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updated: 2/22/2013 6:28 PM

Phil Pritzker: Candidate Profile

Wheeling District 21 School Board (4-year Terms)

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  • Phil Pritzker, running for Wheeling District 21 School Board (4-year Terms)

    Phil Pritzker, running for Wheeling District 21 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: Arlington Heights

Website: http://none

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

Age: 59

Family: Married, five daughters, 6 grandchildren

Occupation: General Manager of Outer Drive East Condominium Association for The Habitat Company.

Education: Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Secondary Education, Bradley University, 1975.

Civic involvement: Wheeling District 21 Board of Education since 1989. Past President and Vice President. Current Vice President. Past Co-chair of Wheeling Park District Friends of the Park Referendum Committee. Past President and Board Member of Harmony Village Homeowner's Association. Past Board Member of Wheeling Township Democratic Organization. Director of Illinois Association of School Boards, and on Executive Committee of same.

Elected offices held: Wheeling District 21 Board of Education since 1989 to present. Elected in 1989, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009 - longest serving Board Member in District history.

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Maintaining a sound fiscal status for the district so that students will be able to learn and grow to reach their fullest potential. As Chair of the district's finance committee since its inception 9 years ago, I have worked with board members and the administration in reducing deficit and saving large sums of money for the district.

Key Issue 2

With a sound fiscal house, seeing that the professional staff puts programs together that supports each student's challenge of reaching their personal potential. Over the years, a process has been out into effect where each major program comes under review and scrutiny to make sure that it is accomplishing what its intended purpose is; and, if it is not achieving what it should, to make appropriate changes to enable students to receive the positive intention of each program or initiative.

Key Issue 3

In a time of ongoing change, to work with the full Board to develop appropriate policies for effective governance of the district. With a new superintendent, to assist with her transition and to make sure that she is successful in developing her team for the fullest benefit of our students.

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?

The establishment of common core standards is fine sounding initiative that can be a positive mandate so long as local districts have the flexibility to tailor the specifics to their own district needs. While state and national standards are good in that they can point the way to desired ends, making the program such that it relies on a punitive compliance measure (similar to NCLB) is bad practice. WE need more carrots than sticks. For districts that may not attain a designated status, but where the students are, in fact, showing growth on their individual path to learning, identifying such districts as failures is absolutely wrong. Boards of Education should review and ask the tough questions on curriculum as well as in other operational matters in order to reflect their community's desires for education their children.

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 our district is pursuing a solid course for preparing our students for success in our k-8 district. In addition to concentrating on the fundamentals of reading, math and science, fully integrating the use of technology as a tool throughout the subject matters is a key. Supporting a broad spectrum of activities that underscores the importance of physical activity, foreign language development and the arts is a key for developing well rounded students that can think and look forward to being lifelong learners.

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?

Our district, like most districts in the state, will face decreasing funding from the state through general state aid and different categoricals due to the state's increasingly poor financial health. We will need to continue to streamline our operations and search out efficiencies through actions with other districts in comjunction with IASB. At some point, we will need to approach our community on the topic of a referendum; however, we have been very prudent with our resources having stretched the last increase from a 5-7 year period to 10 years based on our deficit prevention program that followed a deficit reduction program over the last ten years. A very significant part of that was a contract with our staff where they agreed to a total freeze for one year that resulted in a savings of 1.5 million in that first year, which, of course has a compounding effect. At this point, we do not see the elimination of any prorams strictly due to financial pressure.

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?

As stated above, our staff in the last contract negotiation accepted a one year total freeze that was extremely beneficial for the district. It has been our practice over the years to not negotiate in the public putting undue pressure on our staff or ourselves; so, nothing gets ruled out or in until we begin the actual negotiation process. All I can say is that we have over the years developed an incredible relationship with our staff based on honesty and a frank discussion of the issues that surround our fiscal health.

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?

While the past practice of supporting end of career significant bumps in salary to enhance retirement benefits was fairly common throughout the field, those days are clearly in the past. The realities of today's fiscal matters prevents the same type of practice going forward. Those former practices were prevalent when salaries were relatively less than the private sector, and it was a way to reward the type of longevity and dedication that those professionals showed their districts. In today's world, salaries are more market driven and the practice has become unnecessary and archaic.