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updated: 2/22/2013 6:38 PM

Donna Wandke: Candidate Profile

Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms)

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  • Donna Wandke, running for Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms)

    Donna Wandke, running for Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms)




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



City: Naperville


Office sought: Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 43

Family: Married to Norm Wandke and have 3 boys that attend school in District 203: a sophomore at Naperville Central an 8th grader at Madison Junior High and a 5th grader at Steeple Run Elementary

Occupation: Youth Leader at Good Shepherd Church in Naperville. I oversee a junior high program serving 160 students and their families by speaking, planning activities and encouraging students to grow in their faith.

Education: Master of Education with Concentration in Administration and Supervision, National-Louis University, 1997 Bachelor of Science with a double major in Mathematics and Athletic Training, Elmhurst College, 1991 - graduated with highest honors

Civic involvement: Committee Chair Boy Scout Troop 75 Den Leader Cub Scout Pack 565 Initiated, developed and lead Hiking Club for Cub Scouts Chaired and/or participated in eight Home and School Committees, including development of new Curriculum Connections Program at Scott School Initiated, developed and taught Chess Club at Scott School Past-President of Hobson School Parent Board and Advisory Board Member Soccer Coach

Elected offices held: President Hobson School Parent Board

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Implementation of the Common Core Standards is one of the largest state mandated changes that currently challenge our district. For the first time, learning standards with international benchmarks of what students need to know and be able to do have been written not just for our district or state, but also for most states across the country. These standards are going to raise the bar for all students and promote more in-depth learning that involves critical thinking, problem solving and collaborative efforts. One of the duties of the School Board is to approve the curriculum, textbooks and educational services that align with the mission and vision of the district. Now this curriculum will need to be aligned with the Common Core Standards. Many decisions will be affected by the Common Core Standards, including approval of all-day kindergarten, as this is a foundation of learning. Technology needs will change as the Common Core Standards are assessed through the use of tablets and laptops. The Board of Education will make many curricular decisions as we transition into these Common Core Standards. As a person who has experience with curriculum adoption and district level curriculum committees, I will provide insight and guide our district into the future as we implement the Common Core Standards.

Key Issue 2

The Board of Education holds a commitment to the community to be fiscally responsible with its resources and to be a careful steward of the local property taxpayers? dollars. As Illinois State funding changes and in particular the movement of employee pensions may be shifted over the next fifteen years from state funding to local funding, budgeting concerns will become a key issue to our district. Having a mathematics degree, experience with statistical analysis and budgeting for other organizations, I will bring expertise to the Board of Education in this key issue. My goal is to continue a tradition of efficiency by providing an educational system to serve our students and community with no budgetary waste.

Key Issue 3

Communication is a key issue for a community that so highly values its educational system. My family moved to this district because we valued the educational system as one that was innovative and progressive allowing teachers to be creative. It is the Board of Education's responsibility to communicate with the public especially when change is occurring in the district. People were concerned about some of the changes that affected our district, such as the school boundaries and calendar over the last year. Analyzing change and anticipating concerns will allow the Board of Education to communicate effectively. As changes occur at the state level, we will need to have an even better connection with our community. Collaborative communication with the administration and employees of the district is imperative to allow everyone to move forward for the common goal of educating our students for the future.

Questions & Answers

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?

Decision-making involves researching the issue, analyzing the options, asking the appropriate questions and communicating all of these pieces along the way. The research is often done by the administration or an outside firm. However, the research needs to be considered in detail by the school board. As we move to analyzing the options, board members need to ask the appropriate questions to piece the details together while also being an advocate for the community. Communication between all stakeholders is the key to making decisions that best fit our community and avoid conflict between the parties. In every organization that I have served, I have been looked to for my input when decisions need to be made. This is because I have the ability to carefully look at issues from all angles, research the information that is needed, analyze the findings, know when to ask more questions and communicate my findings to the group in an understandable and concrete fashion. My leadership, analytical thinking and communication skills are traits that will serve District 203 well when decisions that affect the community need to be made and communicated.

What in-the-classroom change would you like the district to make?

As Common Core Standards are implemented in our district many changes will naturally occur in the classroom. Students will be challenged to engage in more in-depth learning through discovery, collaboration and real world application. Many of these changes will also affect some of the technology that is used in the classroom. Student learning will move to an even greater hands-on environment. I have done research including video analysis of classrooms in countries that are performing at a high level. A common theme in high performing classrooms is the type of questions that are asked of the students. Instead of being taught the material and then asked to practice what they have learned, they are asked to discover the new material and then apply what they have discovered. Our district will need to support teachers as the Common Core Standards are implemented by providing them with strategies to enhance deeper levels of questioning that will guide the discovery and learning of our students.

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?

Common Core Standards are research based and raise the level of education for each and every student. Teachers and administrators in our district have been working diligently to study the standards, provide professional learning for the teachers, develop new curriculum, and are currently implementing phase one of the new mathematics curriculum. District 203 has had the advantage of collaborating in K-12 curriculum development years before the Common Core Standards were adopted. Having this experience will serve the district well as we move forward another step to improve the quality of education. The role of the Board of Education is to consider and approve the curriculum that is developed by highly qualified District 203 professionals. The Board will need to ask questions and understand both the Common Core Standards and the new curriculum to ensure they correlate and correspond to the District 203 Vision and Mission.

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?

According to a survey of graduating seniors, 98% of respondents plan to attend college. This statistic supports that District 203 prepares students to continue their education in preparation for the next stages of their lives. In comparing statistics of District 203 students to the state average on a variety of tests from third grade through college entrance testing our students perform at a higher level than the state average on almost all accounts. Changes that need to be made will come with Common Core Standards as they prepare students not just for the next level of education but also for full-time employment.

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?

Illinois State funding is in the midst of a number of changes that will affect every school district in the state. One of the largest changes may be moving the funding of teacher pensions from the state to the local level in increasing increments over the next 15 years. This will have a growing effect year over year on the school district budget. Our district has been projecting finances and considering expenses both with the pension shift and without. The board should continue to be financially responsible by representing our community taxpayers and making the most of our education system. Programs and expenses should be continually reviewed by the school board and administration for relevance and cost effectiveness. In these difficult economic times, the school board should not support a tax increase but learn to work within its means to provide high quality, cost-efficient schools for our students and community.