Miller argues that the DPS109 Caucus provides a voice from the community, for the community through the Caucus process. The 109 Caucus is made up of 24 members, coming from each DPS109 elementary and junior high school as well as the community at large, a cross section of the community.
The Caucus’s purpose is to vet, slate and endorse candidates for the District 109 School Board. The Caucus does have a set of requirements to be on the School Board which include:
- U.S. citizens
- Registered voters
- Residents of school district 109 for at least one year prior to the date of the election in the odd-numbered year
The Caucus requires a three-part process for all interested candidates. First, there is a written application. From there, each applicant participates in a two part interview process with the entire Caucus.
From this point, the Caucus “vets” candidates. Miller says there is only value in the “vetting” process for the available number of seats on the Board. In other words, if there are ten applicants, five who are qualified but only three seats available, only three candidates would be endorsed.
Miller believes that it is the Caucus's responsibility to make a recommendation for only the open positions to the community.
Does Caucus Process Work?
Debbie Hymen is a current Township High School District 113 School Board member after a 12-year, three-term run on the District 112 School Board. Hymen was never endorsed by the 112 or 113 Caucus. But she won in spite of the non-endorsement of the Caucus.
In running for the District 113 Board, Hymen did go through the Caucus process. Completed the application, went through the interview process, yet was not slated. But she ran anyway and was successful in her bid for the position.
Hymen believes that the caucus serves a purpose in the School Board election process. When asked if she were to run for the School Board again, would she go through the Caucus process again, without hesitation Hymen responded, “Absolutely”.
Caucus: A Tool
Miller and Hymen both felt strongly that the Caucus process is a tool for the community.
“The Caucus is an organization that provides another tool to assist community members in making a choice in their school board candidates,” Miller said. So, how then, did Debbie Hymen win multiple times without the endorsement of the Caucus?
“I talked to people,” she said. “In a nutshell, that is the key.”
Miller felt like “talking to people” was a key component of the role the Caucus plays in the vetting process.
“Would you ever vote for a Presidential candidate off of a resume? Without ever seeing or listening to him/her? Of course not,” Miller said. The Caucus does exactly that. They read candidates applications, but then speak to them directly, look them in the eye. In this day and age, where so much information can be found online, there remains a lot to be said for talking face to face.
Caucus Process: A Roadblock?
While many factors play into a person’s decision to be on the District 109 School Board, the question of whether the Caucus is a deterrent in that process continues to stand out. In 2010-2011, only 3 candidates went through the Caucus process and 3 candidates were slated.
Yet, when a position was to be appointed by the Board, there were 24 applicants. Did all 24 of these interested School Board members not want to go through the Caucus process? Do the written application and interview process scare interested candidates from even applying?
Miller certainly hopes not this year. “The more the merrier,” is one of his key phrases heading into the 2012-2013 Caucus process. Miller and Hymen both agree that the more candidates that apply and are interested, the more choices we have as a community, the more engaged we are as a community.
Helpful Resource or Roadblock?
Based on my discussions with both Miller and Hymen, the Caucus process adds value. It is a tool that we, as a community, can utilize to assist in our decision making process as we determine who we want as our 2012-2013 School Board members.
But, it is just one tool, not the only tool. The onus remains on each of us to do our due diligence and make an educated decision about what we want for our schools and our community.