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Article updated: 2/22/2013 6:28 PM

Arlen Gould: Candidate Profile

Wheeling District 21 School Board (4-year Terms)

Arlen Gould, running for Wheeling District 21 School Board (4-year Terms)

Arlen Gould, running for Wheeling District 21 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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Arlington Heights, Ill

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: Wheeling District 21 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 67

Family: Married to wife Randi with four children. three of whom graduated from District 21 Schools.

Occupation: I operate a Sales and Marketing consulting firm. In that capacity we manage the sales and marketing of small and mid sized firms on a national basis, primarily in the food and housewares areas.

Education: BA University of Illinois , Chicago. 1966

Civic involvement: Over the years I have been very involved in the community. I am an honorary member of the Northgate Civic Assoc and a former Board President. I have been involved in, and run numerous political campaigns in the area. For example, I ran Mayor Mulder's second campaign for Mayor and for ten years ran Rep. Sid Mathias campaigns for re election. Member of the advisory board of BUILD , Inc. Chicago. An organization that helps move kids from gangs into education. Previously I was a Board member of the Chicago Association for Children with Learning Disabilities,

Elected offices held: Member of the District 21 BOE since 1993

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Continuing to assure that all children in our schools are challenged appropriately and receive a quality education. In short, those with special needs, with limited English proficiency, and all the way to our very brightest must receive a rigorous education that prepares them for high school and beyond. In conjunction with our fine teachers we must find a way to test students and measure their growth in ways that do not reduce our education time but that accurately measure student progress.

Key Issue 2

Continuing to achieve quality education while being mindful of scarce dollars and always balancing our budget. Needless to say, we must not only provide quality education within a budget, but also expand to new technology when possible and continue to improve security in our buildings within reasonable budget constraints.

Key Issue 3

Continuing to have collaborative relations with our teachers in order to move ahead with the best interests of our children always in mind. Fortunately, District 21 has worked closely with our teachers on issues from teacher performance, to finance to curriculum and thus we have build an excellent relationship based upon trust.

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?

Well it is difficult to judge Common Core Standards since they are not in place as yet and thus it is impossible to know exactly what they will mean, or how they will operate. The question is, how do you create standards that apply fairly and equally to all students? In our own district, for example, there are high performing schools and schools that have lower scores due to a high percentage of limited English proficient students. For example, if the standards are set somewhere in the middle then the high performing students, schools and school districts will automatically show high performance without having to strive or reach to achieve. However, if the standards are set too high, poor performing schools and students might not be able to achieve the standards and thus be set up again for failure. (as in NCLB) In addition, how would standards apply to special needs children and with those who arrive in the US with limited English skills? The problem is a perceived one size fits all set of standards dictated by the Federal Government and to some extent the State. On the other hand, administrators, teachers and Board members as well, are seeking ways to better measure student performance and teacher effectiveness. At present, our approach is to test full grade levels of different students to see if we are making progress. However, this does not really successfully measure much of anything. Properly done, Common Core Standards could give us the ability, if used with other metrics, to measure if students are performing and growing as desired. It could also be part of a system whereby we could reward quality teachers for good performance. Regarding the BOE's role in curriculum development, at present our system is based upon an elementary curriculum that matches up with the High School Curriculum and that in turn is a continuing glide path toward college readiness and trades and other areas. Thus we are limited in curriculum flexibility based upon state requirements and mandates. In fact, many laws passed by the general assembly, such as recent legislation requiring school districts to provide anti sex abuse education, while well intentioned and important, cut into our academic teaching time. Frankly my major concern about giving School Boards too much say over the specific curriculum is that a State curriculum does require some degree of uniformity across school districts across the State. Giving Boards of Education the power to totally change that curriculum could bring into play dangerous political forces in which special interests could prompt changes in curriculum that would not be beneficial to students. Further, when families move they have a right to expect that a similar curriculum is taught at the same grade level across the state. In general, some flexibility in curriculum implementation at the District level, however, could be helpful. I have, for example, felt that most school districts could do a better job teaching communication in a very complex world.

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?

As staff members will tell you, I am never completely satisfied, regarding how well we are doing in educating our children. We must always strive to do better. But I do believe we are making great strides. Our test scores show progress and in math even as we push for greater excellence. District 21 is a rather diverse district so that when one measures student performance, one must look at quite a range of variables. We have, for example, established programs to bring students and families into the schools to involve parents in the child's education and thus stimulate the student's concept of how important education is for their future. Over 1000 families and students participate in these programs which are mostly privately funded and run with volunteer help. This program, and programs like it, are helping to raise the education bar for all of our children. While overall we are doing a good job are preparing students for the future, I do believe that all of education has been so focused on NCLB and the students who are under performing, while this is essential, we can lose track of the importance of challenging the very bright (10-15% of students) and the gifted students to achieve more. I would like to see us do more in this regard. Subject to available dollars, I would like to see us continue to improve our gifted programs. Finally, the wave of the future is technology. There are many who would like to see us invest in computers for all our students, as other wealthier school districts have done. Needless to say, the expense is the barrier. However, since many of our students already have home computers possibly at some point we could develop a program to provide computers for those who cannot afford them. Another technology issue is home access to the internet for all. This is a complicated and expensive issue and frankly I am not sure what the solution is at this time. But we might partner with local business (i.e. restaurants) to offer internet access even without purchases required after school.

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?

District 21 passed its last education fund referendum in 2003. At that time we anticipated that the cash flow from that referendum would allow us to operate for 5-8 years. Yet we are still operating in the black. During the years since 2003 and subsequent to the great recession we have had a deficit prevention program in place, in which we eliminated non performing programs and cut non essential expenses. As a consequence, millions and millions of expenses (probably in excess of $7 million) have been reduced without negatively affecting core education programs or our service to children. Needless to say, the vast majority of our revenue does come from our local real estate taxes. However, to complicate our lives the essentially bankrupt State of Illinois continues to reduce reimbursement for general state aid, transportation and many other categoricals. Now we also hear that there is the possibility of Federal cutbacks in certain areas such as Title I and Title IV. (Sequestration)The net result is that tremendous financial pressure is building upon school districts across Illinois. In fact today, 67 % of Illinois School Districts are deficit spending. Additional anticipated State action such as the suggested cost shift to move retirement benefits onto School Districts could exacerbate matters greatly. So while District 21 has been financially prudent, and has managed our resources well, we could use a little help from our friends. With 76 to 78% of all our expenses made up of teacher salaries there are few non education areas left to cut. And the next round of cuts, should they be necessary, will be painful.

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?

Several years ago, when the CPI hit near zero our district was faced with a major budget crises. We were faced with a decision to either to make major layoffs in our teaching staff or negotiate an agreement with our teachers to negotiate reductions in overall teacher compensation. Our teachers stepped up and together we forged an agreement that imposed no salary increases the next year and minimal increases the next several years. Our teachers helped us save positions and eliminate what would have been a multi-million dollar deficit for future years. So our teachers have sacrificed. In fact, just going into the great recession we were the first school district to achieve such an agreement with their teachers. I do not want to pre-judge the next round of negotiations but rest assured we are all concerned about having a balanced budget, paying our teachers competitive salaries and preventing the need for teacher layoffs to save money. The Board of D-21 and our teachers are in this together. We will find solutions together for the best interests of our children.

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 would not. I do not think it is appropriate to boost retirement benefits beyond what has been earned, especially at a time when the State of Illinois cannot sustain its current financial obligations.

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