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: My wife batool and I have four children, all boys. 2 Boys are in Dist 15, a 3rd and a 7th grader. Our 3rd child is 3 yrs old and youngest is 2 yrs.
Occupation: Am currently working as Manager at Schaumburg based Motorola Solutions Inc. I have expertise in the areas of Program & Project Management, Budgeting, Process & Compliance, Vendor Management & Business Account Relationship Management, Strategic Planning
Education: Masters in Computer Science (MS) from Illinois Institute of Technology ( IIT) , 1998. Program & Project management certifications including PMI-PgMP (Program Management), PMI-PMP (Project Management), PMI-RMP (Risk Management), OCP,MSCE,CCNA,ITIL
Civic involvement: Elected Board Member 2013,14, ISNS, http://www.isns.org Nominated Board Member, 2011 - Community Builders of Chicago, a nonprofit organization working towards upliftment of community through education and networking, service Chicago and Suburbs. http://mycommunitybuilders.com/ Elected Board Member, 2008-2010, ISNS Chaired Committees- Secretarial Affairs, IT, Library, Communication, Adult Education.
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
One of the key issues is that of board effectiveness and governance. There is lot of room in this space for improvement in District 15. Contracts need to be avoided for any ambiguity, one of the clause in teachers contract about schedule changes Overwhelming Majority resistance? led to lot of debates, confusion and online petitions and request for re-surveys ( original survey didn't have all the options that majority of community wanted ). Bond issues in 2010, upcoming Bus Transportation discussions are few more examples of community losing clarity on why some of the decisions and discussions are happening. While of these may have great merits, but communication, transparency needs to improved. Community elects board members to carry its fiduciary responsibilities, it is a trust, confidence, and responsibility that community is placing on elected board members. We need to make sure the effectiveness of fiduciary duty at Dist 15 is top notch. I intend to elevate the current level of confidence and trust that community has on board to next level while making sure the board creates atmosphere for meaningful changes. Boards needs to have good mix of talent & diversity, having me on board will add needed diversity which will bring additional ideas in thoughts, planning, execution & monitoring and oversight.
Key Issue 2
Safety of children is one another issue am deeply concerned Next board has to deal with the Bus transportation contract which is ending in June 2013. District15 transportation claims for Year 2009-10 was $9,286,756.00, for Year 2010-1, $10,917,561.00 and for Year 2011-12 $9,668,843.00. Consultant report estimated an approximate saving of $520.000 if the district were to outsource transportation. There are discussions and proposals going on how this area can be used for savings costs yet making sure the quality of safety on pupil transportation are not compromised. There are 2 major areas of discussion, privatization & re-negotiation of the current contract. Couple of bids submitted by contracting companies is being analyzed ( First Student & Durham School service). As Risk Management professional, I would like to see detailed Risk Analyses report on this transition proposal as well. I would like to make sure we are not rushing into privatization, and see all other options are considered. Any transition should be carefully planned and executed in phased manner with least impact to the service levels. There is District 15 bus pick up spot right in front of my house, me and my wife see off all kids in my community ( including 2 of mine ), this is area of great attachment and emotional to parents as there is trust & confidence in transportation service for safe to school and back home transportation. We got to make sure service levels are continued , while we explore options saving costs. I have good confidence in Asst Supt of Business & Aux services who is working with others to bring all options to the table, re-negations should be top priority as well and see how best we can do the changes in phased manner with strict governance and oversight in place. Onsite school premise safety is another concern for me. I would like to make sure District 15 has processes and procedures conducive for students reporting on bullying, experiencing social and emotional problem, threat assessments etc. As board member I would be seeking data which informs us on effectiveness of measures and will suggest if any gaps are noted. We have to utilize expertise of community to continuously improve school safety measures as well.
Key Issue 3
Preparedness of student for college & work. How can we as Board Members provide atmosphere to improve Dist 15 education so that we churn out bright students who become a great talent, we need more focus on science and engineering. We need to add more STEM courses and finds ways to increase the level of awareness of the community, parents to support the shift to common core standards as well. District 15 is providing overall great education, we can be greater and I would like to be part of thegreater? side of the discussions and work to achieve that.
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?
I totally agree with above observation, I moved to this district in 2006 and became heavily involved in community service within my community, when I got elected at ISNS, community center that I belong to, I made huge improvements in terms of engagement of board and community. I strongly believe that school board is a bridge between community and school system. Board members are the reflections of the vision and values of the community. Trust between all stakeholders in the SYSTEM ( Community, Board Members, Staff, PTA etc ) is a fundamental key to the system to work. That trust was lost in District 15 hence the contentions, and the reason for losing trust could be some bad decisions made, or decisions made without proper research and involvement of the community or ones made with deliberations but not communicated well. The bond issue, the fiscal health in the past, the recent schedule changes, and the current discussions on privatization of buses. If all stakeholders, Board members, teachers, PTA, and staff collaborate, the system will work smoothly. All the people may not be on same page for some certain issues, but they need to communicate and come to an agreement. That is the key to building trust, 2 way communications. Transparency & collaborative decision making for the single outcome in focus, the outcome ofwhat is the best for our children in D15?. The effects of these contentions are both positive and negative. Negative in the sense that some of the major actions of board members, teachers, etc are being scrutinized. Positive in the sense that the D15 community is becoming more aware, engaged and rightfully asking questions on major issues. I would like Dist 15 Community become as strong as it schools, and its schools are as strong as Dist 15 community desires them to be
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?
