Alan J. Rubenstein: Candidate Profile
Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary D102
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Buffalo Grove
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary D102
Family: Married to my wife Holly for 18 years. We have lived in the district since we were married in 1992. I have two daughters currently in District 102, Gillian and Abby, who are in the 6th grade and 4th grade, respectively, at Meridian and Tripp schools.
Occupation: Attorney, Executive Vice President at Chicago Legal Search, Ltd.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1986
Juris Doctor, De Paul University College of Law, 1990
Civic involvement: Long Range Planning Committee, D102
Temple Chai Brotherhood
Volunteer Coach and Member of the Board, Vernon Hills Stingers Girls Fastpitch Softball
Cook County Bar Association
Volunteer for Career Assistance- UW-Madison and DePaul University College of Law
Elected offices held: None, have never previously sought elective office.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Ensuring that District 102 does an outstanding job in preparing its students to thrive at Stevenson High School and to maximize their opportunities for a top notch college education and successful career. We must never lose sight of this critical mission as it is essential to our children's long-term success. This requires careful self-examination as a district, which means closely examining areas of strength and not being afraid to acknowledge areas that need improvement. This can be done, in part, by working with the Stevenson District (125) using correlative data from former D102 students who are currently at Stevenson to assess what things are working well for current D102 students and what areas need to be shored up, and by talking to former students about their own personal opinions and experiences. Parent input is critical as well. The best preparation also means that we must continue to hire and retain top notch educators and staff, and ensure that all of our our students are on the cutting edge of the rapid pace of technological change to be best prepared for the classroom and, indeed, economy of the 21st century.
Key Issue 2
Taking a no-nonsense approach to bullying and cyber-bullying to ensure the physical safety and emotional well-being of all of our students and staff, particularly given the dire consequences we have seen across the country when warning signs are missed or ignored. We must be on the forefront of these issues, particularly the very troubling issue of bullying through social media. We must speak clearly and with one strong voice on this issue as a community and, as parents, take responsibility at home to teach the lessons of right and wrong that we were taught as kids. Further, we need to focus on not only responding to bullying and working tirelessly to prevent it, but also to making sure our teachers and staff are attuned to the warning signs in students who may be starting to display the early warning signs of social or emotional changes. There are some unique things I have read in studying this issue that some districts are doing in this regard, including the use of student surveys during the year to analyze students' self-perceptions. This will help teachers and staff better recognize sudden changes in self-esteem and emotional well-being before the problems manifest themselves in a destructive way.
Key Issue 3
Fiscal responsibility. We have had incredibly generous, almost unprecedented taxpayer support in D102 that enables us to do many things that other districts do not have at their disposal, particularly in these challenging economic times. With that generosity comes great responsibility for the board to manage these funds very carefully and conservatively and to see that they are used in a manner that most directly provides tangible results for all of our students and faculty.
How satisfied are you that your district is preparing students for the next stage in their lives, whether it be from elementary into high school or high school into college or full-time employment? What changes, if any, do you think need to be made?
I think the district is doing reasonably well overall. That said, we can improve and do a better job of preparing our students for the rigors of Stevenson and their college education. As a district, we must guard against complacency. We have the resources and means to compete with most any district in the state and we should not be afraid to set the bar very high and strive to meet and exceed it. While our district's vision is very important, it is only one step. Along with this vision, we need to set more tangible goals which allow for self evaluation. I would support setting specific standards for our district and reviewing these on an annual basis to make sure we are meeting and exceeding the goals that we set. Needless to say, first and foremost this starts with the quality of our teachers and staff. We need to continue to carefully look at ensuring that we are hiring and retaining the best teachers and staff available and then making sure that we are creating an environment where they feel great support from the board, administration, students and community. As noted previously, we need to be examining the performance of our former students at the high school level as a way of assessing how well we have prepared them in the different disciplines. We need to continue to strengthen the SEEK program for our more advanced students, particularly in the areas of math and science as the middle school program is presently more reading focused. Finally, we need to continue to strongly support our devoted staff and the programs in special education, social work and for our english language learners. Our ultimate responsibility is to every student, based on their individual needs, to maximize their potential.
What budget issues will the district have to confront? What measures do you support to address them? If cuts are needed, be specific about programs and expenses that should be reduced or eliminated. Do you support any tax increases for local schools?
Thanks to the outstanding support of the taxpayers in District 102, absolutely no tax increase is necessary and I would adamantly oppose one. Based on the level of funding we presently have, we do not need to cut any particular programs. That being said, we have an obligation to our students and the taxpayers In D102 to make certain that we are getting the most bang for our buck from the programs in place and if we are not seeing very positive results, we should not be afraid to alter or eliminate those programs and take a fresh approach. There is a lot of innovation in teaching and learning going on currently across the country and we need to study pilot programs in Illinois and nationally to look for novel approaches to better preparing our students.
Is experience as a teacher or support from a union valuable because it suggests educational insights or detrimental because it creates pro-teacher bias? Please clarify whether you have such experience or would accept union support.
I do not think such a question can be answered in absolute terms. It depends upon the nature of the individual involved as to what their approach and mentality is. For some teachers, it may be a great strength, but for others a weakness if they maintain certain biases. I choose to evaluate each person on their own merits rather that reach conclusions about people based on general statements or assumptions. I would welcome an endorsement from anyone or any well intentioned organization, but will not seek or accept campaign contributions from anyone. Regardless of any endorsements I receive, I will only examine issues through a single solitary prism, i.e., is it something in the best interests of the students in D102.
As contract talks come up with various employee groups, what posture should the board take? Do you believe the district should ask for concessions, expect employee costs to stay about the same as they are now or provide increases in pay or benefits?
Our teachers are not up for collective bargaining for a couple of years yet, so a precise determination of this issue would be premature. The economy and market conditions at the time that the negotiations occur will obviously be critical variables. As an ""agent"" for top legal talent in Illinois, I believe my legal experience will be helpful here as I regularly negotiate complex personnel agreements, which require finding common ground among parties with divergent interests. I would make a simple statement here. The old expression, ""you get what you pay for"" comes to mind. If we want to compete to be the best and set the highest standards for our district, we need to have outstanding teachers and staff in order to make this happen. To continue to hire and retain outstanding teachers and staff, we will need to be very competitive regarding how we compensate our employees. We will be mindful of market conditions, though, to most effectively allocate taxpayer resources in this area.
If your district had a superintendent or other administrator nearing retirement, would you support a substantial increase in his or her pay to help boost pension benefits? Why or why not?
The term ""substantial"" could use some clarification here. We need to carefully consider this issue because this former common practice among other districts now has more direct fiscal consequences on our district. While our district needs to be competitive for top talent, the state legislature enacted a law in 2005 requiring that districts be responsible for funding pension increases resulting from pay increases greater than 6%. People should know that this district has not engaged in this practice in the same way many other districts have, as it has always treated its teachers the same way as its administrators with respect to benefits. Absent a compelling rationale at the time, I would not generally support such an increase well beyond the 6%, solely for the purpose of artificially increasing pension benefits. As the leader of the district, the Superintendent should be well compensated throughout her or his time in a very fair and competitive manner. Thus, such an increase at the end of their time of service should be unnecessary. We are all having to do more with less in this economy and we have to show appropriate fiscal restraint. I believe this practice, while once common in the most competitive districts, will most likely continue to wane as the realities of the state pension problems continue to emerge.
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