Election brings change to board

By M. Robert Berg

The voters have spoken in Tuesday’s school board elections and the message was one of change.

Two incumbents on the DeKalb school board were ousted by an almost two-to-one margin. Pat Brown, the current school board president, and John Rey lost their seats to Mary Lee Cozad and Suzanne Lambrecht. Joan Petros, vying for the seat from an unincorporated area, won the third seat up for election unopposed.

Cozad and Lambrecht ran together on a platform for change, citing the record of their opponents in their last eight years of office.

According to a flier distributed by Cozad and Lambrecht, Rey and Brown voted for “increasing homeowner’s real estate tax for schools by more than 110 percent, increases in school spending by 45 percent the last four years, increasing long-term debt from $6 to $15 million (and) teachers’ and administrators’ raises much larger than others in the community.”

Cozad said the election results were because of voter dissatisfaction with the incumbents. “Voters felt the school district needed a change in personnel,” she said.

The school board will go in a different direction now, Cozad said. “There will be a reordering of priorities,” Cozad said. “One of those priorities will be getting resources into the classroom.”

Tax increases for the school district can be avoided with better management, she said. “We need to spend tax money more wisely so there is no need to increase property taxes for the schools,” Cozad said.

Lambrecht agreed. “We need to see a greater emphasis placed in the classroom,” she said. “There should be more money in class, switched from other areas where money has been spent lately.”

The ill use of funds has left the district in deeper and deeper debt, Cozad said. “We will cut back on waste,” she said. “The district needs to be doing things for itself rather than hiring (outside sources).”

An example of this waste, Cozad said, was the hiring of an architect who charged a large fee, when this service could have been provided by sources within the district.

Lambrecht also mentioned a need for greater academic emphasis. “Any child deserves to reach their fullest potential no matter where they lie in ability,” she said. “There’s a middle group who is not made to reach their fullest potential. We have to raise expectations.”

The recent teachers’ strike and the subsequent raises for the administrators and teachers was also made an issue by Cozad and Lambrecht in their campaign. The strike lasted about three weeks, keeping students on an extended summer break and causing frustration among the students and their parents.

Stanley Johnson, a member of the board who was not up for re-election, said the voters’ message was one sent to all the board members.

“The message voters sent to us (Tuesday) is, ‘We expect change,'” Johnson said. “In the first few weeks (with the new board) we must figure out exactly where in the operation the changes ought to be. We must find out the message and act upon it.”

The incumbents also may have run out of original ideas, Lambrecht said. “After eight years, you tend to lose your creativity,” she said. “I would hope if they had any new ideas, they would have tried them by now.”

There are seven seats on DeKalb’s school board, and terms are four years long.