Yes, District 15 should continue to hold on that land, I am a licensed Illinois Real Estate Broker, though this is not my full time profession, I have deep interest in this field. My opinion on this is to hold the land and continue to use it for D15 purposes. Our D15 Superintendent made a recent comment on this and showed interest that this land, and its use, could become a learning environment for students. The original intention of this land was to build another Junior High School as the housing market was booming. The market went down and I believe the District no longer felt a need to pursue the original plan. I agree with that choice, but recent data is showing that the real estate market is on its way to improvement. Inventory of homes for sale is half of that now compared to two years ago. According to Illinois Association of Realtors (IAR), Chicago real estate shows sales are up 26% in 2012. Zillow reported home values ended 5.9% up in 2012, home sales in Illinois increase by 22.9% over 2011. So these data tells us that the market will recover and the land could be used for in many ways for District 15. Even if we have to sell in future for some pressing needs, we can wait and get better price as we see growth in real estate market
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?
True, the outside uncertainties are increasing, and the state is cutting funding ( transportation, early childhood programs, and low cost lunches for needy and other areas ). There is a state pension plan uncertainties & delay in actions on that has severely impacted Illinois borrowing capabilities. The possible shift of some of the burden to school district is concerning as well. District 15 expenditures have been rising since 2005, some programs cuts were made in 2005 and then restored back in succeeding years, benefits were increasing more than inflation. We were no doubt in bad shape, corrective actions are taken in recent contract with teachers. Our fiscal challenges were noted by community and board members working with Teachers started agreeing on cuts. I would like admire our teacher fraternity for coming forward and working as team to deal with budget challenges last year. The Tiered salary structure model and elements of gradual increase in salaries based on years experience is great approach. We are in better shape now but we still have to keep the momentum going on fiscal responsibility. We have to continue evaluate ways to do more with less. As external funding is getting tougher, doing thing smarter without impacting the outcome is challenging.
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?
The ideal relationship is when where there is atmosphere of 2 way dialogue, process and procedures in place for effective communication flowing in out of the school system to all stake holders, good data points for accountability, transparency in decisions. Deliberate with all first then decide should be norm. Collaborative bargaining where all parties are happy. The key to this collaboration is Union Leadership, Administration, board working together with parents & community for betterment of District 15 kids, focus should be what is best for the kids. District 15 school system relationships needs to improve, there is lot of scope to do things differently to reach to ideal state. Recent school schedule changes proposal are an example where due to some minor ambiguity in contracts led to community resistance on administration's proposals, we could have avoided this situation. My suggestion would be do more communication ( Forums, paper surveys, audio/video presentations, dialogue with community in social media , find way to reach out to broader communities covering all major/minor demographics of the district) . If elected I would work to see that District 15 board is seen by the community not meeting once month to do transactions but more involved what is going on district. Bottom up approach will improve District 15 further in coming years.
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?
Am eagerly looking forward for this shift from current standards to common core state standards popularly knows as CCSS both as parent and a candidate for board of education. The ultimate goal of children education is make sure they are ready for the college and eventually work & become good citizens contributing to society. Common core is not just shifting curriculum from grade to grade but it is framework which provides the path to a goal of enabling the next generation of American students who are successful in college and work. It's a big shift and I want to be contributing player in execution of that shift. In District 15, common core transition is expected to begin in 2013/14, and its department of curriculum and instruction is already on this path. The shift to core is in plan expected to be imposed in 2014-15. The standards are challenging and moving from current to new standards takes a careful planning. Board of education should play important role in oversight, support and work with administration to create smooth, effective path to transition. Governance of this shift is vital and critical. Grades will experience changes in curriculum in content; teachers need to be trainined as well to adopt the teaching requirements for the core. The schedule changes proposal for 2013/14 academic year is is happening partly to give time for teachers to prepare themselves for common core. Board of education should make sure the assessment & effectiveness of changes to core are in place as well, constant questions, asking for data points to analyze the transition is must. My ideas would be more towards the support and oversight to the transition as actual curriculum changes are already planned for 2013-14. There are proposals to add additional STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics ) in addition to 1 STEM we have in 4 Jr High already. Also Board of Education has goal this year to align English/Language Arts and Math learners program to Common core this. SO there is planning in progress and Board right fully is involved in it. My ideas would be to make sure we keep parents aware of this as well in advance as they are key players in this shift. There will be tougher/Challenging home works and we as parents have to mentally be prepared as well. Also I want to propose plans on assessments. WE need to make sure we are prepared for assessment to know the shift is effective and working , assessments like The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PAARCC).