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updated: 2/22/2013 6:25 PM

Chris Jenner: Candidate Profile

Cary District 26 School Board (4-year Terms) (Independent)

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  • Chris Jenner, running for Cary District 26 School Board (4-year Terms)

    Chris Jenner, running for Cary District 26 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: Cary


Office sought: Cary District 26 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 56

Family: Married to Laurie for 22 years. Three children: Leanne, senior at University of Illinois; Luke, Junior at DePaul University; Melanie, junior at Cary-Grove High School.

Occupation: Nokia Siemens Networks (formerly Motorola) for 29 years, currently Operations Manager on the Verizon Wireless account team.

Education: BS University of Illinois 1978, MBA Illinois Institute of Technology 1991, MS DePaul University 1996.

Civic involvement: Edited monthly newsletter for Cub Scout Pack 757, 1999 2003; Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor 2005 present; Cary District 26 Speech Tournament Judge 2006 present; volunteer, Cary District 26 PALS Reading Program 2011 - 2012.

Elected offices held: Cary District 26 Board of Education, elected 2005, re-elected 2009.

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Academic rigor. I first ran for school board out of a concern for academic rigor. In my first term I pushed for adoption of Learning Expectations (also referred to as Power Standards), which allowed D-26 to strengthen Illinois State Learning Standards in areas where they were weak. As we migrate to the Common Core Standards, I similarly want to make sure that we retain as much local control as possible, and have the ability to strengthen those standards where the community believes they should be strengthened.

Key Issue 2

Fiscal responsibility. D-26's recent string of balanced budgets and its improved financial rating are great signs. We must stay vigilant and ensure management of our finances continues to improve. While the outlook for the next few years is favorable, we need to manage several unknown factors (e.g. potential pension shifts, questionable state aid level) to ensure we don't return to financial dire straits. Finally, I want to see D-26 hold its share of the property tax bill flat, or ideally reduce it, by retiring existing bonds without incurring new debt.

Key Issue 3

Increased legislative advocacy. The most significant problems facing D-26 and most other Illinois school districts can't be solved locally, and need statewide solutions. I?ve authored a number of resolutions calling for legislative action to ease unnecessary financial burdens on both the District and the taxpayers. If re-elected, I will increase activity in this area. I?ve also built a network of school board members from other districts around the state, and will use that network to encourage similar advocacy in other districts.

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?

I?m very concerned about the shift to CCSS for a number of reasons. On the surface, it appears the CCSS completely remove local control of curriculum. D-26 administration has said that thePacing Guides? will afford us local control of curriculum and its rigor. If re-elected, I will continue to press to ensure D-26 use of learning standards is rigorous. Although portrayed asstate standards?, all states are adopting the same standards, making these national, or federal, standards. The federal government has no constitutional authority to do anything in the area of education. I?m concerned the CCSS are just another opportunity for adult constituencies to benefit at the expense of a good education for children. The Board, through policy, sets requirements for curricular programs, and ensures curricular material recommended by the administration meets those requirements. The Board should also ensure the District has the capability to increase the strength of whatever learning standards are used. The new English Language Arts program recently approved by the Board *appears* to be solid. I have never been a fan of our current math program, and would like to see it replaced with a stronger math program.

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 District 26 does a good job of preparing our students for high school. The data we?ve been able to obtain confirms this. D-26 articulates regularly with D-155, and should continue to do so. We should also continue to ask for data about the placement (and ideally performance) of D-26 graduates in D-155. The changes needed in D-26 are in the areas of program offerings (restoringspecials?), class size, and technology. We are currently on a course to see improvements in all three areas.

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?

D-26 will face issues that many districts will be facing in the next few years -- state aid continuing to decline and possible shift of pension costs. In addition, D-26 funds will continue to be stretched by efforts to reduce class sizes and restore music, art, and PE. We also have two expensive roof replacements to be done, one of which there is a plan in place for. Measures I support to address our budget issues start with advocating for pension reform, and the relief from costly mandates on school districts that have no academic value, such as the Prevailing Wage act. From a D-26 perspective, I support continuing to keep balanced budgets, and somewhat conservative long range financial planning. To avoid bankruptcy and a state takeover, the District already had to make far more cuts than anyone wanted. One area I would look at for potential reduction is the size of the Central Office Administrative staff. As our enrollment declines (~30% since 2004), I?ve been encouraging the Administration to look at jobs with workloads driven by enrollment or employee count and see if things can be done differently so headcount can be lowered. While the cost saving potential isn't large, it would be a good demonstration of leadership. I do not support any tax increases. The existing tax rates are already high, and the economy is still in the tank. Taxpayers are tapped. With the recent 67% state income tax hike, state revenues are at record highs, yet the state continues to be delinquent on its bills and cut funding to agencies and schools. There is more than enough public money available to adequately fund education. It's a matter of getting the money to the right place. The first step needs to be meaningful pension reform. The problem is not that the state, i.e. the taxpayers, aren't paying their fare share. The problem is that since 1970, politicians over promised far moresweeteners? than the pension systems could afford or sustain.

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?

In the last negotiations with the teachers, the District asked the Cary Education Association to accept some contract terms I suspect they found quite difficult. I was very proud of the association for realizing accepting those terms was necessary to put us on a road to financial recovery, and for agreeing to the contract without any talk of a strike. Our revenue is largely driven by the Consumer Price Index. I would like to see D-26 tie as much of our expenditures (the largest being labor) as possible to the CPI, or anything else that drives our revenue.

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?

Absolutely not! For those with 30+ year careers, pension benefits are already overly generous and have made Illinois a death spiral state. Pension spiking is unaffordable, morally wrong, and provides no benefit to the children. Retirement benefits should be tied to what an individual puts in.