Russell Cerqua: Candidate Profile
Lake Zurich Unit District 95 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: Lake Zurich Unit District 95 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married with two children
Occupation: CPA, Business Manager for the Cook Memorial Public Library District
Education: Bachelor of Science in Commerce - Accounting, DePaul University, 1978
Civic involvement: Treasurer of the Lake Zurich High School's Corner Kick Club, 2005 to 2010
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
Modern technology can be amazing. iPads, tablets, podcasts, smartboards, digital video, and other tools are becoming commonplace in everyday life. Technology in the classroom can help grab kids? attention and motivate them to make use of the skills they are trying to master. Our teachers need to know how to use these tools and technologies in order to effectively integrate them into the classrooms. So the issue is finding alternative funding sources, or freeing up existing resources to purchase the technology and then training our teachers and staff properly. There are a number of other districts throughout the country that are having success in this area.
Key Issue 2
I believe we need to develop a plan to significantly renovate and modernize our libraries. A few months ago, I visited a high school in Lake County that had recently completed a major renovation of their library. They added a number of electronic labs where students can get together to collaborate on class projects, utilizing laptops, tablets, oversized monitors and touch screens. The library hassmart bars? where students can plug-in their devices to work on research and homework. The furniture and seating is comfortable and very conducive to reading and studying. What I observed were hundreds of students actually excited about going to the library. The library's staff told me on most mornings, there are kids in line waiting to get into the library before classes begin. I look at the libraries in our district, and while they are nice, they are not as inviting or as modernized as they can or should be.
Key Issue 3
Candidate did not respond.
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 believe that the shift to common core standards is a positive move. The common core standards should provide a uniform system of goals and benchmarks for schools, teachers and students that over time should improve the quality of education in this country. A study released in November by the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that the US was ranked 17th in the global education ranking. We need to take steps to get back towards the top. I see the role of the board of education with regards to curriculum as one of oversight. Most of the members of the board of education are not educators. The board's role is to hire the right educators to run the day-to-day operations of the schools within the district, which includes the development of the curriculum. That being said, I think that we need to increase our focus on our math and science curricula where the US has been slipping in the global rankings.
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 have two sons who attended District 95 schools from 1st grade through high school. One of them graduated from the University of Illinois in May of 2012 with a degree in Engineering Mechanics and a minor in Physics. He secured a job in engineering which he started immediately after graduation. My younger son is a junior at the University of Illinois, majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology. I believe they have done well in college because of the quality of education they received in the District 95 schools. And while I believe the District 95 schools prepared my sons for college and beyond, if you don't stay ahead of the curve, you will fall behind. We are in an age of technology, and we, as a country, need to be able to compete with the more technologically advanced countries. The District needs to increase our focus on technology. As part of the management team for a large library district, I understand the importance of technology in libraries and education. In recent months, I have visited other public libraries and a local high school's library and seen how they are making significant strides in technology. They are integrating technology (iPads, tablets, software) into their libraries and classrooms. And since this isn't something that can happen overnight, we need to make sure we have short-term and long-term plans to address these technology needs.
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?
I believe that probably the most challenging budget issue facing the district will be finding funding for technology. Many other districts throughout the country are finding alternate funding sources or ways to better allocate existing revenues to fund their technology needs. Technology is expensive, but the importance of staying on top of it is ever increasing. I would like to avoid any tax increases, especially in this economic environment. So we need to be smart about it. We need to look at our curriculum, programs, and operating costs to see if there are any resources that can be re-allocated to technology.
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?
From what I have seen, I believe the board and the administration have done a good job with controlling salaries. Our teachers and staff are not at the top of the pay scales as compared with other districts. But they are also not at the bottom. I don't think we need to ask for any concessions from our employees, but I also believe that given the current economic situation in this country, we would be hard pressed to be handing out increases much above the cost of living. While we need to be competitive with regards to our teachers? compensation packages, the right answer is not always to just throw more money at it. A report issued in conjunction with the EIU rankings I referred to earlier, suggests that promoting a culture that is supportive of education is more important that the amount of money invested.
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?
No, I would not support a substantial increase in his or her pay to help boost pension benefits. I believe the teachers? retirement plan was designed to compensate educators/administrators in their retirement fairly based upon their salaries throughout their career. I believe it is more than fair. I don't think that we, or any districts, need to increase salaries in the final years to artificially increase retirement benefits. I think we all can see the effects this practice has had on the financial situation here in Illinois.
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