Gallo, Greenspon earn top vote totals

Who will fill third seat on D86 board still not decided as votes continue to be counted

Kay Gallo and Cat Greenspon appear to have won two of the three open seats on the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board.

Gallo received 6,702 and Greenspon 6,615, according to unofficial totals in DuPage and Cook counties Wednesday.

"I am surprised, Gallo said. "It's so hard to know how it goes. I wasn't going anywhere yesterday. I just stayed home because I've been with a group where people didn't make it and that's really sad."

Less than 200 votes separated Asma Akhras and Andrew Catton Wednesday, with Akhras in the lead 5,109-4,914.

"We're just waiting patiently," Akhras said. "We haven't declared victory and he hasn't conceded. We said we would wait until Friday for the ballots to be counted.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," she added. "Obviously we're optimistic from what the numbers are showing us right now, but we're waiting."

Multiple attempts to reach Catton were unsuccessful.

A mainstream message

Gallo and Greenspon both credited their victories to sharing a message that resonated with voters.

"I think with my messaging, I was very consistent, and I was just putting it out there the way I felt," Gallo said. "With as many votes as I've gotten, it possibly says to me a lot of people are feeling the same thing I was feeling."

An outspoken critic of Superintendent Tammy Prentiss, Gallo said she looks forward to be part of a board majority that will review FOIA legal fees, live stream and record all board and committee meetings and promote audience communication.

Greenspon pointed to her desire to support the entire district - with a focus on students - and her desire for collaboration at the board table and willingness to listen as reasons for her success.

"In my campaign, I worked very hard to make sure that all voices were heard and their rights to their opinion were respected," Greenspon said. "If any part of the community is excluded from the very, very crucial conversation of our students and our school district, than the conversation is incomplete."

A more collaborative approach is needed at the board table, Greenspon said.

"I think that's going to be the responsibility of the board president, whomever that is - I have no idea," she said. "It has to be very clear the mission of the board is to support the district, all students, all employees and the entire community.

Gallo said she hopes to be elected board president.

"I've had the experience of being board president and I believe that's what's needed to get us through these times of what the district needs to do," she said.

She agreed with Greenspon that more voices need to be heard.

"I'm hoping the rhetoric can get toned down and we can start listening to one another, because I'm very adamant about listening to people who have different views than mine," Gallo said. "When you listen to people with different views, you learn things, and we all need to learn from one another."

Partisan politics

Gallo, Greenspon and Akhras all lamented the introduction of party politics and personal attacks during the campaign.

Gallo noted she is a registered Democrat and yet earned an endorsement from former state senator Kirk Dillard, a well-known Republican.

"It should not be Republican or Democrat. It should be doing the work to educate the students, getting them to be good global citizens - that's what it should be," she said.

Greenspon said she hopes a focus on students will help engender more unity.

"I think the division in the community is very clear and I hope that we all can come together in support of the school district, especially the kids, our students," she said.

Greenspon said everyone is entitled to their opinion, but some individuals carried things too far.

"It was hurtful. There is no question it was very hurtful," she said. "However, my personal feelings are not the priority. The priority is the students, and I can move forward with hurt feelings, still keeping my priority all students and the entire district."

Akhras said she was disappointed, but not surprised, by some of the tactics employed.

"It has been very brutal with the continued allegations and there has been a lot of smearing, and we have to keep the integrity of the highest values we can control," she said. "This experience has been a roller coaster, but at the end of the day, I feel so much gratitude for all the support we were able to receive."

Debbie Willoughby, who came in fifth, said she thinks her status as a relative newcomer to district hurt her chances.

"I'm happy that Asma, Kay and Cat won," she said, assuming Akhras would take the third seat. "Obviously disappointed for myself. I'm happy for them and know they will do a good job representing the district."

Would she consider running again the in the future?

"I would definitely consider it," she said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean