By Alice Saudargas
More than anything else, the April 9 election for Rockford School Board is about doing right by people.
In the two years since I last served, the school board has made a sharp turn in the wrong direction. The current majority seems only interested in satisfying the needs of big business and financially comfortable families, which favors, of course, those who live on the far east side. Once again, west-enders are getting shortchanged. Behavior of this sort is what led Rockford into two outrageously expensive and emotionally painful discrimination lawsuits.
That’s why I’m asking for your support as a write-in candidate for school board. As a former teacher and principal, the mother of 10 children and a retiree of modest means, I sympathize with the difficulties that confront today’s educators and the challenges that so many of our students and parents face.
What I see from our current board is a lot of talk about transparency, but no real flow of information about what’s going on in our schools — despite a considerable amount of money being spent to expand the communications staff and hire an outside public relations firm. Where are the newsletters to the community that tell us what the superintendent’s goals are and what he has accomplished? Parents and teachers tell me they don’t receive any updates, either.
I also see new board members taking credit for the work of past board members. The financial stability our schools enjoy at the moment is the result of tough decisions — closing schools, eliminating the seventh period — made under previous superintendents. Given the state’s budget crisis, I’m not inclined to be overly optimistic about the long-term prosperity of our schools.
Why do I keep hearing about teachers who are escorted out of their buildings without explanation? The staff is left to speculate, and the prevailing theory is that teachers who question the decisions of the board are targeted. If they have seniority and sit at the top of the pay scale, they are especially vulnerable. In years past, Molly Phalen would have appeared before the board and demanded answers. Why is the teachers’ union silent? Is the REA (Rockford Education Association) leadership afraid to speak up?
I’m surprised the recent bond referendum passed, considering how the first step of the process was mired in controversy and resulted in a lawsuit over unfair bidding practices. Joe Scandroli isn’t just a sore loser; he has valid concerns about whether board members who are employed by big business are steering business to their buddies. I don’t know if they are, but I sure wonder.
By approving the $139 referendum without a schedule for how the money will be spent, voters have placed an enormous amount of trust in the board. One of the reasons I want to return to the board is to make sure our tax dollars are spent evenly across the entire community. I also want to make sure the money is spent wisely. I fail to see the logic in pouring money into the expansion of Auburn High School when West remains well below capacity as a middle school and could easily be converted back to a high school.
In my estimation, the current board is not doing right by everyday families or frontline teachers, hard-working taxpayers or well-meaning small business owners. The current board has also not done right by me as a candidate.
You may not know that I’m being forced to run as a write-in because the Electoral Board (which is essentially an ad hoc subcommittee of the school board) threw me off the ballot without giving me an opportunity to defend myself. A woman I’ve never heard of (who happens to work for the same big business as my opponent) hired a high-priced lawyer who claimed I didn’t collect enough valid signatures; this is only true if you discount at least eight registered voters who signed affidavits confirming the validity of their signatures and their residence in Sub District C.
The electoral panel conducted a hearing while I was hospitalized, and I wasn’t able to hire a lawyer to represent me. When attorney Ryan Gailey later volunteered to take my case, nobody responded to his written request for a new hearing. I made two appeals in person, which the board ignored. All of this followed an attempt by one board member and a private attorney to pressure me to withdraw by arriving at my home unannounced on New Year’s Eve with legal documents for me to sign.
I admit that I decided to run rather last minute when I learned no one else was challenging Ken Scrivano in Sub District C. Voters should have a choice; my opponent and his supporters tried to eliminate your choice.
On April 9, please write in “Alice Saudargas.” I’m on the right side — yours.
Alice Saudargas, a longtime Rockford educator, served on the Rockford Board of Education for 11 years in Sub District C before finishing second in a three-way election in 2011. She is running as a write-in candidate for the Sub District C seat in the April 9 election.
From the April 3-9, 2013, issue