Jennifer Zold: Candidate Profile
Palatine District 15 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.
Office sought: Palatine District 15 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Jennifer and her husband Nicholas have been married 20 years. With their two children, they've been part of the Paddock Elementary community and now attend Sundling Jr. High and Fremd H.S.
Occupation: Former Director of Operations at a consulting firm in downtown Chicago. Currently, a part-time trust and property manager
Education: BS in Applied Psychology, Business Emphasis, Loyola University Chicago
Civic involvement: Volunteered at Stuart Paddock School, St. Nectarios Greek School, and Holy Family Catholic Church. Founding member of Citizens for Accountability in D15: This group was formed to communicate District 15 issues with stakeholders, and spearheaded campaign to give voters a choice in the 2010 bond referendum.
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
The improvement of children's quality education must be at the forefront of every decision throughout the District.
Key Issue 2
To demonstrate a desire for increased accountability, encourage policies aimed at improved, proactive, and transparent communication.
Key Issue 3
Support the community's clear mandate for the District to focus on a fiscal policy aligning expenditures to our limited tax revenues.
In recent years, Dist. 15 has had contentious relationships between the board and teachers, teachers and the administration, and on the board itself. What is the root cause of this, what problems has it caused, and what must be done to improve it?
Contentious relationships arise from individuals or groups holding conflicting viewpoints due to different life experiences. Contention reaches a head when these varying viewpoints seek different goals. Yet we can leverage contention's positive aspects. If contention is the result of diverse viewpoints, this is a healthy mix of experience and perspectives. Rigorous discussion stimulated by multiple viewpoints results in a larger pool of ideas, and a more balanced solution. However, respect for those with whom one may disagree is always required. All involved should keep an open mind, aim to work out differences, and strive to find common ground by focusing on ideas, not personalities. Each group should strive to keep all communication factual and clear. With regard to the Board, members should be mindful that they are joined in a common purpose: public service. Board members share a common goal in working together to educate our community's children.
Should District 15 continue to hold onto the 40 acres in Inverness that was originally intended for a new middle school, or look to sell it?
Millions of dollars in public assets lie within this acreage, so careful consideration for its greatest utility needs to be weighed. At this point I am unaware of any reliable data proving the need for or rejection of additional classroom space. To acquire this, studying census data and various methods of forecasting population growth and movement would be a first priority. A financial analysis would include an estimate of potential revenue from the land sale, and projections of additional annual tax revenue if developed. With the District's current limited and uncertain income streams the Board should ask: Looking to the future, how can we best utilize this asset for the maximum benefit for our children, and community stakeholders?
How do you think District 15 has handled budgetary pressures in recent years? Amid the uncertainties of outside funding sources, are there ways the district could be more in control of its own destiny?
I have been attending District 15 Board meetings since 2005. And until recently, the last two years, I've noted its financial history has been marked by a lack of transparency, stability and long-term planning. The former lack of transparency is most notable in the 'back door referendum' attempted in 2010, in which the Board sought to issue $27 million in bonds (i.e., taking out a loan) without soliciting public dialogue or advisement. Some of the 'budgetary pressure' referred to in the question became clearly defined by our community's 2:1 vote refusing the request to issue these bonds. In 2005 the District projected a budget deficit of about $13 million. Following a divisive, failed referendum, by 2008 it was brought back into greater balance with belt-tightening and better business management. This was followed by a wild swing back up to deficit spending of $10 million annually by 2012. These unstable fluctuations cost the community financially. Intra-community tensions soared and distrust among the various District stakeholders grew. My goal is to work toward the elimination of these unhealthy drains on our community. To smooth these fluctuations and discord the District needs to stay on the trajectory of greater stability through focus on a long-term plan. The current Board's recent efforts to create a roadmap toward a balanced budget and long-term stability are very encouraging. To determine our own destiny, the best defense against uncertainty is through awareness on federal and state policy change, as well as maintaining careful, conservative fiscal policies in which we strive to align our expenditures to our limited revenue streams. Ultimately, the Board can't control how Springfield or Washington affects us but it can determine what we spend.
How would you define the ideal working relationship between a school board and its administrators and teachers? To what degree does your school district represent this relationship now?
In an ideal working relationship, groups coming from different perspectives would approach each collaborative effort with an open mind and respect for each other's points of view. If all efforts were conducted with the goal of the benefit of the students at the core, then common purpose would unite them. Under ideal circumstances each group would perform their job well, by meeting or exceeding defined expectations. When any one of these groups is not executing their professional or civic role as prescribed, over-reach by the other groups to correct the deficiencies can occur. Expectations and parameters need to be clearly communicated at the onset for the greatest benefit. With respect, careful articulation of roles, and the professional execution of duties, discord should be kept to a minimum. Our District 15 teachers, administrators and board members are highly qualified, respectful professionals who share the community's goal of providing the very best education for our students. Currently, these groups could benefit from more clarification of roles between groups. In addition, efforts at more proactive communication within these groups could greatly improve relationships. Greater transparency at the onset could naturally facilitate a clearer understanding of roles and expectations which would lead to positive and productive collaboration. Better communication means less chance for misunderstanding. Special care needs to be taken with the relationship between the Board and teachers due to rules of collective bargaining requiring certain legal boundaries on the flow of communication. Healthy relationships among these groups are vital in order to provide the best education for our children, and ultimately, to be accountable to our community's stakeholders.
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?
Illinois' educational standards have not been changed since 1997. Within the next few years Common Core curriculum will bring changes in benchmarks, standards, instruction methods and assessment to our District. While portions of our curriculum are already in alignment with the Common Core, our students will be seeing significant shifts in math, and more specifically, writing. I am supportive of the increased efforts focusing on these subject areas because they create a foundation for most other learning. Also, I'm particularly interested in knowing more about international benchmarks incorporated into the new standards. Preparing our students for competition in the global market place is important. While these new standards on one hand bring potential benefits, critics argue new benchmarks are too challenging in some areas, while others say it is not enough. As change is implemented we should be mindful that standards by themselves are no guarantee of improved academic outcomes. During this transition increased communication between parents and the District should be encouraged with the administration proactively taking the lead. The Board's role as elected representatives of the community is to ensure the community's standards are reflected in the quality, content, rigor, ethics, and goals of the curriculum. Teachers and administrators are at the front lines of curriculum design and implementation by definition of their professional roles. As a parent of a recent District 15 graduate as well as a current student, I can bring a perspective of hindsight as well as a continued desire to work toward improvement in achievement across the District.
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