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updated: 4/5/2013 8:11 PM

Melissa West: Candidate Profile

Benjamin District 25 School Board (4-year Terms)

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  • Melissa West

    Melissa West




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: Carol Stream

Website: n/a

Office sought: Benjamin District 25 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 37

Family: Married, 2 Children

Occupation: Director of Finance, Marriott International

Adjunct Faculty Member, William Rainey Harper College

Education: B.A. Accounting, Michigan State University, 1997

Civic involvement: As a family we support a number of organizations, including Children's Miracle Network, Back on My Feet, and the Benjamin Foundation.

Elected offices held: None

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Work with the community to continue to provide the students of our district a world-class education with the use of evolving technology in the classrooms, encouraging parent involvement, and maintaining high performing educators and administrators.

Key Issue 2

Maintain a fiscally responsible district budget with aligned community support, including proactive communication with all stakeholders.

Key Issue 3

Provide programs that help parents play an active role in their child's education, such as, education on school resources, the implementation of common core standards, and how to assist their children with homework.  Additionally, encourage parent participation in the PTA and Benjamin Foundation as these organizations benefit our district.

Questions & Answers

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 believe the shift to common core standards will strengthen our children's problem solving and reasoning skills, which will enable them to compete more readily on a global basis.  There will be growing pains as some teachers will need to learn to teach differently, but overall this alignment of curriculum will open doors for educators to share and apply best practices worldwide.  In setting the curriculum for students, I believe the board of education's role is to ask questions to understand and ensure the curriculum pushes the District to meet or exceed our educational goals.  Our teachers and administrators are the best experts to develop the curriculum.

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?

We have two children that attend Evergreen and I am very satisfied with the academic excellence in our district.  This was a large factor that attracted my husband and me to purchase a home in this community 9 years ago.  I have watched older children in our community successfully pursue higher education and even the start of their careers.  Many residents I encounter are very prideful of our district.  With regards to change, we have a great foundation in place and will just need to continue to evolve with new academic standards and the use of technology.

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?

Based on current financials, Benjamin District 25 is not anticipating a tax increase.  The district will need to continue to make prudent financial decisions which do not jeopardize our educational standards, extra-curricular activities, or condition of our facilities.  In the long-term there will be challenges to work through, including the pending costs of pension reform, and the future of funding from the State of Illinois.  Based on my own professional experience, I believe all organizations can drive top performance levels by continuously accessing their operating model and identifying opportunities in technology, conservation and processes that enhance the overall organization and save costs.  If the administration were to propose a tax increase in future years, I would do my homework on what has been done to mitigate costs and understand the long term financial plan before deciding whether to support or not.  I do not believe the solution is always to reach out to the tax payers, but also would never want to jeopardize a child's education.

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?

Overall, I believe as a district that our goal should be to pay competitive wages and benefits in order to attract top talent.  Pay levels do need to be fiscally responsible with the resources available.  With the best educators, we all reap the benefits with the education of our children and being a desirable community to live.

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 support a substantial increase to boost pension benefits as this cost is ultimately paid by the taxpayer.