Debra McAtee: Candidate Profile
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.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Wheeling District 21 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married, two children
Occupation: Stay at home mom
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, University of Phoenix, 2002 High Honors
Civic involvement: Girl Scout troop 41470, Girl Scout troop 41670, Girl Scout Community Partner District 21, Tarkington PTA, London PTO
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Communications. While we currently have numerous ways of communicating our mission, goals, triumphs and strengths to the public I feel that there are ways that we can improve in this area. Having gone to board meetings for the past seven years, I was aware of things as they were happening within the district and I was able to that information on to the parents at my school. Emphasis needs to be placed on using our current methods as well as developing new ones and even reinstating old ones to be certain that our information is getting out to our residents.
Key Issue 2
Fiscal Responsibility. As evidenced by the fact that we have not had to ask for a tax increase even many years after what the public had been told, our district has been quite responsible fiscally. I wish to see us maintain that responsibility and to see if there are further ways in which we can reduce spending without also reducing the quality of the education that our students receive.
Key Issue 3
Technology. Our world is ever changing, and our technology is changing with it. We need to be certain that our students are prepared to work in a world where technology is everywhere. But we also need to use this technology to keep our residents informed. Most of our teachers use blogs and Wikis to help their students with assignments, this could be expanded to our principals for school and district-wide functions. Twitter could be used to remind parents of board meetings and events-even school closings in case of inclement weather; a Facebook page set up with notifications of events. Technology is not just putting a device in the hands of every student; it is also about using what is available to us effectively.
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?
District 21 is already transitioning to common core. As part of our continuing improvement process we are aligning all of our schools to teach the same curriculum; this is the role of the board of education, to direct the superintendent and their staff toward making the changes needed to uphold the applicable laws and to stay within the policies as approved by the board. The board is often comprised not of educators, but business persons within the community, the actual setting of the curriculum needs to be the responsibility of the educators. Students that transfer between districts, and especially from different states, sometimes have a difficult time acclimating to the new school because of the different curriculum; either they have no clue as to what is happening because they haven't received the base knowledge they need or because they are bored because they were already taught that. In our mobile society the proper adopting of common core should aid in these transitions. Even students from different schools within the same district often have different knowledge bases making the transition from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school difficult. Common core is intended to raise everyone up, not to bring everyone down to a lower platform. This is why it is very important for it to be properly implemented.
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?
I believe that District 21 is doing a wonderful job of preparing our students for the transition from elementary to high school. The two high schools that District 21 students feed into are noted as being some of the best in the state and that would not be true if it weren't for the knowledge base the students have prior to going to those schools. I have been attending school board meetings since my eldest daughter started kindergarten. In those 7 years I have only missed a handful of meetings, often being the only private citizen in the audience. It is the knowledge that I gained by coming to those meetings that gave me the desire to apply for the vacant position last year. As the parent of a young child in the district, I feel that we are fulfilling the needs of the wide-spectrum of students that embraces our economic, cultural and academic diversity. As our society evolves, we will have to evolve along with it. Curriculum is not stagnant; it must be able to change as the world around us changes.
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?
All districts in Illinois are confronting budget issues. The administrative staff of District 21 is constantly looking for ways to reduce expenses; they have saved us millions of dollars over the past several years, savings that continue. Many of our budgetary issues arise out of unfunded mandates from the State and Federal governments, these we can do nothing about. Most of our budget is for personnel and labor expenses; we want to maintain our high caliber of teachers within our district along with reasonable class sizes. District 21 is fortunate to operate with a partnership between the teachers and the administration and the Board. I am confident that this relationship will not change and that we will continue to work together in this challenging financial climate. If program cuts are necessary, I will look at each of them on an individual basis to determine which has the least impact upon the children of our district. On the income side, the last tax increase that the district asked for has lasted many years past what had been promised. While individual tax bills may have gone up, others have gone down; it is all dependent on the individual's portion of the entire levy. As a School Board we will continue to monitor the changing financial landscape and work with our finance committee and the community to exam the need for a referendum in the coming years.
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?
District 21 will be entering into contract negotiations shortly. We have a terrific relationship between the union and the district and I do not foresee any change in that status. As almost everyone in the general workforce has had the cost of their benefits increase, I would expect that our employees would do the same.
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 in pay to any district employee to boost pension benefits. The general workforce does not have the ability to do this, and I believe that it is fiscally irresponsible for both the districts and the state to allow this to be done. This is one of the items that I believe should be addressed in pension reform.
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