Election 2023: Crystal Lake’s District 155 candidates share top priorities

Four candidates are running for three seats in the April 4 election

Candidates running for Crystal Lake-based Community High School District. Pictured, on the top row, are Amy Blazier (left) and Kathy Goerges (right), and on the bottom row, are Stephanie O'Neill Macro (left) and Steve Kieffer (right).

Academic performance, recruiting and paying teachers, and how best to help students find a fitting career path are top concerns for candidates running for Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155′s school board.

Four candidates are vying for three seats on the board. Amy Blazier is the sole incumbent hoping to hold on to her seat, while challengers Stephanie O’Neill Macro, Steve Kieffer and Kathy Goerges are looking to join the board.

Macro, Kieffer and Goerges said one of their largest concerns is what career path students should take and whether one route was being emphasized more than was necessary.

Blazier, who was first elected in 2015, declined an interview with the Northwest Herald because of personal reasons. She also did not submit a questionnaire.

Is the district really preparing as many students as possible for their next journey? I’m excited to peel back that onion.

—  District 155 school board candidate Kathy Goerges on the district's career prep programs

Goerges said she thinks college receives too much of a focus instead of “life awareness,” saying some students’ passions and skills might be better suited for the trades or working right after high school.

“Is the district really preparing as many students as possible for their next journey?” Goerges said. “I’m excited to peel back that onion.”

Kieffer agreed in part and said he has heard some of that from residents, too. However, he wants to make sure the district has “something for everyone.”

The focus of education swings too far between college preparation or the trades, he said. Looking back at his own upbringing, he said, it was the vocational classes that helped him succeed.

Macro said she wants to make sure that “pendulum” doesn’t swing too far toward one side or the other. It’s important to not value one career track more than another overall and to communicate to students that there are multiple options, she said.

“It’s not an easy task, Macro said. “There’s a finite number of resources and so many career paths. It’s a balancing act.”

I just want reasonable people on the board who are fully backing public education.

—  District 155 school board candidate Stephanie O'Neill Macro

Goerges said her top concern is academics. She wants to see the district increase student proficiency in a few areas, mainly language arts and math.

Overall, Goerges supports the district having a clear focus on academics and thinks adding various elements, such as social-emotional learning, or putting an emphasis on equity, could be taking away from that.

However, it’s hard to know for sure until she is on the board and able to ask those questions, she said.

“When we start getting into so many dynamics, I think it becomes more difficult,” Goerges said. “There are some circumstances [it’s appropriate], but I want to see how far it’s going.”

Macro said she decided to run in an effort to “keep the guardrails on” and keep the district from getting too extreme in one direction or another.

“I just want reasonable people on the board who are fully backing public education,” Macro said. “We have a great district here, and I want to make sure we evolve and grow and keep up with the times.”

Special education and learning disabilities are some things Macro wants to focus on. She wants to make sure the district provides an education that works for everyone, she said.

It’s a problem all over the world.

—  District 155 school board candidate Steve Kieffer on teacher shortages

A top issue, Kieffer said, is finding and keeping good teachers. With an ongoing teacher shortage, he said the need for them is a crucial one.

He said he feels the district has great teachers but there is always room for improvement. He said at this point, he doesn’t have any firm ideas on what can be done or what the district is doing to solve any shortage. Despite this, he thinks the focus should be on making the district a good place to live and work.

“It’s a problem all over the world,” Kieffer said.

Macro said if elected, she would like to look at data surrounding teacher compensation, but said at this point she has no firm stance on the topic since she hasn’t been involved in those conversations in the past.

District 155 has five high schools, all based in Crystal Lake and Cary.