Heather Rajamoney: Candidate Profile
Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms)
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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.
Office sought: Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married for 13 years to Sudhakar. Two children at Kingsley Elementary, ages 10 and 7. Parents long-standing educators in Districts 203 and 131; father,Bob Hayhurst,was a counselor and basketball coach at NNHS for about 25 years.
Occupation: Currently, a physical therapist at From Pain to Wellness in Oak Brook Terrace.
Education: full primary education in District #203, graduating NCHS in 1989 Bachelor's in Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993 Master's in Physical Therapy, Mayo School of Health-Related Sciences, Rochester, MN, 1995
Civic involvement: Kingsley Elementary Home & School President, member of the Enrollment Capacity Study Group for District 203, Assistant coach for YMCA and Naperville Park District, member of Grace Pointe Church, teacher for children's programs at church for 7+ years
Elected offices held: No
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
All Day Kindergarten being offered at all of District 203 elementary schools: we, as a district, need to be proactive in readying our students for Common Core State Standards. All Day Kindergarten is one of the best investments, in my opinion, to do that. Plus, it will benefit every child beginning their educational journey in this district. In addition, ADK should help to keep our housing market competitive since this is a common age for families looking to move and purchase a new home. To me, this is good value for our tax dollars.
Key Issue 2
Common Core State Standards: The change of CCSS, in relation to our current educational curriculum, was recently compared to an inflection point, or critical point, by local authorities. We need to embrace this change of becoming globally competitive as an educational community if it is to succeed. To me, this entails making well-thought out decisions with foresight. It also means offering support to our teachers, who will be required to adjust significantly. We can and will succeed in implementing this as a district; but, in my opinion, the outcome of the upcoming BOE election will effect how seamlessly this change takes place.
Key Issue 3
District budgeting issues in relation to Illinois' pension crisis: I have to stipulate that this is not my #3, but an over-arching issue that affects the way I view all of the other issues. With everyone unsure about how and when the state will move on the pension debt and its relationship to school districts, this must be a filter on how we look at all money spent. There is a balance we can achieve wisely, though, where we remain an outstanding academic district moving forward, while still being ready for changes that are put upon us.
The school board has struggled with major issues such as boundary changes and implementing all-day kindergarten. How can the board improve its process of addressing such major undertakings and how will you specifically help it succeed?
As a member of the Enrollment Capacity Study Group, I have to admit I was disappointed when only one of two of this group's recommendations were passed by the Board of Education last Spring. Though discussion combining both ADK and boundary issues was cost and time effective, in hindsight, it was probably too much for some of the constituents to move forward on at the same time. So, in terms of improving the process, I would say that trying to tackle one issue at a time would be a better alternative. Also, I believe BOE members need to have a certain level of trust for experts' opinions when it comes to a curriculum that is best for our students. In addition and in general terms, a strong BOE member would be fair, impartial, and have the ability to look at every issue from all parties' perspectives; these are all qualities I value highly and towards which I strive.
What in-the-classroom change would you like the district to make?
As discussed above, I am a strong advocate of All Day Kindergarten. Also, as discussed below, I support an increase in concentration on STEM classes to enhance CCSS.
What do you think about the shift to the common core standards? How big a role do you think the board of education should play in setting the curriculum for students and what ideas do you have for changes to the current curriculum?
I am so excited about this shift, with it being one of the top reasons I am running for a BOE position! I believe that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), when implemented, will be a major player in changing the graduates we produce in this country, both at the high school and college level. We need to become more competitive globally in the workforce we produce so that the next generation can succeed. In terms of setting the curriculum as a board of education member, I would say the appropriate amount of input should be very limited. If I have a blocked coronary artery, in this day and age, I am going to find the best cardiologist in my area. In the same sense, with discussion of setting the educational curriculum, I am going to refer to the Instructional Coordinators in each subject. There is too much at stake, with curriculum as the foundation of our schools, to not go to the experts.
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 believe this is the time to really "dig in" and change our expectations about the educational system through the CCSS, so that we are not just producing students prepared for the workforce, but students who are invaluable at their jobs. My hope is that these adjustments to curriculum will be made at the K-12 grades, and then force the colleges to be proactive in producing students with a higher-valued degree then some of them are currently. Some changes that will most likely need to be implemented in this district to successfully implement CCSS would be more emphasis on Science/Technology/Engineering/Math, or STEM, classes. Some of my ideas on how to accomplish this would be to support additional hands-on teaching in such areas as robotics. Also, I believe in continuing to uplift girls to strive in areas of math, science, and technology. Some ways this can be implemented are by supporting female high school teachers in these areas and promoting girls' academic clubs.
What budget issues will your district have to confront and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, what programs and expenses should be reduced or eliminated? On the income side, do you support any tax increases?
As mentioned above, the condition of the state's pension system is definitely an over-arching budget issue that must be a filter for all money spent in the district. My fear, though, is that it freezes us into indecision and inaction as a district. This can not happen, because as we wait on the state of Illinois and its governmental constituents, our children's growth and maturity does not halt, and the world does not slow down. We need to walk this fine line as a district with all our resources, including money, time, and the talents of our educators. If cuts are necessary, I would support looking at those expenses that only benefit a minority of the student population and/or do not directly enhance our ability to meet CCSS. In terms of tax increase, the level of inflation each year has been used as the amount generally passed by the board. I think this is fair, but not a given, needing to make sure that all money spent is meeting our goals and benefiting the most students possible.
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