Scott McConnell: 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.
City: Lake Zurich
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Lake Zurich Unit District 95 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married - Ann Marie (13 years). Two Children, Jack (9) and Grace (6).
Occupation: Managing Technology Director, Allstate Investments
Education: Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 1995 (Majors in Accountancy and Management Information Systems) Master of Business Administration, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, 2003
Civic involvement: Community Unit School District #95 School Board 2012 - Present LZBSA Little Leage Coach 2008 - Present Buehler YMCA Adventure Guides Chief 2008 - 2010
Elected offices held: Community Unit School District #95 School Board 2012 - Present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Improving the district's curriculum and technology penetration to enable the delivery of individualized learning and improve student outcomes. Advances in technology have led to tremendous changes in the delivery of education. Instruction can now be individualized in ways that simply weren't possible even a few years ago, allowing students to achieve better outcomes. Realizing these benefits requires widely available modern technology, modifications to the curriculum, and additional training for teachers. The district has historically lagged its peers in terms of the computer penetration and use in the classroom. The district needs to improve its computer device to student ratio to 1:1 and to continue its advances in how instruction is delivered. My professional background in leveraging technology to solve problems and enable solutions can help the board set correct policy and ensure the district does not fall behind in this vital area.
Key Issue 2
Ensure the district's sound finances continue to be maintained. A significant amount of work has been done by the current board and administration to improve the district's finances. Reserves have been increased, conservative budgeting and spending practices have been implemented, and a new teacher's contract (2012) provides fair compensation for our teachers while controlling the growth of employee expenses. The state's pension crisis, the underperformance of the Lake Zurich TIF District, the condition of the local real estate market, and increased state and federal mandates are likely to place additional budget pressures on the district over the next few years. It's therefore vital that the School Board is populated by individuals who have the background and ability to ensure that the district's administration is appropriately managing its finances.
Key Issue 3
Represent the viewpoints and concerns of our Elementary and Middle School parents, students, and staff on the School Board. Unlike many of our peer school districts, District 95 serves students from Early Childhood through Grade 12. While this has many advantages, including lower tax rates and educational consistency, the necessary focus on the High School occasionally detracts from the primary schools. To maintain an appropriate balance across all grade levels, I believe that it's important to have someone on the board who is actively involved in the Elementary and Middle Schools and who is able to share and approach policy from this perspective.
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 shift to the common core standard will be positive, but does have some drawbacks. The common core will: help parents and students understand what they should be learning; will advance the college and career readiness of students by increasing focus on skills required to succeed in a knowledge based economy (e.g. understanding complex non-fiction); and introduce consistent, benchmarked curriculum standards while still allowing teachers and administrators flexibility in determining how best to deliver the standard content. On the downside, the common core will further infringe on local control, making it somewhat more difficult for districts to tailor their curriculum to the needs of their specific student body. While most of the basic curriculum is set by state and federal law, the School Board still plays an important role. Effective governance requires that the Board of Education understand how the administration has chosen to deliver the curriculum, set goals for student outcomes, monitor those outcomes, and hold the administration accountable for meeting them. District 95 has an outstanding curriculum and is rated as one of the better school districts in the state. Two areas where I'd like to see continued evolution are the delivery of the curriculum via technology (e.g. the "flipped" classroom); and continued improvement in the consistency of how the defined curriculum is delivered across our various Elementary and Middle Schools.
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?
District 95 currently does a good job of preparing our students for their future and very few changes need to be made immediately. The delivery of the writing curriculum needs to continue to be improved in the Elementary grades. In addition, the district needs to continually monitor the cost of higher education and in the future may need to increase the availability and variety of vocational/alternative education options in the High School for those students who choose not pursue a traditional four year college degree due to rising costs.
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?
After a budget crisis several years ago, the district has worked hard to improve its finances, instituting conservative budgets and building strong reserves. The largest budget issues facing the district are external, specifically the outcome of legislation to address the state's pension problem and the underperformance of the Lake Zurich TIF district. The administration and current board are well aware of the potential impacts of these problems and have instituted conservative spending policies based on worst case, long range forecasts and "pay as you go" practices in order to assure the district is able to manage the budget impacts without any significant cuts to educational programs. These practices should continue. Property taxes in the district are capped by state law at the rate of inflation. I see no need for tax increases beyond the cap and would not currently support a referendum to increase taxes above the cap.
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?
Given the district's strong financial situation (rated AA+ by Fitch, State Financial Recognition), the district is well positioned to be able to continue to provide competitive salary increases, allowing the district to attract and retain talented teachers, administrators, and staff. When discussing benefits (especially health care and pensions) the answer to this question is more complicated. Like all districts, our district is faced with a number of pressures outside of our control, whose outcome and impact are currently unknown - most notably the State's budget and pension crisis, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These factors may negatively impact the affordability of benefits. In the event that there is a dramatic increase in the cost of benefits, it is my belief that this burden needs to be shared by both employees and taxpayers, which would likely result in some concessions from employees. In the event that concessions are required, the strong financial standing of the district should allow us to keep any benefit concessions manageable and consistent with our peer districts.
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. The pension formula should not be gamed in this way. The pension benefit assumes that a certain amount of contributions have been made across a career in order to pay for the future retirement benefits. When a special action is taken as retirement nears, those contributions are not made at the level expected. While administrators and teachers are entitled to the pensions they have legitimately earned, it is unfair to burden the taxpayers of the state with an increased benefit that was unearned. This need to earn would be true under any circumstances, but is especially true given the current dramatic underfunding of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS).
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