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Berry and three other District 135 board members retain seats

With all precincts reporting, in the five-way race for four seats on the Orland School District 135 Board of Education, current board president Dr. Laura Berry topped the polls with 22.46 percent of the votes (6,857), according to unofficial results from the Cook County Clerk’s office.

She was followed closely by current vice-president Sandra Kulak, who received 21.31 percent (6,505 votes), according to unofficial tallies.

Mike Matarea came in third with 19.72 percent (6,020 votes) and Devin Hodge won the fourth seat with 19.43 percent (5,930 votes). They also are current board members, along with Dave Shalabi, who lost his seat after coming in fifth, with 17.08 percent of the vote (5,213).

While Matarea, Berry and Kulak were running for their second four-year terms, Hodge and Shalabi had both been appointed in 2015 to fill unexpired terms, and were running for the first time for full four-year terms.

The newest addition to the board will be Linda Peckham Dodge, who ran unopposed for a two-year term.

In the run-up to the election, Berry said that as 40-year Orland Park residents, she and her husband have always counted the schools among the village’s greatest assets.

During the last four years, the school board has been able to direct some major changes to the quality of the education in Orland 135. Of note is the 1-to-1 technology program where students use devices (iPads or MacBooks). This technology has allowed our students to be 21st century learners and be competitive world learners. Additionally, all-day kindergarten is an initiative this board is very proud of,” she said.

“This school board is also very aware of the tax burden our citizens carry, and have not raised the taxes,” said Berry, who was a parent, teacher and administrator in Orland 135 before being a board member.

Hodge, the chief operations officer for the Computing, Environment and Life Sciences Directorate at Argonne National Laboratory, grew up in Orland Park and describes himself as “a proud product of District 135.” While four of the seven current members are or were educators, he said his different professional perspective “lends itself to a healthy board collaboration and enables checks and balances through sharing of diverse ideas and experiences.”
          Kulak, with a 37-year career in education, said she serves as a “
change agent” on the school board, initiating the 1-to-1 technology program, full-day kindergarten, and support for the “special-needs population.” Describing herself as “a fiscally-sound steward of public funds,” she said she voted not to increase property taxes, and would actively lobby state legislators not to cut funding.

         Maratea, who retired from a 34-year career as a teacher in School District 140, said he served as union president, negotiator and team leader during that time. He has served as chairman of the technology and human resources committees, and currently heads the finance committee.

“This is extremely important now since our state cannot pass a budget. Even though we are in a good financial position, the longer this goes on the tougher it gets,” he said.

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