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updated: 2/22/2013 6:28 PM

Barbara Somogyi: Candidate Profile

Elk Grove Township District 59 School Board (2-year Terms) (Independent)

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  • Barbara Somogyi, running for Elk Grove Township District 59 School Board (2-year Terms)

      Barbara Somogyi, running for Elk Grove Township District 59 School Board (2-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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Elk Grove Village

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: Elk Grove Township District 59 School Board (2-year Terms)

Age: 69

Family: Married Three Children Three Grandchildren

Occupation: Retired

Education: Candidate did not respond.

Civic involvement: Elk Grove Village Political Action Group 2009 Elk Grove Village School Activities Committee, Fiftieth Anniversary Telephone Pioneers of America: Partner Representative 1987-91 Others mostly prior to Board Service

Elected offices held: Community Consolidated Board of Education 1975-1978 Community Consolidated Board of Education 1981 to present

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

My first focus will be continuing to meet the needs of District 59's students while maintaining fiscal responsibility. District 59's educational programs are strong even though the population is diverse. The financial strength of the District is based on many past decisions that keep resources available to enhance and support excellent programs. All buildings are fully renovated and securely keep students safe. Technology is available to students. The Board of Education recently received several studies assessing technology; however, is an area that might need thorough review and some revisions to keep pace with 21st Century skills. With my background, enthusiasm, and vision, I am excited to continue moving District 59 forward partnering with our new Superintendent and the Board of Education to help students maximize their potential and prepare for their future lives.

Key Issue 2

The second focus will be to actively listen and represent all stakeholders fairly and respectfully. A district the size of District 59 has many stakeholders with unique perspectives: students, parents, staff, four communities, etc. To impartially represent each group is a skill integral to being a good board member. I do think the Board of Education could do better in seeking new ways to actively communicate with stakeholders that incorporate how people like to receive information and provide input. When making decisions on what is best for students, it is important for stakeholders to be involved in the process.

Key Issue 3

My third but not final focus will not only be to stay informed of Federal and State legislation that can impact the local control of school districts, but to actively advocate for what will improve District 59. There are many proposals made by State and Federal officials that could erode District 59's resources if passed into law. As the State looks at revising funding for education to solve their shortfall by taking from districts that prepare for the future like District 59, it important to stay abreast of pending legislation impacting funding for pensions, transportation, special education, poverty grants, etc. I do keep up to date on legislative issues, but would like the expanded district community and not just a few advocating on behalf of District 59. A joint effort and unified vision would have greater impact on our legislators.

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?

Who can argue with the purpose behind Common Core Standards of setting uniform standards while allowing individualized methods of teaching? By establishing higher standards that provide students the opportunity to master and to go deeper into the subject matter, by developing important reasoning and critical thinking skills, and by developing clearer relevant assessments based on real world applications; the educational system will prepare today's students to become productive citizens. As this initiative moves forward and even though these goals continue to be underlined in District 59's objectives, the Board of Education needs to be active by understanding and helping unfold the complexities of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Board of Education (BOE) must support staff by setting a timeline and providing the needed resources to develop these assessments to insure compliance. As school districts are routinely given new sets of mandates from the Government and are promised that those unfunded mandates will solve the perceived ills in education, the BOE needs to be cautiously supportive. Although District 59 has a rich curriculum, I would like to see more emphasis on STEM and critical thinking skills integrated into the curriculum and cross over into all subjects.

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?

At every level, District 59 has excellent staff that set high expectations for our students. My goal has and continues to be for every student learning at or above grade level. As the Board continues to work on the District 59's strategic plan, the Board will need to actively determine what assessments will be used to evaluate the District's progress and then monitor the data to assist in guiding future decisions. Every benchmark and evaluation tool District 59 uses for district wide assessment needs to be reviewed so that duplication is eliminated and sound assessments adopted for continuous improvement of the programs. Even though junior high staff does council with the high school staff to coordinate curriculum, the Board of Education does not see comparative data to assess how our students achieve during their high school years. When entering high school many students are given credit for completed junior high classes and placed in high school advanced classes. Several schools achieving State and National Recognition Awards indicate another proof that District 59 is an excellent school system that is giving students a sound base for their future.

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?

Throughout the many years I have been a board member, District 59 has been very fortunate to maintain fiscal stability while maintaining low property taxes. When making decisions, I strive to promote efficient and effective use of all resources. District 59's school renovations and additions were completed without going to referendum. I am proud that District 59 maintains cash balances and a healthy working cash fund. There are no immediate programs that are at risk; however, we must keep watch as legislative decisions can threaten our surplus and ultimately reach programs. Some of the legislative proposals that can impact District 59 are related to funding pensions, poverty grants, special education, transportation, etc.

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?

The Board of Education maintains an excellent relationship with our school employee groups and has not had a strike while I have been on the Board of Education. Protecting our financial resources while being a fair employer is always delicate. During our last contract negotiations both sides made concessions. As the Board prepares to negotiate with both certified and classified employees, it is too early to predict the outcome regarding pay or benefits. My aim will be that these and future negotiations will continue to be productive and fair to both the Board and the union.

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?

The last three District 59 superintendents would be considered long term superintendents: 13 years, 11 years and over 8 years. Their retirement contracts were well within what was the accepted norm. The Board of Education worked hard to select District 59's next superintendent. He will be starting July 2012 and will not be nearing retirement age for some time. To answer the question regarding increase in pay to boost pension benefits for administrators, I do not support boosts in pay for the purpose of boosting retirement benefits because pay should reflect the quality and quantity of the work. Whenever addressing district retirement benefits, I advocate for what is fair and equitable for all and not just a chosen few.

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