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Article updated: 2/23/2011 4:10 PM

Thomas C. Lair: Candidate Profile

Keeneyville Elementary D20

Thomas C. Lair, running for Keeneyville Elementary D20

Thomas C. Lair, running for Keeneyville Elementary D20

 
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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: Roselle

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: Keeneyville Elementary D20

Age: 55

Family: Married, two children

Occupation: IT project manager and business analyst

Education: Bachelor of Science, Aerospace Engineering, Univeristy of Illinois, 1978

Master of Divinity, Norhtern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1987

Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.

Elected offices held: Keeneyville School Board Member, 2005-present

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

My top campaign issue is to improve the quality of education to each and every student in our district. We must review and improve our curriculum and delivery of instruction. While I understand and agree with the goals of No Child Left Behind, its impelentation has forced schools to spend the bulk of the time on lower-scoring students, instead of meeting every student where they are and helping each student improve.

Key Issue 2

My second campaign issue is to maintain continuity and stability in the school district. Our Superintendent and Assistent Superintendent are both retiring at the end of this school year. We are also expecting that two long-serving board members are not appearing on the ballot. Our district has been steadily improving while staying fiscally conservative. My goal is to help keep that balanced approach.

Key Issue 3

Candidate did not respond.

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 moderately satisfied that our students are well prepared for the next step. We have been focusing on Reading skills in most of our curriculum. We need to revisit our curriculum and focus to re-emphasize Math and Science.

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?

Our district has been facing reduced revenues for several years. As a matter of principal our board has passed a balanced budget for almost 10 years. We have had to reduce costs, freeze non-union wages, and cut some afer school programs. Last year we had RIFs. We were able to bring back most of the classroom teachers.

We worked with our Administrators, Teachers and Parents to prioritize the cuts, and to prioritize the return of services.

We were able to work with our union to negotiate two years of no-increase contracts.

We are pursuing other avenues to return programs, such as after-school sports and clubs. These avenues include re-forming the Springwood Foundation and soliciting corporate and privtedonations.

We have also thought outside the box to pursue a windmill farm intended to reduce our energy bills. We are working with local park districts to obtain grants to provide new facilities which we can share.

No, I do not support any tax increases beyond the normal CPI-based increase (or decrease).

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 would be open to union support, but not at the price of being beholden.

Experience as a teacher and/or support from a union is neither inherently postive or negative. Experience can allow someone to know where weaknesses and strengths, but not necessarily generate a pro-teacher bias. Inexperience can also allow someone to be impressed and overpowered by teachers. I do not have any experience as a teacher or administrator. My bias is pro-student.

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?

We have just finished negotiating a contract for the next school year. This is our second one-year contract in which we have negotiated no salary increases. We were able to remove the clause in which we allowed early-retirement with inherent fixed increases and co-payments. We have also reduced payments for teachers' further education and degrees.

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?

Our superintendent is retiring at the end of this year. Based on the experience of following the industry standard and state laws, I would not again support the practice of providing salary increases to help boost their pension. Being generous to individuals comes at the expense of the taxpayers instead of the local district. It is very easy to be generous with someone else's money. It is painfully obvious now that none of us can afford it. That is why we negotiated the early retirement clause with guaranteed increases out of our contracts.

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