Christopher Christensen: Candidate Profile
Cary District 26 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: Cary District 26 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married to my wife, Renee, for 12 years. We have two kids, Samantha age 8 and Andrew age 3.
Occupation: Vice President of Neis Insurance in Crystal Lake.
Education: Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from University of Illinois Chicago.
Civic involvement: -Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce; Board of Directors -Founding member of the annual Kiwanis Club of Crystal Lake Santa Run/Walk -Member Fox Valley business leaders -Relay for Life of North McHenry County -Big Brothers/Big Sisters of McHenry of McHenry C
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
Providing a sound educational foundation. Every board member's duty should be to ensure we are cultivating a productive and safe learning environment for students. In 2006, my wife and I moved into District 26 specifically for the school district; and I believe, if we continue the current momentum moving forward, we will return this district to a prominent position in the county.
Key Issue 2
Promoting fiscal responsibility. The students and their education must always be our number one focus. That being said, I think we owe it to the taxpayers of Cary to make sure it's being done as effectively and efficiently as possible. As Vice President of a local business, I have had to make tough decisions in regards to budgets, staff and allocating proper resources.
Key Issue 3
Championing special subjects and improved communication. We must keep increasing the number of special subjects like art, music and P.E. that are reintroduced into school curriculum. I would also work to improve the communication and transparency between the Board, teachers and parents.
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 common core shift is not unique to District 26 but a mandate from the Illinois State Board of Education. I would recommend all parents visit www.isbe.net/common_core in order to better understand how this will affect their student's education. I absolutely support the shift and do not foresee it going away. Therefore, my role on the Board would be to ensure that the teachers and administrators are given all available resources to make sure it's implemented successfully. I believe that the School Board should set the policy for the curriculum that is brought forth by the collective effort of the teachers and the administration.
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?
Given everything District 26 has been through over the last three years, I am constantly impressed by the job the teachers and administration have done preparing my daughter and her classmates for the next stage of their lives. Her teachers, like all of the teachers and administrators of District 26, have met the financial hardships of the district head on and have done their absolute best to not let it affect the quality of their students? educations. Their efforts must be followed by the Board's strong action of looking to return special subjects, continuing to find ways to lower class sizes, and improving available technology offerings to students and teachers.
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?
The biggest budget issue that District 26 currently faces is from the state of Illinois. The Illinois pension system with its $96 billion unfunded pension liability is the worst in the nation. A potential cost shift of pension payments for the Teachers' Retirement System onto local districts means the Board must continue to plan conservatively, as we are dealing with an unknown of epic proportions. As if the State was not throwing enough curve balls, we also continue to see our general state aid cut; down from $5 million in 2008 to just $1 million last year. In 2010, tough but ultimately correct decisions were made and it saved our district from being taken over by the state. By following the district's 5 year plan, it was just announced that cut programs are returning and will continue to do so for the next several years; all while staying within budget. I do not support a property tax increase on the residents and businesses located within the school district.
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?
Not knowing what exactly an employee group will ask, I would enter into negotiations optimistically and with no perceived notions except the following: First and foremost, I do not support a property tax increase. Second, we must continue, as we are currently, to operate within a balanced budget. If the district has learned one lesson from 2010 and the current pension problem, it's that we cannot sustain living outside of our means.
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?
UNEQUIVOCALLY NO. I only place blame on our state lawmakers for where we find ourselves currently, but reality is reality. The state of Illinois has the worst unfunded pension system in the country. To say the current pension system is broken is like saying there was a small hole in the Titanic. If our lawmakers in Springfield will not fix it at the state level, then we must fix it at a local level.
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