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updated: 2/22/2013 6:25 PM

Bruce Ritter: 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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Cary

Website: Candidate did not respond.

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

Age: 39

Family: Married with three children. My wife's family has long roots in Cary spanning 4 generations (of which our children are part of the 4th generation) and over 5 households.

Occupation: Currently:Product Engineering Manager for Cooking and Grills, Sears Holdings Corp. Beginning 02/18/13: Manager of Vendor Management, Healthcare Services Corp (parent of Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL, TX, NM & OK)

Education: BS Electrical Engineering, Northwestern University, 1995 MS Electrical Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2001 MBA with Academic Distinction, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2003

Civic involvement: I am active in several of activities and organizations of my children and family.

Elected offices held: None

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Open and Honest communication with the community on the true state of the District and what the impact of BOE decisions are on District. For example, the BOE keeps talking about plans and prioritization for bringing back the specials that were lost. It does not talk that even though some are returning next year, there are no plans to bring back more and most likely, based on its own calculations, will have to cut some if not all of these returned specials in the next serval years. Another open secret is the 4 open buildings are all essentially at capacity. The capacity issues means there is essentially little to no ability to open up additional classrooms in these buildings to either lower class size or bring back specials. This could be one factor is the specials that are being brought back next year do not really require opening up classrooms. This is especially important considering the Prairie Hill School deal, one whose net present value is at a significant discount to the previous asking price the BOE was looking for.

Key Issue 2

Improved organizational discipline, planning, organization and accountability in the Administration and BOE. The District is facing many challenges and the approaches it takes to address these are not optimal and resulting in poor outcomes. The Administration needs to begin, at a minimum, begin implementing basic Project or Program Management methodologies. These methodologies will also help the BOE to hold the administration better accountable for results.

Key Issue 3

True Community Engagement. Several years ago when my involvement started, I pushed the BOE for more community involvement. The BOE came out with the Community Engagement Committee (CEC), which is nothing more than a number of community members sitting with the BOE once a month with no expected outcomes or requirements of the BOE to take action. The BOE would be hard pressed to show any real impact or successes of the CEC. Several former CEC members left it because of this lack of accomplishment and the feeling the BOE was not listening to the CEC. The Cary community is full of smart, talented and experienced professionals who are more than willing to get involved in helping the District to address it challenges. The current CEC needs to be replaced with working Community Committees, that will very likely be partnered with members of the Administration and Teachers, tasked with addressing specific issues and to come to the BOE with actionable recommendations. Several areas that could be addressed include, but not limited to: Food Service, Technology, Administrative organization and actions, and Purchasing.

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?

Considering the organization of Illinois school districts, for example with multiple elementary school districts feeding into D-155 and multiple feeding into individual high schools, having a coordinated curriculum in theory is a good thing. The primary responsibility of the BOE is to ensure the education of the students. As this education is done through the curriculum, it is of the utmost importance the BOE ensures the curriculum is meeting the needs of the students and that the Administration is implementing it. Unfortunately it is taking the new Common Core Standards to even coordinate the curriculum in D26, which is not standard across the district. This seemingly haphazard approach raises questions to what the BOE and Administration, especially the Curriculum Committee and Director of Curriculum have been doing.

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 am not satisfied at all with the District preparing of students for their future. We are already seeing declines in test scores. In an increasingly globalized world the fact the district has no foreign language is a disgrace. Let alone the fact the district essentially has no music or art programs, both of which have shown to support math and spacial abilities and hence also the sciences. D26 students are increasingly becoming less prepared for high school, especially compared to their peers from districts not experiencing these reductions.

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?

Considering the timing of the next teachers contract and the uncertainty of what actions the State will take, especially on the pension issues, it is too early to have a final judgement if and how much of a tax increase could or should be posed to the community. What I do know, is like any organization of its type, pay and benefits make up the bulk of D26's costs. Before any possible question of a change to the tax rates could or should be explored let alone brought to the community a contract with the teachers and administrators needs to be in place of significant enough length so the District can properly understand its situation. let alone the State determining what it is doing with pensions. Once those are determined and understood, then the districts long term financial needs can be understood. Anything before that is pure speculation.

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?

There has not been a good study to understand how D26 compares. While many districts do post their negotiated contracts online, few if any publish a full lane and step table as D26 does. The D3 & D26 merger study was a lost opportunity when the consultants did a not do an in depth study, and just used the basic published statistics available on the State web sites, with barely an acknowledgment of the differences in the teacher demographics of the two districts but no real descriptions or understanding the distribution of that education and experience, nor endorsement specialties. Due to D26's financial situation, the pressures of decreased and uncertain State support, and the continued increases in healthcare costs above the general inflation rate, it would be hard to see how there could be any increase in pay or benefits. Without understanding comparative pay structures it is hard to say if and how much of concessions could or should be while keeping D26 a competitive district to attract and retain talented educators, while keeping them modivated. That said, I do see and believe there are areas in the contract that can be adjusted that would be minimal to non-existent impact to the teachers but would benefit the district.

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?

Not applicable to Cary D26

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