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.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Millburn Elementary D24, 4-year term
Family: Married, three children (ages 2, 4, and 6)
Occupation: Stay-at-home mother
Education: M.A. Counseling, Northeastern Illinois University, 2004
M.Ed. Second Languages and Cultures, University of Minnesota, 1998
B.A. English and Spanish, University of Michigan, 1997
Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Maintaining and improving quality education at Millburn
Key Issue 2
Key Issue 3
Developing a vision and plan for Millburn District 24 with input from all stakeholders
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?
Overall, I am proud of the education Millburn students receive. For the past 2 years, our district received the Bright A+ Award for scoring in Illinois' top 5% on the ISAT exam. The feedback we receive from area high schools is overwhelmingly positive; Millburn students are very well prepared to be successful and are among the highest achieving on the EXPLORE exam, a test widely used to determine placement in high school courses. We must continue to improve upon the achievements we have already made, particularly in reading and math. I would love to see the curriculum at Millburn expanded to include, at the very least, foreign language. Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, adding curriculum is a difficult proposition.
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?
Prior to my appointment to the board in May of 2009, Millburn District overspent by an average of $1.8 million per year for four years and accrued $3.8 million in tax anticipation warrant (TAW) debt. During my tenure on the Board, we have balanced the budget for the past two years and have begun to pay down our debt while, at the same time, maintaining our high academic standards. In May of 2010, I was a co-author and co-presenter at Millburn's Information Forum in which we outlined our financial situation and alternatives for taxpayers (this information is available on the District 24 website). Since then, I was one of two Board members to serve on the Board's negotiations committee. We negotiated a 4% cut for administrators and a 2% cut for teachers in their contracted salaries for the 2010-11 school year. In addition, the Board has reduced transportation costs, continued to suspend curriculum updates and new textbook purchases, increased facilities usage and activity fees to more adequately cover incremental costs, and combined both our Millburn Central and Millburn West sports and bands. This spring, the district will be forced to make additional cuts in order to maintain a balanced budget and will end up cutting approximately 20 teachers (about 17% of the teaching staff). As a parent, I hate the idea of increased class sizes and staff cuts. Nonetheless, the district must live within its means. With diminished funding from the state, District 24 will need to continue to be frugal. The status quo is not sustainable; at some point we will need to update curriculum. To that end, I am one of two Board members serving on the strategic planning committee. We hope, through this process, to establish a vision for the next five years and to help find ways to provide students with the best education taxpayers can afford. In light of fact that our state income taxes are set to rise, I am hopeful that the schools will receive more reliable payments from the state.
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 have a Masters of Education and have been both a teacher and school counselor at the high school level. Having an education background has helped me as a Board member, especially in terms of understanding school culture, curriculum and instruction, some of the laws that govern public schools and make them different from the business sector, and understanding the programs that schools must support (RtI being a recent and important example). Being an educator has been helpful for me, but it has not defined my role on the Board; I am also a parent, a taxpayer, and a community member. I have to consider and protect the interests of all of those groups. Although Millburn does not have a teachers' union, I welcome the support of the teachers, many of whom also live in our community.
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?
I was one of two Board members to serve on the Board's negotiations committee this past year. We negotiated a 4% cut for administrators and a 2% cut for teachers in their contracted salaries for the 2010-11 school year. Our teachers and administrators have already made concessions. For our district, it is important to keep expenses as low as possible. At the same time, we also want to maintain our highly competent teaching staff and need to be prepared to compensate them fairly.
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?
At Millburn, the contact currently reads that a retiring employee is entitled to a 6% increase in salary for a maximum of four years. 6% is the maximum allowed by the state. In the current economic climate, and in light of the impending staff reduction, 6% is excessive.