Pam Ahlmann: Candidate Profile
Lisle Unit District 202 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.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Lisle Unit District 202 School Board (4-year Terms)
Age: Candidate did not respond.
Family: Married with three children whom have all attended Lisle CUSD 202 schools.
Occupation: District Manager, Social Security Administration
Education: Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Sociology, University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse
Civic involvement: Lisle Community Unit School District (CUSD) 202 Board of Education, 2004-present; Lisle CUSD 202 volunteer: Home and School Organization, 1996-present; Lisle Band Parents Organization, 1999-present; Lisle Athletics Booster Club, 2000-present; Community Reader, 2005-present; Lisle Education Foundation Board, 2005-present; Lisle Intergovernmental Council, 2007-present Lisle Eyes to the Skies volunteer, 2009-present; Lisle Partners for Parks, Scarecrow Scramble volunteer, 2006-2009, 2012-present; Trinity Lutheran Church, Lisle: Sunday school teacher, 1998-2006; Confirmation assistant, 2007-2009; Hospitality Committee, 2000-2010; Good Samaritan team 2009-present; PADS volunteer; Community Guest Clinic Advocate, 2005-2010; Lisle Womens' Club, 2005-2006; DuPage County Federation Barriers Taskforce, 2006-present;
Elected offices held: Lisle CUSD 202 Board of Education, 2004-present (appointed 2004,elected 2005 and 2009) President, Lisle CUSD Board of Education, 2007-present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Since 2004, it has been an honor to serve on the Lisle CUSD 202 Board of Education. I am committed to doing what is best, within our means, for the academic and social development of all students. As Board President for the past five years, I also serve on the Policy and Finance Committees and the Intergovernmental Council and Lisle Education Foundation. I have worked closely with three superintendents during my time on the Board, to support smooth transition and continue effective leadership. This is a time of dramatic change in education, with the new Common Core Standards, expectations for exceeding State standards, assessments and evaluations that emphasize student growth, heightened safety and social-emotional issues, unfunded State and federal mandates coupled with diminishing resources, to name a few. It will be a privilege to continue to serve the Lisle community and address these changes with positive determination.
Key Issue 2
The greatest challenge for the District over the next few years will be to find an acceptable median between our learning community's educational vision for our children and how to best fund this vision given the economic climate and resources available. If the CPI continues to be low, while operations, maintenance, transportation, safety and educational costs continue to rise, one of our most difficult priorities will be to continue controlling expenditures and maintaining fiscal stability. All the while, trying to strengthen a core curriculum and provide technological resources that meet the dynamic needs of all children in our District.
Key Issue 3
Meeting and exceeding State standards will continue to be a challenge. Supporting the necessary changes to effectively implement the Common Core Standards and the new assessments will be critical to the success of our schools and our students. As we incorporate new cut scores for ISAT Reading and Math and monitor additional new test results, assessments and growth measures, it will be increasingly important that testing informs, not impedes, high-quality teaching and positive, relationship-centered learning.
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?
Considering that the expectations of what children must know are very different from 1997 when Illinois adopted the current standards, there are many positive advantages to the Common Core Standards. They were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts, following effective models from across the country and the world. They provide a clear understanding and consistent benchmarks of what and when students are expected to learn in K-12 language arts and math to prepare for college and the workforce. The Common Core Standards will raise the bar in all grades to ensure that our students are receiving a relevant and rigorous education. They will allow for better preparation to meet the demands of college and/or the work place. While there are many similarities between the existing Illinois State standards and the Common Core Standards, there are changes in what content is emphasized and the grade in which the content is taught. The new English/Language Arts Common Core requires more rigor, focuses on reading comprehension, and includes a heavier emphasis on writing, grammar, informational text, thinking skills, and literacy across the curriculum. Implementation of the new Common Core Standards for Mathematics is much more challenging. The new math curriculum does not isolate math skills into specific categories such as Algebra, Geometry, etc. Instead, math concepts are integrated with one another. Students will be engaged in more problem solving and problem based learning. Technology will have to support this process. It is the Board of Education's responsibility to be informed about curriculum and instruction in order to approve resources and monitor student growth.
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?
Even before the adoption of the Common Core Standards, administration and educational staff at our schools have been working collaboratively to review and revise programs to provide a more rigorous and relevant curriculum and address social and emotional components at all grade levels. Our teachers have met with consultants for training, participated in professional development, worked to develop curriculum and assessments, and met together at all levels to discuss articulation and examine curriculum. The focus now includes transitioning the curriculum to align with the new standards, in order to meet the deadline of full implementation by the 2014/2015 school year. With such a dynamic society, we can never be fully satisfied that the programs we have in place today will continually prepare students for the future. Our schools will need to add long term goals for students? college and career readiness and determine how best to measure student growth. Expanding technology to modernize the infrastructure and provide a digital learning environment will need to be a primary consideration as we look at some of our aging facilities and the future needs of all our students.
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?
One of the largest issues facing our District is to meet the legislative and technological requirements and ensure the success of all our children, while maintaining conservative financial accountability. Reviewing the multi-year financial projections and annual audit on a regular basis is imperative to achieving the goal of financial integrity. This will allow the District to determine trends in the financial position of each school, as well as the long-term effect of new or impending issues. When the community approved a referendum in 2004, the School Board made a commitment to not ask for another tax increase through referendum for at least 10 years. The combination of the tax revenues and cost control measures over the past 9 years has enabled the District to build a fund balance and keep its promise to the community. Our fund balances are currently stable, but because our resources are limited, we have to continually monitor the financial status of the District and focus on what actions need to be taken now, in order to be assured that adequate resources are available to our students today, as well as in the future. By being fiscally conservative, cuts will not currently be needed nor will any programs need to be eliminated in the foreseeable future. Looking ahead, maintaining adequate reserves enables the District to better handle economic downturns and uncertainty regarding State and federal funding levels. It also allows us to better handle unfunded mandates and changes, such as the proposed shift in the State's pension liability to the local school districts as well as surrounding increases in benefit costs as a result of health care reform. As our buildings continue to age, the fund balances will help cover roof, parking lot, HVAC, electrical, Life Safety, and other infrastructure needs, pending future facility decisions.
As contract talks come up with various school employee groups, do you believe the district should ask for concessions from its employees, expect employee costs to stay about the same as they are now or provide increases in pay or benefits?
Contract negotiations are about compromise in attempting to reflect comparative value and worth. The total increases in salary expenses have been around 3% over the past 6 years. This is the combination of a salary freeze for the majority of the staff for the 2010-2011 school years along with several of the teaching staff retiring each year. Employee benefit costs are expected to increase 6% annually based on historical increases and anticipated increases in health insurance costs. The last negotiated agreement tied CPI into the formula as a reflection of the property tax revenue. We would hope to see a comparable formula applied in the future.
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?
No, I would not, especially considering the potential financial impact of pension reform on the District and community.
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