So now we know: by a margin of about 2,500 votes, I did not win a spot on the District 214 school board. Before I set this aside and move on, I feel I owe supporters some closing comments.
First, again, I thank everyone who donated to help fund yard signs and brochures, helped hand out brochures and find spots for yard signs, encouraged others to vote, gave me personal encouragement, and so on. While your efforts weren’t enough to put me over the top, I am glad that we gave the residents of the district a truly competitive election and a choice to make.
Some of you have also asked me if I will run again in two years’ time or have encouraged me to do so. The answer is no, I don’t have any intention to do so. My youngest will be a senior then, and the same statements that we have all made about current board members, that they don’t have skin in the game with a child at a district school, would then apply to me. Besides, my vote total was only marginally greater this year than two years ago, 8,500-ish each year. (It will likely increase a tad as the final mail-in ballots come in, but not too much.) I don’t really have much reason to believe that I can make up that gap with another effort.
And of course, without spending too much time on it, it is appropriate to discuss the “why” for a few moments. The incumbent slate had three tremendous advantages: incumbency itself, the Daily Herald endorsement, and the union cash. The cash was readily apparent when I drove around the night before, or running errands on Election Day itself and saw just how many extra signs they had. The Daily Herald endorsement — well, I’ve been told that, given that the DH is privately owned, there are personal connections which ensure that loyalty. (According to Wikipedia, they have been employee-owned through an ESOP since 2018, and were family owned before then.) Though I’m not going to hunt down my notes now, I recall that two years ago, I observed that virtually all Daily Herald-endorsed candidates won, in a manner that made it clear that it was the endorsement itself, rather than that they only endorsed high-quality candidates, that made the difference. And incumbency? Well, the fact that all seven members are aligned meant that they had the power to get three mayors and a long list of village trustees, including ALL Arlington Heights trustees, to endorse them.
But it is also important to discuss the postcard. That is, the postcard nominally from the teachers’ union (with whom they worked hand-in-glove) which was such an extreme degree of character assassination that it went well beyond what I would have imagined: painting me as a racist, book-banning insurrectionist. (No, I’m not sharing it, except for to media inquiries. Trust me.) It was sent only to Democrats, so my guess is that it was about boosting turnout by generating outrage rather than changing minds.
Did it prevent me from winning? Were 2,500 voters persuaded to come and vote for the Slate (or to stay away from a vote for me) due to this postcard or other claims of extremism? I don’t know. Honestly, this all makes me a bit relieved that the vote margin was not closer, so that I don’t have to lose any sleep over this.
But even so, this postcard matters.
It matters because integrity and decency matter. They are not optional. They are not a uniform that can be taken off when inconvenient.
The teachers’ union calls themselves “professionals.” The librarian who speaks often at board meetings and who, on twitter, disclaimed responsibility but has produced a YouTube video following the same lines and did say on twitter that he would have made an even “better” (more inflammatory) version, claims to be professional, and was praised by Dussling at a board meeting as politically neutral and lacking in an agenda in his book selection or dealings with students. And the board members claim they are all about public service.
This postcard matters because it is evidence that they are simply not of good moral character. Anyone associated with this postcard is not honorable or trustworthy. Full stop.
I know that there are many people who justify these sort of actions when it comes to elections. I reject that. This attitude is why two of our recent governors have served time, and Michael Madigan is set to go on trial. Every one of us should be rejecting it.
What’s more, again, recall that we are talking about a school board election, and an election at which, even if both Misa Edwardsen and I had both been elected, the Slate would still have the majority vote. How can the stakes possibly be so high as to warrant this sort of manufactured Culture War “extremist” claim? I have certainly had people suggest to me that my specific suggestion that I would use my board-member ability to listen to closed-session recordings and see exactly what happened with the termination of Johnson/Roiland/McCollough, was the intolerable threat, and that Dussling was determined to ensure that this did not happen.
So what does this mean for the future?
Some of you already know that before I decided to run, I tried to put feelers out to find someone who would be a good candidate to support. I knew that I was not a born “politician,” was not skilled at glad-handing and building a network and finding donors, and all these other pieces — but of course not only was I not able to find anyone, but no one (except Misa, and that’s another story) declared their candidacy. The fact that the incumbent Slate has complete control, means that they also have the ability to intimidate potential candidates who are themselves a part of the “system” (as we saw when everyone lined up in their support, even though the Arlington Heights trustees and the D214 board are supposed to be negotiating with each other over future TIFs). What’s more, I campaigned on a shoe-string, and I don’t really see any fat-cat donor stepping in in the future. More than likely, the Slate will run uncontested next time around.
Which means that, like it or not, all my begging for good governance, for transparency, for oversight, for an end to behind-the-scenes decision-making, and my attempts to uncover information the district has tried to keep hidden — will not go anywhere, without some board member deciding themselves to confront the others. After all, it is possible to propose an agenda item, during the meeting itself, and put board members on the spot, as to whether they are willing to vote on whether to disclose to the community what’s going on with earned honors or student disciplinary issues, to take a few examples.
We also will find out what direction the district will head when the board makes their announcement of the new superintendent, but I honestly don’t have too much hope here. I called for unquestioned integrity and strong expertise. The Slate candidates emphasized being “visible” which sure as heck sounds like their interest is in a superintendent with the skill set of reputation-building and PR.
And, again, the district has serious issues which must be discussed, including academic achievement levels and disparities, attendance, and disciplinary issues. We are not a “destination district” but lag our neighbors, for example, in the Niche.com rankings. We have, as Alva Kreutzer so carefully alluded to, “changing demographics.” And right now there is no way for members of the community to step up. There are no working committees, there are no community forums. The school board continually reiterates that board meetings are “business meetings” rather than town halls, but there are no town halls at which members of the community can share their experiences and concerns. There are not, to the best of my knowledge, any ways in which community members can step up and say, “I want to help” at the district level.
But I’m not going to be able to fix this, so I will be looking for other ways to get involved in the community, and perhaps I’ll see you all around in the meantime, whether in the real world or virtually on Facebook.
And in the meantime, again, THANK YOU for everything.