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Dist. 214 board members back newcomer
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/4/2009 10:40 AM

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If the District 214 school board were high school, Leslie Pinney would probably be eating lunch by herself in the cafeteria.

This week, three of Pinney's fellow board members announced they are backing someone else for her seat in April's election.

Incumbents Miriam (Mimi Cooper) Spickard, Lenore Gonzales Bragaw and Jia Perkins released a statement saying they support Mark Hineman for the seat now held by Pinney.

"Mark Hineman shares our educational philosophy focused on enhancing student achievement and maintaining fiscal discipline," according to the news release.

Pinney, meanwhile, fired off a news release of her own on Tuesday.

"This doesn't surprise me at all," Pinney wrote. "I am someone who is willing to speak up, and they find that inconvenient. They don't want anyone who asks questions."

Four spots on the eight-member board are up for election April 7. Pinney, Cooper-Spickard and Gonzales Bragaw are running for re-election. Perkins, who was appointed in 2006 after Bill Blaine moved out of state, is running for a full term.

Bragaw, currently the board president, said Pinney has her own agenda and doesn't work well with the other board members.

"There have been some pretty contentious, awkward board meetings," Bragaw said. "We're all adults and we tried to make things work, but they're not."

Bragaw and Pinney point to the same board meeting almost a year ago as an example of the disconnect, when Pinney questioned a $104,000 contract to buy five vans from Lattof Chevrolet of Arlington Heights. Pinney said it didn't appear proper to accept a bid from a company that had made campaign contributions to some District 214 candidates.

Lattof contributed about $500 to the 2007 re-election campaign of Bill Dussling, Alva Kreutzer and Bob Zimmanck.

Lattof was the only company to bid on the van purchase.

"It was a thinly veiled accusation and a low blow," Bragaw said.

Pinney doesn't regret questioning the contract. "Oddly enough a year later we are buying some vans and now we have four bidders," she said.

Pinney has been on the District 214 school board since 2005, when she beat Stan Eisenhammer by about 400 votes to win the final seat. She raised controversy during the campaign by pledging to bring her Christian beliefs to board decision-making, and by collecting $20,000 for her campaign, a large sum for a nonpaying school board seat.

A year later, Pinney made headlines for wanting to pull nine books from the district's required reading list because of content she considered sexually graphic, vulgar and violent. The ensuing drama drew hundreds to a six-hour board session and prompted dueling Web sites before the board eventually voted 6-1, with Pinney dissenting, to keep the books on reading lists.

In April 2007, the Dussling, Kreutzer and Zimmanck slate coasted to re-election, running on a record of solid test scores and balanced operating budgets. Their campaign was also fueled by Pinney's attempt to remove the books from the curriculum.

It's an issue that still irks Bragaw today.

"There is still some residue from that," Bragaw said. "The issue isn't really dead. It still comes up in our schools."

Snub: Readling list issue lingers