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: Cary District 26 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Alan (husband of 22 years) Douglas 18 Freshman at Lewis University Scott 16 Senior at Cary Grove Mark 15 Freshman at Cary Grove
Occupation: Adjunct Faculty Western Governors University
Education: BA - Chemistry Dominican University MS - Chemistry Marquette University Secondary Teaching Certificate (ILL)
Civic involvement: Saints Peter and Paul Religious Education Teacher Cary District 26 BOE PADS
Elected offices held: Cary District 26 BOE 2009-2013
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
My number 1 campaign issue is to work towards the return of specials. The students and parents of District 26 have been very patient, but the return of specials is now the primary request. The Board and Administration understand this and have put forth a plan that will begin to provide PE, music and art next year. As a Board member, I will try and make sure this is done for the start of the next school year while staying within the framework of a balanced budget. These are extremely important classes for our students and I am happy that the District is moving forward in a positive financial framework so that these classes may once again be provided. As the financial health of the District continues to improve, the Board and Administration will look to increase the frequency of the core specials and look into other options at the Jr High level. I will continue to try and explore alternative funding sources and ways of providing classes that meet Illinois Learning Standards. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the parents and other stakeholders who have given so much of their time and talents to volunteer in the schools that have helped make up the loss of the specials in the children's lives. The PTOs and the Cary Education Foundation also deserve a big thanks for helping the District through our financial struggles.
Key Issue 2
My second campaign issue is to continue to pass a balanced budget and stay within the spending framework of that budget. I am not in favor of any increase to the limiting rate that our taxes are based on. Illinois school districts have all seen a decrease in funding from the State and delayed payments. This will probably not change and in fact could even become more burdensome. Therefore, as a Board member I must work with the Administration to continue to look for all possible ways to cut costs on supplies and services. In the four years that I have been on the Board significant cost reductions for supplies and services have been achieved. The school district is one of the cities largest employers and as a Board member I realize that it is our employees who work so diligently with our students to help mold them into educated well adjusted young adults. However, there is a balance that I must find between what salaries and benefits the District can offer. There are hard choice that will have to be made but we cannot provide a quality education if we are not in control of our own financial house.
Key Issue 3
My 3rd campaign issue is to work for continued curriculum and technology development within the District. Last year, classroom computers, computer labs and infrastructure was updated. The District was able to purchase a limited number of smart boards for classroom use and our teachers have put them to good use in delivering classroom instruction. It is my goal to continue to work with other Board members and the Administration work off a plan that will continue to update our technology and bring in new options. With the adoption of the Common Core Standards much work is being done both at the Administration level and classroom level and I am proud to be include in this. I am excited to say that the District will be purchasing new English Language Arts textbooks that are aligned with the Common Core that were selected after a well designed review by our teachers. These new textbooks will replace a variety of outdated learning resources that varied from school to school. This will help to provide a consistent student experience across each grade level and at each school within the District. As funds become available, the learning resources for the math education of our students will be evaluated and new materials purchased to once again provide consistent learning across the District. All improvements will be done within the framework of a balanced budget.
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 am always leery of mandates that are thrust on the District. I question if the Common Core might be more directed at preparing students from larger cities for college than suburban districts. District 26 had made strides in developing its own version of Illinois Learning Standards which where called Power Standards. This was a Board initiative began in 2008, and it was felt that these standards would lead to a higher level of teaching. They were developed between the Curriculum Director and teams of teachers. So I feel that the framework of teaching has always been high in this District The Common Core Standards do strengthen some areas of teaching. Our teachers have been working very hard to understand what they need to do in the classroom. Our role as a Board is to be able to provide updated Learning Resources and time for professional development. This is hard because updating textbooks is costly but I think we are on the right track with the adoption of the new English Language Arts (K-8) textbooks. My role as a Board member has been to chair the curriculum committee. We have monthly public meetings where we present curriculum issues and changes that are happening in the District. The public is always welcomed and their input encouraged. Each year in May, we hold a Curriculum hearing where parents can present their concerns to the Board. It is so important that parents feel free to tell the Board of what has not worked for or what has been good for their students. We appreciate each parent that attends.
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?
As a parent, I think the teachers and staff of District 26 did a great job on preparing my children for high school. Two of my children began in special services at age 3 with District 26 and flourished. As we continue to rebuild our financial health we need to address the issue of providing challenges for our gifted students. The education of each child is important and I think our teacher strive to achieve a strong differentiated classroom, but I would like to see a return to providing some for of gifted education. District 26 has continues to provide a strong math education with high school level geometry being offered to 8th graders. As we reconsider, specials at the Jr. High I would like a discussion on how to offer a foreign language class. My goal would be to offer a course in 7th and 8th grade that would allow students to move into the second year of the language at the high school.
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 pension crisis is an issue that will affect all Districts. There is talk of shifting the pension costs to the Districts. This would be financially hard on all Districts, but I do think in the long run it would force Districts to be more prudent with salaries and benefits. I do not support any attempts at raising the limiting tax rate in this current economic climate. Every resident of Cary has seen property values drop and taxes increase and I do not feel that people can continue to pay large tax increases. I really feel we need to look for ways to deliver educational services in new ways. Instead of eliminating programs, we need to look at other delivery methods such as digital or contract services.
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?
During my term, the District has had salary and benefit concessions from all employee groups. It is my feeling that all salary increases need to be tied to CPI. It is hard to predict what we will be able to offer employees in benefits with the roll out of Affordable Care Act. I feel that a large number of community members have had wage and benefits cuts in their own jobs and I am mindful of that reality. While any employer wants to retain good workers, District 26 can only offer wages and benefits that help us achieve our goals of providing a quality education for our students while not entering into deficit spending, like other districts have done.
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?
Definitely not. Part of pension reform must look at this practice and show the cost of it to the public. Pension reform must be a top priority for Springfield. We have teachers and other state workers who are looking forward to retirement and do not know what faces them financially. They deserve answers and some measure of security. There has to be a way that is equitable for each retiree. In the current teacher's contract, this Board removed the clause that allowed a teacher once they declare a retirement date to receive a 6% salary bump for 4 years and upon retirement a $20K payout. This was a huge financial drain on the District. If we cannot offer this to teachers than we need to control Administrative salary bumps near retirement also.