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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.
Office sought: Grayslake District 46 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married 24 years, 3 children
Occupation: Public Realtions Coordinator for Grayslake Public Library
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Michigan State University, 1989
Civic involvement: Classroom & PTO Volunteer at Woodview Elementary Co-President, Foundation 46
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Role of School Board Member - The responsibility of being a school board member in any community is far too great to let personal agendas, personality conflicts, and bad behavior get in the way of doing business (education). The substantial issues we face in D46 can only be addressed by reasonable members who are dedicated to educating every D46 student and conduct themselves as such. Any of the issues facing our district; budget deficits, break down in relationship with staff, failure to meet AYP, can be properly addressed when board members focus the agenda around educational items and practice this type of stewardship.
Key Issue 2
School Funding - Our financial problems are not one of costs. When looking at what we spend to educate our students, how much we pay our teachers and staff, and the results we obtain in D46 compared to other districts it is clear we have a revenue problem. Families, business owners, students and D46 staff are being held hostage by a system that is flawed. Our district has about half the amount of commercial property to draw revenue from compared to surrounding districts. As a bedroom community, the Grayslake area is a wonderful place to live. But when the economy and housing markets fail, coupled with the continual decrease in state and federal education funding the financial ramifications on the schools pits members of our community against each other. The D46 school board must take on the role of advocate for increased revenue and partnership at all levels of government for the educational needs of the community. Board members and/or community members willing to represent the district need to establish relationships and a presence at all village board and economic development committee meetings within the district. When meetings are held to determine land use, the impact on the schools needs to be heard. Additionally, we need to join forces with the other school districts and ISBE to demand the state fully fund its state aid commitment.
Key Issue 3
Community Engagement - Establishing a collaborative relationship with parents, all staff and community stakeholders based on respect and trust is necessary to move D46 forward. Through leadership the board can become a credible and reliable source of information about D46 for the entire community. This will include developing a two-way communications plan to be utilized on an regular basis, not just when there is a crisis, establishing Board and Citizen Advisory Committees, practicing active listening and engaging all D46 residents to ensure all viewpoints are heard.
It's no secret there's been a lot of rancor among board members on District 46. What do you think needs to be done to foster more collaboration among the members?
Much of how school board meetings are run is reliant upon the ability of the Board President to conduct meetings with agendas that are focused on education, setting a respectful tone in all interactions with members, and limiting discussion to educational items. Additionally all board members must commit to behavior that allows for difference of ideas but maintains respect for the position and issue at hand. The best way to lead is by example. If elected I plan to conduct myself as if my children and parents are watching.
How satisfied are you that your district is adequately preparing students for the next stage in their lives, whether it be high school, college or full-time employment? What changes, if any, do you think need to be made?
Overall I feel D46 is preparing our students for the next immediate stage which is high school. In the time I have spent in the classroom volunteering I have seen technology utilized to enhance learning while not replacing the necessary basics such as writing or learning math facts. When looking at student measurements such as the ISAT, the district as a whole, (with the exception of one school in reading), scores at or above the state average. In regards to the stages beyond high school such as college or full-time employment I would like to expand programs currently being offered in a limited capacity. And continually examine the feasibility of other gifted and college bound-preparation programming: 1. Innovative hands-on programs such as Destination Imagination, Science Olympiad, Hovercraft Project, Scholastic Bowl and Project Lead the Way (currently only offered at the high school level). These programs are designed to engage and teach students the skills necessary to participate in a global economy through such things as problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and innovation. They expose students to subjects they might not normally pursue and help to provide a path to advanced study and STEM careers. 2. Foreign language is not offered until 4th grade in D46 while studies and research continue to show a window of opportunity for maximum learning of languages from birth to age 7. In addition to preparing our students for careers in a global economy, learning additional languages has been shown to increase math aptitude, and overall academic achievement. Surrounding districts are offering opportunities for their students to learn another language starting in kindergarten with varying models. In many communities these programs are fully funded through grants and/or corporate partnerships. In addition technical expertise from the Grayslake community could be tapped to build upon what these programs are already achieving and to be able to offer to more students.
Many school boards are perceived to do whatever the superintendent recommends. Do you think this is a good way to operate? Please explain.
No. One key role of a school board member is to monitor the returns on its investments. The superintendent is an investment for the district. Any board member that gives its superintendent a rubber stamp is not fulfilling their duty. The board's responsibility is to provide a vision for the district with clear goals for student achievement. Establishing policies, making recommendations, and evaluating results while making sure to not micro-manage the staff. Then it is the superintendent's job to utilize his/her experience, education, and skills to achieve these goals. The relationship between the board and superintendent, and all staff, needs to be based on trust, respect, and outcomes.
District 46 is in a big financial bind with a more than $1.5 million deficit. What cuts do you think are necessary and what do you propose to prevent this situation from arising again?
It is important to note that this is a projected budget deficit, not an actual fund deficit. In addition there is not a universal standard for reporting the actual amount of fund balances to the community. That being said it appears the district plans to spend more money than it will take in and the future financial outlook for D46 is a concern. Fiscal responsibility is one of the most important roles of a school board member and crafting a budget containing deficits is a bad habit and cannot be sustained. Fiscal responsibility includes allocating financial resources where needed and making sure the district is getting a good return on its investments. The budget itself however is not the end product. It is a tool for student achievement and any decisions to reduce expenses from it or to utilize options for future revenue opportunities must be examined for their educational ramifications. As candidates we are not privy to the same detailed financial information serving board members are, so we need to keep our minds open to any cost saving ideas. Possibilities may include: Refinancing/restructuring our debts to take advantage of current low rates. Decreasing legal fees by not paying for a lawyer to attend 2x month school board meetings. Investigating the benefits of updating any machines/equipment to newer, more energy efficient models and making sure operational plans include regular maintenance of all equipment. Joining NIHIP, a member driven medical co-op many surrounding districts have joined and realized annually savings in their medical costs while maintaining quality health care. Establishing a sustainability committee, tapping into the wealth of expertise in the Grayslake area, including CLC, to reduce energy costs. I propose short-term and long-term financial planning with regular assessments of the plan, exploring new revenue opportunities such as grants, sponsorships, and partnering with Foundation 46, (our educational foundation) to increase revenue sources and minimize our vulnerability in the future.
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?
Ultimately the BOE is responsible for approving the curriculum. Their role however should be one of oversight of curriculum development, management, and evaluation. Any curriculum decisions by the BOE should be based upon a process that allows for input from both internal and external stakeholders. The Superintendent and Curriculum Director play the largest role and should lead a committee that consists of educators and administrators representing all grade levels, and some community members. Any curriculum recommendations from this process should be evaluated by the BOE to determine if it moves the district forward to the vision & mission set by the board. Overall I like the direction Common Cores standards are taking D46 students. The days of attending a K-12 school, university, and obtaining employment all within the same state are long gone. The concept of setting standards for all students that will serve them wherever their future takes them is good. Of course no system is perfect and testing won't even begin until 2014 so this will be an ongoing educational agenda item the board will have to monitor. My ideas for changes are listed previously.