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 with two children, ages 6 and 8
Occupation: Senior Project Manager for Veolia Water Solutions, located in Plainfield, IL
Education: Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, 1995 Naperville North High School, Class of 1991
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
I believe that the school board must focus on achieving educational excellence across all of the schools in the district. Today, many of our schools do not reach the goals set by the No Child Left Behind Act, and with the implementation of the Common Core Standards coming into effect, I believe that the school board must find a way to help the administration do a better job of improving our schools and in preparing them to meet and exceed the goals of Common Core.
Key Issue 2
For District 203, fiscal responsibility must remain one of its defining principles. Our district is no different than those all across Illinois when it comes to the operating budget and potential pension liabilities. Costs for the district continue to climb and the most recent District 203 budget projections show an operating deficit by 2015 and the depletion of capital reserves by 2017. The board must act now to ensure the long term financial health of the district.
Key Issue 3
I believe that a commitment to Naperville is essential to being an effective member of the school board. I have two children who will grow up in this district, just as I did. Their future, and mine, is tied to the strength of District 203 and to the community that is serves. The board must have members that can balance the needs of the students with its responsibilities to the city and the community.
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?
These two issues highlight the fact that the school board must do a better job of planning and communicating with the community. If the parents and teachers don't understand why the changes need to be made, the boundary changes are going to appear random and they will feel disruptive and frustrating. The same thing is true for all-day kindergarten. If a clear vision and purpose isn't presented to the public, then it appears as though the school board is just reacting based on personal opinion. The school board needs someone who recognizes the importance of communication. They need someone who can help the administrators formulate a vision, plan out the implementation and most of all build a consensus among the board, the administration, the parents and the community as a whole. I have been fortunate in my experience to have executed large projects all throughout the world. I know how to manage complex systems and I know the importance of ensuring that everyone involved is invested and behind the project. I have built my career around leadership, consensus building and communication. As a member of the school board, I will utilize those skills to work in concert with the other school board members, the administration and the community to ensure that future challenges get resolved before they become a crisis.
What in-the-classroom change would you like the district to make?
I would like to see teachers have real-time access to reporting and analytic data on their student's ongoing performance. In my discussions with teachers I have found that one of the greatest challenges is determining when a student is having difficulty with a new concept and when they are beginning to fall behind. Often, it isn't until the next concept is presented that the teacher sees that the student doesn't have a full grasp of the previous foundation concept. If our teachers had access to real-time indicators that would highlight which students are beginning to lag behind, they would be able to act quickly to provide additional support and prevent them from falling behind in the first place.
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 think part of the challenge that the district has with implementing the Common Core Standards is ensuring that everyone understands what they are and what they represent. To your point, one of the most important facts is that the standards are not a curriculum, but rather are a set of goals for what knowledge and skills students will be expected to learn throughout their education. It should remain the administration's and the teacher's responsibility to decide how the standards will be met. It is my opinion that the board's role should be to help guide the administration as it works to implement the Common Core Standards. I don't think that the school board should set the curriculum. Instead, the school board must be ready to work with the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois State Board of Education and school boards from other states to provide administrators with the information, guidance and support that they need to set and implement a curriculum that will put the district on a path of continued excellence.
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?
Naperville North and Central High Schools are graduating over 96% of their seniors, well above the state average, with almost all of those indicating that they plan to attend college. In that way, there is little doubt that District 203 is one of the premier school districts in the state. The reason that I am running for school board is because I want to ensure that it remains that way. As a longtime resident, I recognize that Naperville is a dynamic and ever-changing community and our education system and standards are changing with it. It is clear that the district needs to be ready to adapt and address what are sure to be challenges across all of the elementary, middle and high schools. As a member of the school board, I will ensure that the board and the administration will work together to find new and innovative technologies and teaching methods that will help teachers not only meet, but exceed the Common Core standards and ensure the continued excellence of District 203.
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?
Unfortunately for all of us in Illinois, our state continues to be a cautionary tale of what happens if you don't have a balanced budget and choose to ignore long term funding issues. Fortunately for those of us in 203, our district has maintained a balanced budget, but our costs are projected to rise faster than our income, even if we assume the district will continue to raise taxes. Without change, the district will be running a deficit by 2015 and will deplete the cash reserve by 2017. As a member of the school board, I will champion the need to act sooner rather than later so we can begin to position the district for maintaining a balanced budget without the need for endless tax increases. I will work together with the administrators and employees of District 203 to find solutions that will reduce our costs without reducing student performance. In addition, I will challenge the board to react to our changing community and find creative ways to leverage our highly skilled educators alongside new technologies and make our educational system one of the most modern and efficient in the nation.