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.
City: West Chicago
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: West Chicago District 33 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: married, two sons attending West Chicago Community High School
Occupation: Inside Sales Account Executive - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Education: BA-Communications at Bradley University, 1989
Civic involvement: Trustee - District 33 Foundation for Educational Excellence September 2006 Present City of West Chicago Plan Commission/Zoning Board 1994-2004 Trustee & Chairman positions held Ensured fair and legally conducted public hearings and meetings Evaluated and considered requests and applications for code variances, special use permits and PUD's (planned unit developments) West Chicago Railroad Days Festival Publicity/Main Stage 1996 1997 Turner School PTO Book Fair Chair 2001 - 2005 Gary School PTO Cultural Arts Chair 2006 - 2008
Elected offices held: Board Member - West Chicago Elementary School District 33 April 2005 Present, also served on the following committees: District Communication Task Force, Tech Team, Middle School Referendum, Support Staff Contract Negotiations, Dual Language Parent Group.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
A sustainable fair budget is number one. With state budget cuts in education, increasing benefits costs and decreasing property values, school districts are faced with financial uncertainty. During my 8 years on the school board our district has had balanced budgets. We have to operate within our means.
Key Issue 2
Increasing academic achievement while balancing student needs. Dollars and resources usually flow to those students with the greatest need. With more budget cuts looming, we need to keep in mind that the path of the accelerated learner important as well. Often that is the first area in which funds are cut. Maintaining a wide range of learners in our district helps everyone. Implementing common core standards will help address the needs of every learner, and bring more rigor in our classrooms.
Key Issue 3
Communication. With all the changes coming in education - the common core, teacher evaluations, funding, technology integration, report card changes - it is very important to keep parents and our community engaged. We try to everyone in the loop on several fronts - through town hall meetings, parent/teacher conferences, parent flyers, building and district newsletters, emails, phone messages, social media, website postings, etc. Message content, timing, and how it is crafted all are critical in helping our community understand our district's focus, to help support our K-8 kids. We can't work together if we don't bring everyone along.
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 shift to Common Core standards is an AWESOME thing, because we will finally have a universal set of standards and assessments. This will allow us to not only monitor our students? progress throughout the year, but compare how D33 kids are doing on a national and international scale. The Common Core initiative is setting a new standard for our kids and for our teachers, and over time, this challenging transition will benefit everyone. The board will play a huge role, and should work alongside our administration to ensure that staff has the proper curriculum materials and training to make this huge leap. Everyone in D33 is working with limited resources to make sure we are ready for our first Common Core testing year in 2014-2015. Ideas I have had for changes to the current curriculum - more technology, more rigor and more collaboration are already being driven by Common Core Standards. Common Core Testing will be done online - this will drive new technology into our classrooms. Test answers and conclusions will now have to be explained and defended, which will help our students be better problem solvers. Teacher collaboration will also increase, since the 45 states that adopted Common Core will be teaching the same curriculum. Ideas and best practices can be shared not only among Dupage County schools, but nationwide.
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?
There is always room for improvement and we continue to look for ways to evaluate programming and the learning tools that we employ. We have to become better at analyzing the huge amounts of data that we collect, and have started to collaborate with our partner districts to make this more of a priority. Monitoring curriculum articulation up through the high school should be ongoing and ever improving. Common Core standards will help with that.
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?
The biggest issues we are confronting are increasing labor and benefit costs, combined with the state not paying us. We are currently working on a contract with our largest labor group - teachers, and are trying hard to control costs, while still offering our staff a fair contract when compared with other teachers unions in the county. Sustainability is the goal. We are starting to have discussions about next year's budget, and not having this contract settled is delaying important decisions we have to make. I will always look for cuts that have the least impact on our K-8 learners, while still maintaining a well rounded curriculum. Tax increases would be a last resort. I would rather see education funding in Illinois rely less on property taxes.
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?
Since labor costs are the largest part of our budget, we have had to ask for concessions from all of our labor groups through the years. With the current teachers contract in negotiations, we are trying to align salary increases with inflation, and the current step (years of experience) and lane (education and credentials) schedule far exceeds our projected income.
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?
This practice is also common among teachers that are off the salary schedule and needs to stop in both arenas. I don't like it, but this is usually heavily negotiated and often granted to attract and/or keep qualified candidates.