District 46 board member Michael Carbone has been publicly censured and openly criticized by fellow board members and at least one citizen in the weeks preceding the April 5 elections.
“They have nothing positive to say because their campaigns were exposed and their nepotism and cronyism was exposed,” said Carbone. "This job is not about me. It’s about the parents and taxpayers. I have gone around neighborhoods and talked to hundreds of people. I hope the board takes more responsibility because of me."
Carbone questioned several actions of his fellow District 46 board members. The actions included: hiring former board member Michael Linder and board president Mary Garcia’s husband; incumbent board candidates, Sue Facklam and Mary Garcia, being accused of using the district to distribute campaign flyers; and the Lake County Federation of Teachers (LCFT) being accused of sending a mailing to district staff to support the incumbents.
“In all fairness, we (the board) do get things done,” said Carbone. "It has been a fight, but it’s good to challenge each other. We did save $6 million this past year without cutting jobs or programs."
Carbone also has faced his own detractors. Some of the criticisms against Carbone related to comments he made during an appearance on a Champion Radio talk show January 9 where people said Carbone said he believed that raising class sizes to significantly higher levels was OK.
“I was on the show because it was a hot topic that was relevant,” Carbone said. "Our district had just issued bonuses at a time I thought we could use the money elsewhere. Superintendent (Ellen) Correll made the decision on the distribution, not the board. If you take the time to listen, my comments were taken out of context. I did not say having 40 to 50 kids in a classroom was OK. The host was referring to when we were young. I agreed that times have changed. That would not happen today if only for school codes."
During the podcast, Carbone did express his concern about annual automatic pay raises for teachers, while others are out of work and have no income. “It’s sort of like putting the cart before the horse,” said Carbone.
At last week’s Special Board meeting, Correll said she will be hiring a mediator at approximately $250 per hour to help sort out issues that had been previously handled by the school district’s attorney.
“While we don’t want to spend the money, this is about the same as what we pay an attorney and will provide the objectivity we need,” said Correll.
Carbone questioned that decision, as well as questioning the reason he was censured in public during a recent school board meeting.
“Where is my due process? The incumbents will have the accusations made against them handled by the district. I’m censured without representation. It should go both ways,” Carbone said.
Carbone was an uncontested write-in candidate in his run for the school board two years ago, so he still has another two years to go on his term. He is not up for re-election and looks forward to continued work with the board.
“I have helped with improving transparency in the district. The financial records are there," Carbone said. "The finance committee was my recommendation and helped us determine how to save the $6 million. I have also supported having students attend the board meetings to talk about classes, sports and their activities. It builds leadership and sets the tone for the district."
The implication has been made that Carbone is supporting one or two of the new candidates in Tuesday’s election. “Hypothetically, if I’m tied to any of the candidates there’s nothing wrong with that. The current board members are supporting the incumbents,” said Carbone.
At least one new board member will take a seat after Tuesday's election. Five candidates, including incumbents Facklam and Garcia, along with Kip Evans, Marchell Norris and Shannon Smigielski, are running for three open positions on the board.
“That will bring a new energy. Each of the candidates running would bring something positive. We are a financially healthy district, but will continue to have challenges ahead of us in the next two to four years, whether it is a good or poor economy,” he said.
Carbone said that while the other board members are angered by his actions, “I believe I’m just doing my job.”