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Finances a key issue in school board race

STERLING – Financial stability is the top concern of candidates for the Sterling School Board on the April 9 ballot.

Four board seats are open: two that represent Sterling Township, and two that represent other parts of the district.

Incumbents Terry McGuire and Marc A. Geil, who represent Sterling Township, are seeking re-election. They essentially are unopposed, as two may be elected from the township.

Current board President James W. Brotheridge, who comes from the area outside of Sterling Township, is seeking re-election. He faces a challenge from newcomers Pamela J. Clodfelter and Cuauhtemoc Reyes.

Jim McPherson, who was appointed to the board in 2007, is not seeking re-election.

Brotheridge believes the current board has put the school district on good financial footing.

The board set a goal to balance the Education Fund within 3 years; the district is in its second year of a 3-year budget-reduction plan. It has not been easy, Brotheridge said, but the district is on track to meet the goal.

“The problem is either getting rid of programs ... or getting rid of staff,” he said. “You can run a deficit budget, but you can’t run a deficit budget forever. It’s not a long-term solution.”

With schools facing reduced state aid, Clodfelter thinks the board must be open to innovative ideas to ensure that quality educational opportunities remain intact.

“I can’t go in there with an agenda. ... It would be premature of me to say, ‘This is what we need to do,’” she said. “I feel a responsibility ... to the community to make sure their voices are heard, to the students to make sure they continue to receive a quality education ... and to the staff, because they deserve to have a safe environment to work in and the resources available to them. ...”

Reyes, who has been a teacher and now is an administrator, thinks the board should continue to pursue grants and donations for projects and programs to take the sting out of inevitable cuts.

“Unfortunately, without increased revenue, the board will have to look at more cuts,” he said. “The board will have to have some tough conversations and see where it can get rid of any excess, which is hard, since it just had to let go of 12 teachers.”

The candidates:

Pamela J. Clodfelter

Age: 45

Family: Husband, Randy; daughter, Meghan, sophomore at Sterling High School; son, Mitchell, seventh-grader at Challand Middle School

Education: Bachelor's degree in agriculture communications, a master's degree in education from University of Illinois

Occupation: Agriculture literacy coordinator for Whiteside County; former dean of student services at Sauk Valley Community College

Government experience: None; former United Way Board member and former University of Illinois Extension Council member

James W. Brotheridge

Age: 71

Family: Wife, Bonnie; three adult children, Eric, Keith and Kelci; one grandson

Education: Rock Falls High School; bachelor's degree in biology from Monmouth College; master's degree in outdoor education from Northern Illinois University; master's degree in educational administration from Western Illinois University

Occupation: Retired; former principal of Sterling Christian School

Government experience: Sterling School Board member (1994-1997, 2001-present), president since 2005, and CGH Health Foundation Board member

Cuauhtemoc Reyes

Age: 39

Family: Parents Michael and Mary Reyes; brother, Michael; sister, Delora

Education: Sterling High School; associate degree from Sauk Valley Community College; bachelor's degree in Spanish, master's degrees in Spanish and educational leadership, all from Northern Illinois University; working on doctorate in educational administration at NIU

Occupation: Assistant principal at Rockford East High School

Government experience: None

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