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updated: 2/24/2011 12:55 PM

Donna M. Johnson: Candidate Profile

River Trails Elementary D26

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  • Donna M. Johnson, running for River Trails Elementary D26

    Donna M. Johnson, running for River Trails Elementary D26




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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Mount Prospect

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: River Trails Elementary D26

Age: 60

Family: Married, two sons, one grandson

Occupation: Fiscal Coordinator

Education: Harper College

Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.

Elected offices held: Board of Education 1987-1998

Board of Education 2003-present

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

We need to set a new tone for open communications between the Board and the community. We need to hold more informal gatherings such as open forums, coffees, etc. We still need to connect more with residents who have no children in District 26 schools. We also need to invite senior citizens into our schools so they can volunteer their time and talents. Everyone then becomes a key communicator in the community and can advocate for our schools.

Key Issue 2

We need to continue to provide resources to students to prepare them for the future. This year we implemented many new initiatives to support our educational programs. At the elementary schools, we adopted a new math textbook, Expressions, as well as piloted the new FOSS science program. We have made revisions to the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Euclid and provided extra reading support for struggling students at River Trails Middle School. Next year we will convert the Home Ec classroom into a middle school version of Project Lead the Way. The new curriculum will have a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) foundation. All these endeavors improve the educational opportunities for the children in our district.

Key Issue 3

We need to lessen the tax burden on the many residents who live on fixed incomes, or who are out of work, or who are under-employed, or who saw their home value drastically drop. Our district budget counts on local revenue from real estate taxes and general state aid from the state of Illinois. The state has created a system that relies too heavily on property taxes and it needs to be changed. As for the general state aid, simply put, the state needs to pay their bills. While I believe District 26 is in better fiscal condition than most others, the sluggish economy, booming employee helth-care benefits, Randhusrt renovations, reduced property tax revenue, and the lagging State budgets each have a huge impact on our district's financial health. We need to assure the community we continually monitor and evaluate our expenses to ensure we are receiving the best value for our dollar.

Questions & Answers

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 am quite satisfied District 26 is preparing our students for high school. For many years, our administration has been articulating with the high school to share information and curriculum strategies. It is a known fact that students learn at different rates and in different ways. It is my responsibility as a Board member to work with the administration to ensure the curriculum is vigorous and varied to meet student needs and also to ensure student acheivement is increased.

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?

I believe the Board will have to determine when to stop using reserves to cover large deficit budgets. This year's budget with approximately 3M in the red was covered by reserves. According to our 5 year financial projection analysis, by 2016, our reserves will have dropped from 30% to 6%. I believe, during this current economic downturn, we need to continually look at expenses and make sure we are receiving the best value for our dollar.

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 seek union endorsement. I value teacher experience and their educational insights. As a parent, grandparent, and District 26 Board member, I have witnessed teachers and support staff working hard to help children reach their potential. I understand and appreciate their commitment to student achievement.

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?

All in all, our district has had collaborative negotiations with our employee groups for many years. We recently signed a 4 year contract (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014) with our union.

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?

As a Board member, it is my fiduciary responsibility to ensure the wise use of the taxpayers hard earned money. I am against inflating a retiring administrator's salary because it not only burdens the pension system, it also triggers an artifical base salary for the incoming replacement!