Election season isn’t over just yet. This coming April 6th, local elections will take place across Illinois, including within our own community. One significant election occurring next month within Glenbard School District 87 will be the School Board member election.
The role of a School Board is to assess the interests, needs, and concerns of their community of students and propose goals or policies that will meet these interests, needs, and concerns. A School Board can mandate topics such as curriculum, educational policies, dress codes, expulsion policies, and budgets for extracurriculars. Since a School Board decides on issues that directly impact students and their community as a whole, many feel that it’s crucial for the community to get to know the candidates running for office.
Within the Glenbard community itself, one student-led group has taken it upon themselves to spread publicly accessible information about the election and its current candidates for students, parents, and anyone who is interested. The Glenbard North civics club has teamed with all four Glenbard schools in order to organize a student-run, nonpartisan School Board candidate forum that’s open to the public. Arsima Araya, a senior at Glenbard North and member of the Civics Club said that the idea for this forum “came about naturally” during one of the club’s meetings. Araya explained, “We wanted to continue our mission of engaging students into their communities, and that is when we decided to focus on the school board elections. The School Board directly impacts students and creates the policies; whether it be dress code or suspension/expulsion policy. All major changes will end up on the Board’s desk”. Ms. Bray-Parker, one of the faculty sponsors for North’s Civics Club was “100% on board with” the idea for this forum and agreed to be the faculty advisor and facilitator during the meetings planning the candidate forum. Ms. Bray-Parker advocates for students to be “critical consumers of information, become educated voters and to use their voice”, and expressed that the forum was a great way for students to practice these key skills.
This forum has been designed to emphasize student voices and concerns. According to Glenbard North junior Jessica Housour, a member of the candidate forum planning group, it will be a “great opportunity for students to bring their questions and concerns to candidates about the policies that directly affect them”. The forum itself will consist of three sections. First, school board candidates will describe the role of the school board in the Glenbard district. Following this explanation, candidates will answer questions that have been generated by students prior to the event. Students from all four Glenbard schools have the opportunity to submit questions for the board candidates through a short google form that can be found here. Housour states that these questions can be on issues such as “budgeting, equity, COVID-19 response, athletics, extracurricular activities, curriculum, grading policies, and much more”. Third, a live question session will be held, and students will have the opportunity to ask questions on anything else they may want to know relating to the election and it’s candidates.
Glenbard South junior Kevin Pinkelman, another member of the candidate forum planning group, stressed the importance of student participation in local elections, explaining that even though “local, non-partisan elections are often overlooked by eligible voters due to the lack of attention they get, their impact is not any less important.” Pinkelman added, “Voter turnout for school board elections is almost always incredibly low, but students who are 18 have the power to sway this election one way or the other”. Glenbard seniors and students who are 18 or older are especially encouraged to submit questions, attend the forum, and learn about each candidate, as they are of age to vote in this election.
Voting in local elections such as the School Board election will be the first step to progress and change within a community. It’s also an experience that will give students valuable tools that prepare them for future elections that occur at larger scales, such as Presidential elections. Even for students under eighteen who cannot yet vote, learning about the election and it’s candidates is a relevant matter. Araya hopes that “every student takes the opportunity to attend this forum and sees the gravity of this election. By attending this event, you are educating and empowering yourself to be more active in the sections of politics that shape your, your teacher’s, extracurriculars/teams, and administrators’ success and ability to make a difference”.
The school board candidate forum was designed to be an accessible way for the District 87 community to learn about the School Board Election and make informed decisions when voting on candidates. The forum will take place virtually (as a zoom webinar) on March 25th at 5:00 P.M. There’s also an option to join early at 4:45 for information on how to vote.