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updated: 2/22/2013 6:28 PM

Rathna Koka: Candidate Profile

River Trails District 26 School Board (4-year Terms)

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  • Rathna Koka, running for River Trails District 26 School Board (4-year Terms)

    Rathna Koka, running for River Trails District 26 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: Mt Prospect

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: River Trails District 26 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: Candidate did not respond.

Family: One child currently attending elementary school at RTSD

Occupation: Scientist

Education: BS (Major: Plant Pathology & Microbiology) MS (Major: Food Technology) PhD (Research Focus: Microbiology & Enzymology)

Civic involvement: River Trails School District - Green Schools Committee, current member Junior Achievement instructor SPARK program mentor at Adlai E. Stevenson High School (Science Professionals As Resource Knowledge program, 2005-'06) BANK instructor (Balancing Activity & Nutrition for Kids)

Elected offices held: Chicago Section IFT Executive Board, Treasurer (2005 to '07)

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Student Safety and Education: Providing safe and enriching educational experience for our students should be a top priority. As a board member, I will work with the district teachers, administration to enhance academic performance at all three district schools and prepare our students for higher education. Our students should be provided with opportunities for a well-rounded educational experience that includes academics, sports and other extra-curricular educational activities.

Key Issue 2

Long-term fiscal sustainability: Maintaining a healthy, sustainable budget that keeps revenues and expenses in balance should be a key financial goal. The board should plan for potential impact of pension reform on the district finances so that it will not adversely impact our district. This is important to preserve programs and teacher positions. We should keep in mind that a high performing school district benefits all members of the community as it guarantees quality education for students and improves the value of homes in the district.

Key Issue 3

Community Engagement: A strong and effective school district should have a collaborative working relationship between the teachers, administration, the community and the board. Our community resources should be leveraged to a greatest extent possible to provide our students with opportunities beyond their everyday curriculum. We need to develop strong programs that leverage a network of volunteers. I have mentored students at other schools and universities; I will make myself available for children at 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 think that the shift in the Illinois State standards to the common core standards provides consistent and clear standards to educators and parents. This shift in standards will help harmonize standards across the nation and allow our students to participate meaningfully and to their fullest capability in the global marketplace. The state has the ultimate responsibility setting the educational standards. However, much of this responsibility is delegated to locally elected school boards such as the RTSD26 school board. Therefore, the board is obligated to carry out the state function as an agent of the state and follow the guidelines set forth by the Illinois State Board of Education. Transitioning to these new standards will not only involve curriculum development but also alignment of student assessment, intervention programs, and professional development with the new standards. The board should operate in a partnership capacity with the administration and the teachers in the development and phased implementation of the program.

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?

The district schools are doing a great job of preparing their students for the next step in their academic lives starting as early as first grade based on my personal experience with my own child. I cannot think of any changes that need to be made, the district should keep the current momentum and focus, perhaps explore additional programs that can be offered at the middle school level to enhance their readiness for high school and beyond.

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?

Potential issues that the district may confront are pension reform, cuts in state aid, receipt of timely payments from state and local governments and successful tax appeals that apply retroactively. It is fiscally prudent to plan for future years to have a sustainable budget in order to keep revenues and expenses in balance. Being ill-prepared by not having adequate reserves to compensate budgetary shortfalls will adversely impact our district. This could end up resulting in elimination of programs or teacher positions. If budget constrains force cutting programs, then the district should prioritize expenses to be prepared for future resource constraints being mindful that compromising the quality of education cannot be an option. I am not aware of any particular program can be eliminated without having reviewed all of them. The Board should keep in mind all the potential fiscal issues when considering increases in tax levies. A high performing school district benefits all members of the community as it guarantees a quality education for students and improves the value of our homes to everyone in the district. On the flip side, a poor performing school district will not help our property values as it makes our homes less appealing in the long run.

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 contract negotiation process is bilateral, which inherently gives both sides the power to advocate and negotiate for their position at the bargaining table. I believe that teachers as well as the Board are interested in improving our schools and would be open to negotiations that would promote common educational objectives and student outcomes. Given this posture, both sides should be open to concessions that are aligned with the common objectives.

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?

I am not in favor of artificially inflating the base salary of a prospective retiree to help boost their pension income. I strongly believe that merit increases in salary should be tied to performance and reasonably adjusted for cost of living increases.