Two incumbents, two newcomers endorsed for D86

✔︎ Kevin Camden

✔︎ Tamakia “TJ” Edwards

✔︎ Debbie Levinthal

✔︎ Jeff Waters

Justin Baron

Peggy James

Mark Pinnow

Karen Shannon

Marty Turek

Terri Walker

Voters will elect four individuals to serve on the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board on Tuesday, April 6.

The past year has been a difficult one for school districts, and D86 is no exception. The district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, science and math curriculum changes and communication are three subjects on which the current board has been criticized. Dissatisfaction in those areas seems to be the primary driver for many candidates.

Our philosophy in making endorsements is to look at a candidate as a whole rather than focusing on his or her position on a specific issue. District residents are fortunate to have choices as they head to the polls, and many of the candidates would make fine board members.

In this race, we endorse incumbents Kevin Camden and Tamakia "TJ" Edwards along with newcomers Debbie Levinthal and Jeff Waters.

Camden, currently serving as board president, is a challenging candidate to evaluate. He brings intelligence, financial expertise and a pragmatic approach to board governance that overall has served the district and its students well. His four years of experience on the board and work on the finance, facilities and negotiation committees also are assets.

He made a significant misstep last year pushing public comment to the end of the board meeting agenda. He reversed that move earlier this year and has identified complying with the Open Meetings Act as one of the board’s most important responsibilities. His straightforward manner could be softened at times, especially when responding to community members critical of board action.

Additionally, as one of only three candidates from the Hinsdale South attendance area and father of three South students, Camden provides balance to a board that could end up Hinsdale Central-heavy if he is not re-elected.

Edwards, appointed to the board in August, brings a wonderful mix of qualities to the board, including an impressive professional resume. She’s smart, thoughtful and insightful and has taken advantage of the past eight months to acclimate to serving as a board member. She also lives in the South attendance area, with one son who graduated in 2020 and another in seventh grade. We believe her voice will be especially important as she continues her work on the District Culture and Equity Leadership Team and appreciate the diversity she brings to the board.

Levinthal’s intelligence and 13 years of experience in education, including work on as a high school math teacher, on the math department hiring committee and as an advisor, will serve her well as a board member. The mom of two Central students along with an eighth-grader and a kindergartner, she served on a committee to support the 2019 referendum. She is clearly motivated by a desire to provide the best education possible for students and to encourage open communication with constituents.

Waters, a 17-year district resident, is a longtime advocate of schools who gained valuable insight from constituents while campaigning for the 2018 and 2019 referendums. He is committed to data-driven decision-making and best practices for board governance, including open and collaborative communication. The parent of two Central students and one graduate, his background in economics and commitment to service also make him an attractive candidate.

James is knowledgeable about the district, where she has lived for 17 years, and would put her background in communications to use as she works to engage constituents in the decision-making process. She is the mom of four current, future and former students.

Walker is another strong candidate with an impressive background in human resources whose priorities align with many other candidates. She has lived in the district almost five years and is the parent of one Central student and a sixth-grader.

Turek, a lifelong Clarendon Hills resident who has eight years of experience on the Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 Board and two years on the District 86 Board, is a solid board member who cares about the community and is motivated by a desire to give back. He has two students at Central and one in District 181.

Pinnow, a 14-year district resident, has a background in accounting and finance, and a history of community service. We like his calm, reasonable approach to discussing district issues. He lives in the Central attendance area and has one student at South and one in eighth-grade.

Shannon, a lawyer with a doctorate in chemistry, who has lived in the district for 15 years, has come into her own as the campaign has progressed. She is the mom of a recent Central graduate and a junior there.

Barron is a 2017 graduate of Hinsdale South whose interest in serving in this position is admirable. He has knowledge of the district as a student but needs a broader perspective — and more life experience — to sit on the board. We also are concerned by his focus on highlighting division as a strategy to gain voters’ support.