The Batavia School District 101 School Board will have plenty of new faces after the April 9 election since only one incumbent is running for four open seats.
Departing are board vice president Jack Hinterlong, president Ron Link and member Joseph Purpura. Tina Bleakley was appointed last year to a fill a vacancy on the seven-member board and now is seeking election.
Here's a look at the seven candidates:
Mike Papka, 45, has lived in Batavia since 2005 and has two children at Grace McWayne Elementary. Papka, whose background is in scientific research, has worked at Argonne National Laboratory for 20 years. He is also an associate professor of computer science at Northern Illinois University.
He said he and his wife have been impressed with their children's education and he wants to "contribute back to the community."
As to what he'd focus on if elected, he said: "I have no priorities or agenda — or at least I don't have enough understanding of the issues currently facing the district to give a list of priorities. The most important issue facing District 101 is finding the right balance between financial constraints and what is best for the children."
Tina Bleakley, 44, is a social worker for Mutual Ground Inc. in Aurora and the mother of three daughters in Batavia schools. She was a PTO president and is the current chairwoman of the Batavia Interschool Council.
Bleakley said she wants to build on her experience and relationships within the school system.
"I want to be a part of solutions and changes," she said. "I think it is easy to sit back and judge or criticize teachers, schools, policy and administration … I will make the effort to be a part of positive decisions and solutions that will be in the best interest of all involved in this community."
Bleakley said that if elected, she wants to work on enhancing communications and bringing more community awareness about what is happening in schools.
Gary Grizaffi, 49, is assistant superintendent of administrative services for Valley View Community Unit School District 365U. He has lived in Batavia for 17 years and has two children in the schools.
Grizaffi said his more than 25 years in public education have prepared him to be an active member of the District 101 board. He said he understands school business management and how school districts operate, and can help District 101 navigate declining revenues and the possible financial burden of pension reform.
"Public education is a very complex business that requires someone who understands the multiple aspects of its operation," Grizaffi said. "It would be difficult to find a more qualified board candidate than myself."
He said that while he supports the current board's recent decisions, he thinks the $13 million price tag for improvements to the high school's outdoor fields is too high and that the board will need to "trim back the scope of the project" to get voter approval.
Sue Locke, 47, is a small business owner and mother of two sons in Batavia schools. She is a current PTO president at Alice Gustafson. She said she was inspired to run for school board after seeing members in action three years ago when she and other parents lobbied on the issue of class size.
"This one event prompted me to become involved in the school board meetings, and since then I have seen how well the board works with the community, teachers and administrators," she said, adding that she would be a good fit because of her committee experience and work in the schools.
She said she'd focus on keeping class sizes down and coping with possible pension changes. Locke said she disagreed with the decision to scrap all-day kindergarten. One son was a part of the program, she said, and she saw firsthand the benefits.
"In light of the Chicago Public Schools now offering all-day kindergarten, I would like to see this program return," Locke said.
Jon Gaspar, 56, is retiring this summer after 33 years as a teacher in District 131. He has a daughter at Batavia High School. He said he is running because people should be involved in their community and he hopes his background could benefit the board.
"I want to be financially responsible to the citizens of the district, have a strong curriculum that aligns with common core standards, have a safe learning environment for all, and have quality administrators and teachers to prepare our young people for the future," he said. "My two main issues will be class sizes and state funding with the pension situation ... without knowing what the state will be doing about finances, this could really be a challenge in the next few years."
He also said he thinks the district's "listening post" that solicited community feedback has been positive and he would like that to continue.
Jim Karner, 42, was a financial advisor who is now a stay-at-home dad to four children. He's also treasurer-elect of the PTO and a soccer coach. His interest in the school board seat comes from wanting the best education for his children, he said.
"I believe the days of simply raising taxes as a means of solving budget deficits are over," he said. "I chose to move to Batavia eight years ago based on the good reputation of the Batavia school system. I would like to have a hand in continuing to improve our schools, in a way that best serves the interest of our students and the taxpayers."
He said his background as a financial advisor working with diverse clients could help the district..
Jason Stoops, 39, is a recruiting manager and partner for a company that provides professional staffing services, as well as managing director and partner of Stoops Enterprises, a residential real estate and property management company. He has three daughters in Batavia schools and is a soccer coach.
"My background and specialty lends well to the demands of this position," he said. "My attention to detail, budget experience, talent identification, a focus on moving forward to resolving issues and tenacity to come to a solution to any problem will serve the people of Batavia well."
He said the important issues facing the district in the coming years are implementing the common core standards and possible pension reform. He said he'd like to focus on reducing class sizes and disagreed with the district's decision to eliminate full-day kindergarten.