By Terry Dean
Terry Finnegan didn't throw a party at a local eatery or have a house full of supporters watching election night returns on April 9.
It was just a quiet evening at home for the District 200 school board member. It was not a happy one in terms of the high school board race, which Finnegan lost his bid for a second term.
"I think the voters did a great job and I'm pleased with the four people they chose," he told Wednesday Journal in a phone call late last Tuesday.
All but a few of the 46 precincts in the D200 race had reported. Finnegan came in seventh out of 13 candidates on the ballot. He amassed just over 2,400 votes. The new board members — Jeff Weissglass, Jackie Moore, Tom Cofsky and Steve Gevinson — will be seated on May 2.
Finnegan offered to meet with all of the candidates on the ballot prior to Tuesday's election. Some took him up on his offer, including the winning candidates. It was something he wanted to do to help educate the candidates on what it takes to be an effective school board member. Such an overture, he acknowledges, wasn't the kind of cut-throat politicking usually seen in campaigning — and he's more than fine with that.
"Everyone who attended the forums and put themselves out there was very thoughtful and serious. There was no mudsling or anything like that during the campaign," he said.
Finnegan ran a somewhat low-key campaign by design. He wanted the campaign to be about the issues for all of the candidates running. He explained that during the campaign and to Wednesday Journal via a March 29 letter to the editor.
Finnegan was not going to run as part of a slate. That, he says, could have led to some strife on the next board among those winners possibly snubbed by the slate. The board already had its share of contention when Finnegan was elected. He entered a fractious board that was divided on whether to retain the superintendent at the time, among other divisive issues.
Finnegan says he and other board members tried to heal those wounds over the last four years. Hiring Steven Isoye as superintendent in 2010 was the board's best move, according to Finnegan.
"Bringing Steve into the district is one accomplishment that I'm proud to have played a part in," he said. "The morale in the building was pretty bad when I came on board. Now, the feeling in the building is much different."
Finnegan doesn't see himself running for elected office again but says he will stay active in the community.
As for other accomplishments during his first term, he cites the school's continued steps to improve the achievement gap and help struggling students. As for things he wished could've been better, Finnegan admits he could have run a more active campaign. Educating the community better on the school's finances was another. OPRF has been battered for its $100 million fund balance. But many people have difficulty understand the complexities of school finances, he says.
"There's no sound bite that will help people understand that. We have a board committee that's going to help people understand how school revenues work. But we could have done a better job in reaching out and letting people know about school finances."