Charles Cush: 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 with 3 children (One boy and two girls) and 1 grandson
Occupation: Marketing Executive
Education: Bachelors Degree in Economics- University of Maryland, College Park, 1991 Masters of business Administration(MBA)- University of Michigan, 1994
Civic involvement: Volunteer- Junior Achievement Lake County 2010, 2011 Former Board Member- Court Appointed Special Advocates CASA New Jersey 2004
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Implementation of Common Core Standards- The Common Core Standards represent an opportunity for district 203 to distinguish ourselves from other school districts around the country. This commonality in evaluating students will help us to benchmark ourselves with other districts, and it is an opportunity for us to shine. But in order to do that we must ensure that we are adequately prepared to close the achievement gaps that we have in some of the key groups. We have holes in our current achievement, and if we are not closing those gaps, they will only widen and we will find ourselves playing catch-up.
Key Issue 2
Creating an environment where every child has the opportunity to be successful- This means focusing on issues like boundary changes that are more than a temporary solution. This means making sure that we have the right infrastructure as part of the implementation of All Day Kindergarten that ensure we are not creating another overcrowding situation as we look to accommodate the additional students that will be in the schools as a result of that program. It also means making sure that we ensure that our schools are safe environments and that we have plans in place to make sure that our schools are free of bullying and other violence.
Key Issue 3
Teacher Training and Development- We must make sure that we are recruiting and retaining the best teachers, and that we are equipping them with the training and tools necessary to teach the material to a wide variety of students. We need to create opportunities for more best practice sharing, and peer mentoring. With the implementation of the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), the new teacher evaluation system, we need to make sure we are providing opportunities for teachers to be successful. Since we are going to be holding teachers accountable for results, we must provide them with adequate tools and training.
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?
I applauded the board's decision to pilot All Day Kindergarten in the title I schools, and was glad that steps were taken to address the overcrowding situation through the boundary changes. In both instances, however, I think that the board needed to ask better questions to get at the "How" vs. just focusing on the "What". How are we going to measure the impact of All Day Kindergarten, and how will we make sure that we are putting the right infrastructure in place and modifications to the schools to adequately accommodate the program without negatively impacting the learning environment for the existing students. With the boundary changes, we needed to make the tough choices now to avoid having to do this again and again, each time causing disruption to students and their families. In both instances, I would have liked to see more of a focus on developing the best long term solution and having a plan that spans multiple years vs. the short term focus it seems that was driving both of these recent decisions. To me it comes down to focusing on asking the right questions and having a framework that outlines the elements of the best long-term solution and implementing that, even if that means challenges in the short term. That is the perspective I will bring as a member of the board
What in-the-classroom change would you like the district to make?
I think that we need to make sure that we have the right technology in the classrooms. Every student learns differently, and I do not believe that we have done all we can to equip teachers with the tools and technology to meet the individual learning styles of each child. As a member of the school board, I would like to implement better best practice sharing among teachers so that each one does not have to reinvent the wheel. Our teachers have some great, creative solutions and approaches that they are using, but as each is faced with a different challenge, I don't believe enough is being done to transfer that knowledge and this has created unnecessary inefficiencies for our teachers.
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?
The Common Core Standards represent an opportunity for district 203 to distinguish ourselves from other school districts around the country. I applaud the fact that the Common Core Standards create transparency among districts and make it clear who is doing well and who is not. I believe it is critical that the board is involved in setting the curriculum. We need to ask the right questions about how the curriculum translates into providing students with the knowledge they need and set-up assessments of the curriculum so that we can measure the impact of the instructional plans and adjust as necessary. I believe that the goal should be to exceed the standards not just meet them and we need to make sure that we are closing the achievement gap that exists.
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 think we can do better. Right now we have gaps in certain sub-segments of the student population. This is true from elementary through high school. I believe that All Day kindergarten will help to narrow the gap in the earlier years which will help overall. I also believe that we can have a stronger emphasis on skills and not just knowledge. I think that we can place an emphasis on Study Skills for students. We need to teach students how to learn, not just pass information to them. It says in our mission that we want to develop self directed learners, and to achieve that portion of the mission we need to equip students with the skills to absorb and retain knowledge. I also think that we need to partner with local businesses and organizations to provide experiences outside of the classroom to build key life skills such as communication and leadership. We should focus on building learners who are leaders. Lastly, I think that we need to emphasize community service experiences, and instill in our students the importance of making a positive impact in their community.
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?
I think that the implementation of ADK will be a big budget issue as infrastructure changes that need to be made must be adequate to accommodate the program without having a negative impact on the other students. There is also a renegotiation of teacher contracts that will have budget implications. I don't believe that tax increases are necessary. I believe that these should be a last resort. We need to have solid metrics in place to evaluate the success of the programs we are currently funding, and be willing to make the tough decisions to re-direct funding away from poorly performing programs to be able to increase funding for programs that are proving to be successful. If we prioritize appropriately, we should have adequate funding to meet our needs. It comes down to eliminating inefficiencies in our spending.
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