December 10, 2023


Genoa-Kingston School District 424 Board candidates offer final pitch to voters

Genoa-Kingston school board members respond to Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce candidates questionnaire

Genoa Kingston Middle School sign in Genoa, IL

GENOA – All five candidates seeking a Genoa-Kingston School District 424 Board seat through the April 4 consolidated election recently made their pitch to voters in a Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce candidates questionnaire.

Three seats are up for grabs in a five-candidate field. Max (Jake) Wesner and David Cleveland will look to unseat incumbents Julie Ratliff, Mary Hintzsche and Melyssa Gustafson in the election. As there are no districts associated with the race, the top three vote-getters will take the school board seats.

Incumbent Mark Bradac is running to fill an unexpired two-year term, but because his race is separate from the others, he did not participate in the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce questionnaire.

All candidates who participated in the chamber’s questionnaire were asked what motivated them to run for the board.

Wesner said he believes he has a “proven record of commitment to the success and well-being” of the Genoa-Kingston community.

Ratliff said that after four years of board experience under her belt, she thinks she’ll be able to harness her focus in another term.

Gustafson said she is “extremely involved” in the Genoa-Kinston area and is motivated by the commitment she made to youth – and their families – in the community when she joined the board in 2021.

Cleveland said his motivation to run for the elected office came from having two children attend district schools. His previous District 424 board experience also was a factor.

Hintzsche said she’s running for reelection because she has a passion for education and wants to give back to the community that she feels has given so much to her.

What makes them a worthwhile candidate?

All five candidates were asked what makes them a good candidate for District 424, and each leaned into previous experience in their answer.

The answers were pulled from the questionnaire and are printed as they were written by the candidates.

Max (Jake) Wesner

Four years of experience. I have been trained, attended meetings, visited each of the schools. On these visits, out in the community, at board meetings, I have listened to the most important stakeholders: the students, the teachers and the parents.

I have gained their perspective, have heard their concerns, hopes and goals. I have worked toward earning their trust!

Julie Ratliff, incumbent

I have four years of experience on the board. I have a good understanding of the business side of the district and the role of a school board member.

I am an advocate for students and the opportunities we provide our students. I am open and willing to listen to ideas and concerns for all parties (students, staff and community) and address them appropriately.

I enjoy working collaboratively with my fellow board members, including sharing ideas and perspectives.

Melyssa Gustafson, incumbent

I have now been seated on the board for close to two years and feel it has offered me the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions and decisions, helped me comprehend our school district more deeply, and provided me the understanding on the direction our district can and should go.

I have collaborated and helped to build our district strategic plan, which is our district’s vision and goals the next five years. I would like to pursue seeing this through, all while keeping the students at the forefront of every conversation and decision.”

David Cleveland

  • Past school board experience.
  • Sit on a company advisory board to help make decisions on topics such as company growth, financial investing and business acquisitions.
  • A parent who wants to see students have the opportunity to excel in education.
  • The ability to make tough decisions based on a common sense approach to solving problems.
  • Active member in the community, which allows me to be approachable and have good constructive conversation with community members.
  • The ability to resist doing what is popular versus what is best for student education, safety and stakeholder investment in the district.

Mary Hintzsche, incumbent

I have worked hard the last four years to be a reasonable, fair school board member.

I try to take into consideration all those affected – including Genoa-Kingston employees, taxpayers and parents – into consideration with the overarching mindset of these decisions impact our children, who are the priority.

Their vision of education in Genoa-Kingston

All of the candidates were asked what their vision for education in the community would look like. The COVID-19 pandemic; school safety; and science, technology, engineering and math classes were among the topics broached by candidates.

Max (Jake) Wesner

Coming out of quarantine! The last two years have changed education forever. Remote learning, in-school learning, how to adapt to make it best for students and teachers. Let’s talk about administration; the frustration of having to follow the law; the health department; having some of the community deciding their opinions were the only options; doing what was best for the safety of students, their families and all G-K 424 employees.

School safety has always been one of my main concerns!

Julie Ratliff, incumbent

Education is vital to success. However, it shouldn’t be limited to what typically comes to mind when we think of education – English, math, science, etc. Education should include any and all opportunities that will impact the whole child, and every child.

We need to continue expanding and improving opportunities such as extracurricular activities (clubs and sports), career and technical education, STEM/STEAM and job placement skills while maintaining a high standard in regard to academics.

Providing opportunity in many different areas allows for the development of a well-rounded student who will positively contribute to their community and society. Not every child excels in academics, but every child needs the skills to excel in life after G-K.

Melyssa Gustafson, incumbent

As our community and the world around us has experienced many changes in the past years and even more recently, it’s important to accommodate our students and taxpayers with their best interests in mind while considering the world beyond our district.

I feel our district should be providing appropriate curriculum choices, following proper safety protocol to ensure the security of staff and students, offering students and staff opportunities for educational and social growth, and budgeting finances to best meet the needs of everyone involved.

David Cleveland

  • To help build a better education foundation based on the getting back to core common education (reading, writing and arithmetic).
  • To get better education resources for the students.
  • Increase the exposure to technical trades options for students who feel advanced education is not the correct path for them.
  • To hold the district administration responsible for fiscal decisions that do not benefit the students or taxpayers.
  • Work with the educators to understand what resources they need for increased education.

Mary Hintzsche, incumbent

My vision for the education in this community is we provide high-quality education and allow for opportunities for children to succeed.

Success to me means that regardless of the student’s path after graduation – whether it be trade school, college, military or entering the workforce – they were provided with opportunities that allow them to grow and develop to make good choices and have strong character skills to overcome adversity.

Camden Lazenby

Camden Lazenby

Camden Lazenby covers DeKalb County news for the Daily Chronicle.