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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: Round Lake
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Big Hollow Elementary D38, 4-year term
Family: Married to Jude Lancaster for 13 1/2 years. Three children, Alex (4th Grade), Emma (3rd Grade), Mason (pre-K)
Occupation: Homemaker, free-lance consultant, attorney
Education: Jurisdoctorate, cum laude, Northern Illinois University College of Law, 1997
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History, Illinois Wesleyan University, 1992
Civic involvement: Member, Illinois State Bar
Troop Leader, Girl Scouts of America
Advisory Board, Precious Lambs Preschool
Fundraising Committee, Precious Lambs Preschool
Classroom voluteer, Big Hollow School
Elected offices held: N/A
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
To increase the educational opportunities for students commensurate with growth of the district -- The Big Hollow School District has experienced a drastic rate of growth in the past decade. To address this, the District has done what it could to stay ahead of growth while continuing to educate our children. The new buildings on the Fish Lake Campus are a prime example. However, the overall definition of a quality education has not been redefined in light of this growth. Our Board and our administrators must look for opportunities to provide students with more avenues for academic excellence. Those opportunities can be identified and pursued by working with the teachers and parents in the district who seek more for the students. Academic excellence can be pursued in many ways with some suggestions being gifted programming, more emphasis on the arts, expanded out of school experiences (field trips), and foreign language education in the middle school.
Key Issue 2
Demonstrate greater fiscal responsibility -- Big Hollow School District must evaluate its budget in light of the current financial crisis confronting the entire state of Illinois by considering operational cuts that may be more difficult to implement. The Board, working with the administration, must find opportunities to be more fiscally responsible, while maintaining continuity in the services it provides. Being fiscally responsible requires more than making cuts to staff and increasing class size...fiscal responsibility should consider all budget items and making cuts where the academic experiences of our students are impacted the least.
Key Issue 3
Strive to be a ""greener"" district -- Big Hollow should be encouraged to work harder to become a ""greener"" school district. For example, students receive paper newsletters from the teachers, as well as from their individual schools on a weekly basis. The amount of paper waste that is generated is excessive. Paper coming home should be minimized by requiring newsletters and other important information to be on-line. If paper must come home, it should be organized so that all children in the same family do not bring home duplicate papers. In addition, the hot lunch program currently utilizes styrofoam lunch trays that are thrown away each day by every student ordering hot lunch. That is a disappointing waste of resources which also sends a message of environmental irresponsibility to the students and community. An energy audit could be conducted that would assist the district in making changes in its operation that may be more cost-effective, as well as more environmentally conscious.
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?
Big Hollow prepares students to enter Grant Township High School. Academically, our students perform at an above average level in terms of testing, as demonstrated by the high math scores of the students. However, I think their education experience needs to be more well-rounded with the inclusion of subjects such as foreign language, economics, and music. By fostering a closer relationship between the administrators and boards of education at both Big Hollow and Grant, students can enter high school with more confidence and the tools to be successful. By surveying former Big Hollow students and families about their transition to Grant and by working with counselors and faculty at the high school, Big Hollow could make necessary curriculum adjustments so that our students are better equipped to enter high school. A liason from the Board should be appointed to work directly with the Grant Township High School Board, as well as other local school boards, to ensure that our students are as prepared as possible for the next stage in their lives.
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?
Big Hollow will confront difficult financial decisions in the future. Funding from the state for mandated educational programs is inconsistent and often nonexistent. In the past, I have supported tax increases for local schools. However, these increases must be accompanied by a show of fiscal responsibility by the leaders of the district. With the passage of Big Hollow's most recent referendum, the voters were told that a no tax increase would be presented to them later as a continuation of the cash bonds that were then being approved. That, I support. However, if the taxpayers need to be asked for any tax increase for the schools, then the Board must demonstrate a willingness to review the budget, line by line, to make cuts in the operating budget of the school that will least impact the direct education of its students. Programs such as hot lunch and bussing should be considered before a reduction in teaching staff and the elimination of art and music from the curriculum. In addition, an energy audit can be conducted to see how the district can operate more efficiently. We need to ensure that we are receiving all monies that we are qualified to receive from all levels of government. An additional source of revenue for Big Hollow School can be an increased application rate for various grants that are offered for a plethora of programming. Any efforts to see additional revenue, while cutting operational costs are indications to the taxpayers of fiscal responsibility.
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.
Teacher experience and input is extremely valuable to the functioning of a school board. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a pro-teacher bias since these people are charged with the incredible responsiblity of educating our children. The school board, administration, and teachers must work together to educate our children in a nurturing and safe environment. If all parties have the best interest of the students at the heart of their purpose, then working together can only be beneficial. My commitment, as a member of this board, would be to the students and parents of Big Hollow, as well as to the taxpayers to provide a quality education in a fiscally responsible manner. If that requires working with the union and union support, then that is how I will proceed. If, however, the goals of the union, or any party to a project, stray from the best interest of the children, then that would need to be addressed.
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 nation is facing a tough economic time. In our homes, our businesses, and our schools, most of us have had to make difficult decisions about our budgets and our bottom lines. The board should take a fair and open position in all contract talks, just as employee groups should be expected to do. Pay and benefits can be increased or frozen depending on the needs of the district at the time of talks, as long as what is ultimately driving the decision is the best interest of the students and the district.
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?
No, I would not. Since a superintendent or other administrator should already be at a salary level commensurate with his or her duties, any increase above and beyond the normal rate of increase, typically the rate of inflation, any form of ""pension padding"" should not be necessary. The pension should be based on the total salary, including benefits, of the last three years of service, without any substantial increase.