In a crowded Carbondale Elementary School District No. 95 school board race, four candidates rose to the top Tuesday night to win the four vacant seats up for grabs.
In a race featuring eight candidates for four seats, Natasha Zaretsky, Catherine Field, Carlton Smith, and Gary Shepherd received the most votes from the public to secure victory.
Zaretsky received 1,116 votes, Catherine Field 970 votes, Carlton Smith 956 votes and Gary Shepherd 700 votes with 100 percent precincts reporting.
Grant Miller received 609 votes, Lisa Marie Smith 569 votes,
Christopher Payne 396, and Stephen Compton 362.
A common theme throughout the many different forums for the District 95 race has been the lack of communication and transparency from the board to the parents and public, something that all eight candidates have touched on at least once.
Zaretsky has two children in the district and is a current associate professor in the history department at SIU.
“I am extremely happy with the outcome,” she said. “I am happy not only for myself, but all the people who came out to help because it was a collaborative campaign. I felt I had a lot of support.
“I am especially happy for the district because I think it was such a strong pool of candidates. I think every single person who ran had a huge amount to offer and would have done beautifully on the board and I am really happy that now the four winners from tonight and really advocate for the students and parents and teachers for the district.”
Field talked a lot in her campaign about her concern with standardized testing.
“Test scores are matter of great concern,” she has said in the past. “We all know for many years, communities have lived and died based on test scores.”
Another big part of her campaign has been about stressing better communication during school board meetings. Not just from board members talking to each other, but even in the way the school board’s table faces, to the way the audience members are positioned.
She has also expressed concern about the achievement gap between white and black students in the district, saying the district has to make it a priority.
Smith has talked about transparency from the very first school board forum on March 6 at the Eurma C. Hayes Center.
He continually said if he was elected, the board meetings would be open and the audience would be in tune to the school board’s business. He also said people would be able to voice their opinion when they wanted.
“Your voice will be heard,” he said.
He has talked about supporting teachers and the direction they would like to take the district because the community has expectations that the students coming into the district will be high achievers.
“Our role is to carry that out throughout the district,” he said.
Smith has also called for “serious outreach” from the administration to the parents in the district.
Gary Shepherd has four children in the district currently and felt like this was the right time to throw his hat in the ring and get involved. “The impact of the last election has energized a lot of people to get involved at the local level,” he said. “I am one of those people.”
He has said he wants to serve as a conduit of information between the administration parents, teachers and students. He has also talked about the lack of facilities in relation to the amount of students coming into the district. Shepherd mentioned the idea of using the district administration building for more than just offices, but some sort of educational role as well.
The candidates will assume their seat on the school board