Nine candidates up for Plainfield School Board election: four presumably anti-union, backed by far right politician


Graphic credit: Amber Simonic

These are the five candidates recommended by the Association of Plainfield Teachers Union.

Delaney O'Sullivan, News Editor

The 2021 consolidated election is April 6 and stakes are high, especially for the Plainfield 202 School Board election. The board has a total of seven seats, four of which are up for grabs this year. It is a particularly competitive election year as there are nine candidates. 

Out of the nine, there is a four person slate calling themselves “Parents for Choice.” Their main (and seemingly only) platform? Reopening the school district. The slate includes Annie Klupshas (Healthcare Practice Manager), Rick Todd (Will County Patrol Sergeant), Raj Pillai (represents a consulting practice that advises CFO organizations), and Nick Giannasi (mental health counselor). 

The Parents for Choice slate is campaigning hard to win the election and hold a majority on the board in order to fully reopen the district. There are a couple issues with this as their main platform. 

For one thing, the pandemic will not last forever. Eventually, everyone who wants a vaccine will be vaccinated and life will carry on. When that time comes, what will these four do? Their main platform of reopening the schools overshadows other efforts such as addressing student mental health and district fiscal responsibility. The Parents for Choice group has little agenda related to a post-COVID world.

Additionally, their nonchalant attitudes regarding CDC guidelines is a punch in the face to anyone who has lingering concerns over reopening schools. 

On March 14, the group spoke at a Naperville rally in support of reopening schools. It is extremely difficult to take their pleas seriously after they gathered in groups of several hundred while disregarding CDC guidelines. Those actions alone delegitimize their agenda. 

This group does not take issue associating with party politics. 

Former Republican candidate for 49th district state senate Tom McCullagh has expressed his overwhelming support for the Parents for Choice slate, writing on Facebook that he has met with them and coordinated rallies with them. McCullagh, who has been pictured at a rally with a QAnon flag in the photo, also attended a Back the Blue rally where protesters had signs that said “Save our children,” a common QAnon phrase. An article from the Plainfield Patch even calls McCullagh a QAnon follower himself (in a response received after publication, Mr. McCullagh denies supporting QAnon).

Additionally, McCullagh openly supported the baseless claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election and attended the Stop the Steal rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 (he later released a statement saying he did not participate in the insurrection that followed). 

Another speaker at the rally, Senator Darren Bailey (R), has pushed for the full reopening of Illinois and recently announced his 2022 gubernatorial bid. Bailey also sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reopen the state. 

The four candidates also turned down the opportunity to speak to the Plainfield Teacher’s Union (APT-IEA), and screenshots have circulated of their supporters trashing the union. One supporter commented on a post that they’d support any candidate that “challenges” the “ridiculous teacher’s union.”

Disregarding the facts is a common theme among this bunch. In several instances, the group has been fact-checked by Facebook users in the comment section of their posts. Klupshas recently made a post claiming that the district did not have reading specialists; one Plainfield teacher corrected her in the comments saying that the district does have reading specialists and she happens to be one. 

Additionally, the slate has little experience in education. Not one candidate in the group is a teacher, an incumbent school board member, or has experience in the classroom. How can the student body trust that this group has their best interests at heart when they have not witnessed the problems faced on the daily? 

So who to support instead?

Toni Galan, Rod Westfall, Barbara Seiden, Bob Smith and Kathy Baxter all have experience on the board or in the classroom. 

Baxter, Galan, and Smith all have experience in public education. Baxter and Smith are retired Plainfield 202 teachers or administrators, and Galan is a Special Education Administrator in Crest Hill.

Seiden served on PTO boards at her children’s schools, is an active member of CAPE on the executive board, and has worked as a substitute teacher in the district. Westfall has been a member of the school board for twenty years.

Galan, Westfall, Seiden, Smith, and Baxter have been endorsed by the Plainfield Teacher’s Union (APT-IEA).

If eligible to vote, community members who truly support students should register and do research on all elected positions and candidates. To find election and voting information residents can look to the Will County Clerk’s Office and the Kendall County Clerk’s Office.


CORRECTIONS FROM THE ORIGINAL STORY: ****Giannasi was spelled wrong in the original story and Pillai represents a consulting practice, advising CFO organizations. Pillai is not a CFO. Klupshas also served two terms on the Walker’s Grove PTO as VP. Presumably added to headline. Giannasi is a former Youth Minister and is now a mental health counselor.

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