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: Oak Grove District 68 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: My wife, Ann, and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and we have one daughter, Sarah, who is nine years old.
Occupation: I am the President of James Dowden & Associates, Inc., Landscape Design & Planning. This is a third-generation business founded by my grandfather, Hubert Dowden, in 1941.
Education: Bachelor Degree in Journalism from Columbia College in Chicago
Civic involvement: Trustee for the Libertyville Fire Protection District
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
Review of the current and proposed district budgets with an eye on maximizing the funds currently allocated to make certain they are being spent in a manner that benefits each student. The board should always prioritize solidifying Oak Grove's status as a strong school for families already within the district as well as a destination to which relocating families will want to move their children.
Key Issue 2
Reviewing current classroom technologies, those available within the industry and the associated costs/benefits of any proposed technology improvements. The school board should make certain Oak Grove teachers have the necessary tools at their disposal to maximize their abilities to enhance each student's learning experience.
Key Issue 3
Discussion of the recycling efforts currently employed within the school and the possibilities of expanding this program.
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?
My opinion regarding the shift to common core standards is irrelevant. This is a mandated system that has been put in place and the board of education is responsible for providing our students with every tool and opportunity available to thrive in their school experience.
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 68 is doing a solid job of preparing students to transition to high school. It is my goal to maintain that level of preparation and seek opportunities to increase each child's level of preparedness. Through discussions with administration and fellow board members, I would like to review the foreign language program and the current technologies available to our classrooms.
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?
As someone running for a seat on the board, I believe any answer would be premature without the opportunity to review the current and proposed budgets and the associated programs and expenses. This topic is far too important to the students, teachers, administrators and families that make up District 68 to answer without this information and the proper amount of time to accurately gauge what is important to the school and community.
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?
I believe a school board member needs to educate himself/herself on all components of the district and keep an open mind to the current district conditions before forming any opinion regarding contract negotiations. I also believe schools schools work best when the employees can focus upon educating their students and improving the school without experiencing the stress of concessions and reduction in benefits.
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?
I do not like to think or speak in absolutes, but my core belief is an administrator nearing retirement should not receive salary increases in order to receive larger pension benefits. I am concerned about abuse of the pension system and believe an administrator's pension should be based upon years served and the salary commensurate with that service. In addition, I have seen many administrator's moving from state to state in order to collect pensions from more than one state. I feel this is also an abuse of the pension system and hope it is corrected through pension reform.