Board of Education candidates participate in forum before election
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On March 23 the LaGrange League of Women Voters hosted a forum for candidates seeking seats on the Board of Education. The election will not be held until April 4 and while there are four positions opening up, five candidates are running. The four incumbents, Board President Thomas Cushing, George Dougherty, Jessica McLean and Molly Murphy, were the only ones to show up at the forum. Challenger William Cassidy was not there due to sickness. All four incumbents endorsed each other and cited that they have worked well together.
“We all do our homework and listen to each other,” Murphy said.
The candidates were asked many questions over the course of the one-hour forum. For each question, they asked two of the candidates, however sometimes they asked all four. There was a one-minute response time allotted for each candidate to answer each question. Each candidate defended why they should continue to serve on the board.
“I have fulfilled the responsibilities of a board member; I have had an open-mind and been mutually respectful of my fellow board members,” Cushing said. “I am the chair of the facilities committee and called in experts regarding the Reber Center and redid the Reber Center. We have been respectful of each other and represented the community. The best thing I’ve done as president is carry on the tradition that everyone’s input is invited.” As a result of being appointed in 2015, McLean said it can be tough to get caught up on all the happenings of the board. However, she said she had committed to a student-angle of the board while keeping up with all the research and questions needed to be a board member. She also has had diversity in her own home. Out of her three kids, one was in AP classes, one was on a 504 plan and the other was on an IEP.
“I think the focus for me and will be looking forward is improving the quality of student life,” McLean said.
Murphy was appointed in 2015 when there was a vacancy. While being a lawyer has helped her in this position, caring about the students had helped more, she said.
“I have learned a great deal about the ways we can serve our students,” Murphy said. “If I don’t understand something, I ask. I try and do research and seek information from those whom are professionals. I am proud of the process that we all bring to the issues.”
George Dougherty ran on the promise that he try and make each student reach his or her full potential, he said. He believes this has been accomplished through the 25-minute study halls and support rooms.
“The one thing I’m most proud of is changing the way we think about thinking,” Dougherty said. “It’s really more student-centered now.”
The candidates specifically noted that this election, or their jobs, are not politicized. They said that when making decisions regarding students, they handle it on a case-by-case basis rather than sticking to a set of beliefs. While some contentious topics arose during the forum, the candidates stayed true to that theme and did not make it into a contentious conversation. All members seemed concerned with making sure that students were comfortable while still abiding by the law.
The board is concerned about making the right decisions for the community as a whole, Cushing said. Their fiscally responsible moves while still providing sufficient salaries and facilities highlights their success.
“When a proposal comes to us, we will continue to ask questions until we are satisfied,” Cushing said. “If I run into someone at Mariano’s, will they ask me a question about this and if they did, what’s my answer?”