Oswego SD308 Board of Education election pits ‘We the People’ and ‘For the Kids’ candidate slates

Voters to elect four to seven-member on Tuesday

The Oswego School District Board of Education during a meeting in the Community Room at Oswego East High School, 1555 Harvey Road, Oswego.

Voters in Oswego SD308 will elect four school board members in the April 4 consolidated election.

The election campaign has produced two rival slates of four candidates each, along with one who is running independently.

In the case of the candidate slates, one from each group is seeking a two-year term on the board, while the other seven candidates are vying for three available four-year terms.

The “We the People” slate of candidates is supported by Awake Illinois, the local Stamp Act PAC, the Kendall County Republican Party and other conservative organizations. Those candidates includes Heather Gregar, Richard B. Gilmore, Joanne Johnson and Kevin D. Johnson.

The “For the Kids” slate is composed of a more progressive-leaning group of candidates that has been endorsed by the teachers union. That group includes two incumbent board members, Jared Ploger and Dominick Cirone, along with Amy Murillo and Mary Jo Wenmouth.

The unaffiliated candidate is Nicky Boecker.

Ploger and Kevin Johnson are competing for the two-year term. Boecker and the other six candidates from the rival slates are vying for the three four-year terms.

Individual candidate profiles can be found on our website at KendallCountyNow.com.

The election has become part of the larger national political battleground over the teaching of history, race, sex and gender issues.

The We the People slate was planning to attend a candidates forum in Oswego sponsored by the right-wing Awake Illinois, but the public event was abruptly canceled and moved to a private location when a group of parents and progressive activists planned a protest.

The protest, led by district resident and parent Jennifer Stamp of Parents for Progress, attracted about 35 people, many with public school and library advocacy organizations from throughout the Chicago area.

Stamp objected to “outside influences coming into our school district and trying to elect extremist school board candidates that promote national political agendas.”

Illinois Families for Public Schools Director Cassie Creswell said fights over local school boards are serving as “proxy wars for bigger forces” in the national debate over LGBTQ+ rights.

During the campaign it became known that Kevin Johnson, who is married to Joanne Johnson, was arrested by Oswego police and pleaded guilty to a charge of domestic battery in 2019.

“As my wife and I sat down before this election to discuss if I was willing to run to advocate for the students of District 308, we decided that the incident in question was appropriately addressed between us and that it was more important to dedicate ourselves to a greater cause,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson described the arrest as an isolated incident during a stressful time for him and his wife.

“I am accountable for my actions of that day and have taken the necessary steps in my life to rebuild the relationship with both my wife and my higher power of which I had allowed to erode, placing money and ego ahead of my faith,” Johnson said. “From my wife, children, extended family, and friends, all have communicated their forgiveness and support. I am a blessed and better man today due to those that love me and my revitalized relationship with my higher power.

“My purpose in life was redefined because of the event and I have dedicated myself to helping others less fortunate than myself. I sought spiritual and psychological assistance,” Johnson said.

It also was learned during the campaign that a District 308 employee had improperly circulated nominating petitions for Murillo on school property during school hours.

Murillo described the incident as an honest mistake.

“Unfortunately, I did not know that bringing a petition to school was not allowed, and when an educator offered to do so, I innocently took her up on the offer, allowing her to circulate it,” Murillo said in a social media message she posted Jan. 30.

Murillo said that she did not personally circulate those petitions. She said the number of signatures gathered by a “well-meaning colleague” was small and that even if they had been deleted, he still would have had enough signatures to gain a position on the ballot.

“I am in no way taking this situation lightly,” Murillo said. “I have learned from this mistake and have since been quite vocal with colleagues, educating them on what is permitted and what is not.”

Murillo added that “there is an opportunity for training and education and training with the district to make sure everyone knows when and how to participate in local elections.”

“Lesson definitely learned,” Murillo added.