said her experience on the board has nothing to do with the problems that exist and started when Anderson and others joined the School Board.
"That's a shame," she said. "If you go back eight years that was when we were financially stable. We had more programs back in the district like Saturday tutoring."
She says Team 88 is about education.
"I believe we have the interest of the school district at heart," she said. "I have confidence in these ladies and they are not out for political gain but here for the children."
If re-elected her focus would be getting the children up to par in terms of performance in the classroom.
"My focus right now is our special ed population," she said. "We need to get kids mainstreamed into regular education."
She also says there has been an increase in the district in terms of students who are homeless or unable to afford uniforms.
She said if she had it her way the school year would be extended.
"I'd like to see a longer school year," he said. "They are out so long in the summer. We give our kids too much idle time."
Despite her detractors, the 21-year Bellwood resident has seen the good and the bad in the district and believes her slate will improve the district.
"I haven't given up that dream," she said. "I know we can do better than what we're doing."
Althea Busby, an incumbent, wants to run for a second four-year term because she believes there are some things she started that have yet to be completed.
"We've never discussed things about curriculum and it's time to focus in on curriculum," she said.
If re-elected she would like to see more educational programs in the school that would be more attractive to students. Busby has lived in Bellwood 20 years and says she has no big financial backers for her campaign and that it's grassroots with family and friends helping her out.
She says if re-elected she would have one main goal.
"I want to do what's best for the children," she said. "I do have my own agenda, educating the children of Bellwood. "
Avery Malik Thurman was unavailable for comment after repeated attempts to contact him.
MARILYN THURMAN HAS BEEN THERE 16 YEARS. WHAT HAS SHE ACCOMPLISHED IN 16 YEARS?