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updated: 2/23/2011 3:43 PM

Mark W. Johnson: Candidate Profile

DuPage H.S. D88

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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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Villa Park

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: DuPage H.S. D88

Age: 62

Family: Married 32 years, 4 children, 4 grandchildren

Occupation: Deputy Chief of Police - Retired

Education: Bachelor in Education Degree- Illinois State University '70

Masters in Music Education-Illinois State University '71

Cook County Police Academy (City College Credit) 1983

Civic involvement: Board member - District 45 Foundation

Former member - Villa Park Kiwanis

Former Board member - Tri-Town YMCA

Member of St. Paul Lutheran Church-Villa Park

St. Paul Church Council Member

PADS Worker

Elected offices held: District 88 Board Member 1999 to present (12 years)

President of the Board for the past 8 years

Board Delegate to the Illinios Association of School Boards

Board Representative to LEND (Legislative Eduction Network of DuPage)

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

In today's climate, the most important issue facing District 88 is maintaining our high level of academics and student focused curriculum in spite of declining revenues. Since we are a public school, we accept any child and are charged with preparing them to be valued and responsible members of the world ready for the 21st century and ready to achieve their dreams and visions. We need to continue developing a challenging, high quality curriculum that uses the best educational practices possible; practices that focus on assessment and analysis of individual student learning; curriculums that provide the skills established in the college readiness standards, so that we can maximize a student's opportunity to learn. We must be willing to provide learning interventions for those who are not learning at the expected rate and design opportunities to learn for those who come to us below grade level. We must also continue with our articulation efforts with our feeder districts to ensure that their curriculums are in line with the State Learning standards required for high school students. Even in light of the state financial situation, we cannot sacrifice our responsibility for student learning.

Key Issue 2

Obviously, the financial situation in the state presents a challenge to every school board. Although District 88 is known as a very fiscally responsible district, and even though the work of the district has earned us the highest Moody rating that can be given a school district, last year we found ourselves facing a deficit. We, the board, made the necessary hard decisions, raised student fees where possible, consolidated classes, and cut 30 positions across the district. This year we will be faced with yet more cuts. With contract negotiations coming up this year with several of our work groups, we need to find ways to gain the cooperation of all the bargaining units, educate them on the workings school finances, and work toward holding or reducing our expenditures at the current levels. We cannot do this at the expense of our students, so we need to look elsewhere -- more grant applications, better efficiency within the district, release of non-essential staff, and the cutting of the teaching force as necessary.

Key Issue 3

While continuing with the charge of being a non-partisan school board, our board needs to be more vocal and more involved in the situation found down in Springfield. Our state legislators, on both sides of the aisle, truly do not understand the intricacies of education. Most have not been in a public school in years and do not understand the problems we face. School board members need to teach our legislators about the burdens of unfunded mandates, about the importance of revamping teacher tenure so a teacher who is not a satisfactory teacher, can be forced to do better or face termination. This also goes beyond the legislators and reaches all the way to the Illinois State Board of Education. ISBE needs to listen to school boards and their District Administrators as to what works and what does not regarding Special Education and Bi-Lingual programs (two of the biggest drains on school budgets), do away with redundancy and unnecessary reports, and financially support efforts at student interventions. We also need to actively seek Teacher Pension Reform. While school boards are being forced to cut and stream-line, we see no such efforts on the part of either the legislature or ISBE. We must keep up the pressure through letter writing, lobbying, and discussions with all parties involved.

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?

Very satisfied. In order to prepare students for post-high school life, we must focus on both college-bound and career bound education. We work very hard in District 88 to assess and analyze each student's individual progress so we can see when interventions are necessary to bring the student up to where he/she should be in order to maximize their learning potential. We are constantly working with the feeder districts to ensure that the student we get from them has been taught the state learning standards necessary to prepare them for a successful high school career. We have aligned our curriculum with the most current national college readiness standards, and for those not college bound, but rather career bound, we have developed our curriculum to reflect a student's certification with the WorkKeys job skills assessment system. We also continue to develop our programs to encourage learning by all our diversity groups. Last year, at Addison Trail High School (our more diverse school) 98.9% of our Hispanic population graduated. Yes, we are very satisfied, but continue to explore and develop our methodology, data-analysis, curriculum, and interventions to reflect the best educational practices possible.

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?

Like every district, governmental entity, business, and private citizen, yes, we will again have budget concerns. Even though we hold the highest Moody bond rating possible for a school district, and even though we have the reputation of being a very fiscally responsible district, last year, it became apparent that we would have a budget shortfall due to the state failing to make their payments, the restricted taxing abilities placed on our school districts, low CPI, more mandated programs by the state, and cuts in previously state-funded programs. In response to the deficit, we ended up raising certain student fees, implemented expenditure reviews at both schools and the District Office, and reviewed the academic offerings to see what we could cut, consolidate, or modify without compromising student academic integrity. Then net result was the cutting of 30 staff across the district (both schools and at the District Office). This year we are again faced with looking at a 2011-12 deficit budget. In order to prevent that we have begun examining what additional cuts need to be made.

We have formed a special joint finance committee, comprised of our Financial company advisors, our district business officials, board members, representatives from all our work groups, and members of the community. The committee is meeting on a regular basis to examine the financial situation to prepare everyone for the contract bargainings that are coming up later this spring. It is essential that all parties understand the community and state monetary situation before going into bargaining.

Our ONLY FUNCTION as a district is the education of our students. I strongly support maintaining academic programs. While keeping a careful eye on class size, we need to maximize teaching efficiency. If necessary we need to increase the required teacher instructional and conference time even if that takes away from some of their prep time. Since the largest part of a School District budget is employees, I would support freezing salaries and cutting staff as possible as we did last year. At all costs, the best interests of the students and the programs they need for success must be maintained.

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 find it interesting that the question does not allow for insight of a parent. Any experience a board member can bring to the board helps in making decisions. We need board members from all walks of life -- businessmen, employed, unemployed, retired persons on fixed incomes, former teachers, governmental workers, union members, independents, all walks of life. Whatever knowledge the board members bring to the board, all board decisions must be examined and made in the best interest of the student. If a board member has educational insights, bring them forward. If there is knowledge of classroom best practices or ideas of better efficiency within the educational community, why would the board not listen?

Like every union, ideally they are there to represent their membership and offer up ideas to make work conditions better and help in growth and development. We have vehicles in place for the union to do that though meetings with the superintendent. Many years ago board members and union members would meet all together for a morning to look at common problems and concerns and review best educational practices. I would support this. I would never support anything that would be construed as lobbying on behalf the unions. We are about students.

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?

Last year we asked our various employee entities to voluntarily take a freeze and roll the contract one year. Most agreed to share the burden and accepted a freeze. Our largest bargaining group did not. As we bargain with several of those groups this year, the board has to be realistic regarding any increases and expect the same from those across the table. That is one of the reasons for the financial committee mentioned above-to help them all understand the reality of the current fiscal problems. I cannot speak for the board, but I would support looking at some concessions or freezes on salaries, some minimal increases in expected work time, perhaps some benefit package freezes or rollbacks. While we all wish to have salary growth, knowing that 10% of our taxpayer base is unemployed, I have little concern for those who are employed who want a salary increase or increased benefits.

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. The artificial inflation of salary is one of the reasons the state pension fund in trouble. Secondly, as you know, we, the district are now heavily penalized by the state with very high pension contributions for the life of the pensionee if the overall increase in the salary-benefits package surpasses 6%. This applies for anyone who will receive TRS payments. The days of padding salaries are gone.

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