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updated: 2/22/2013 6:21 PM

Steven Strack: Candidate Profile

Grayslake District 46 School Board (4-year Terms)

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  • Steven Strack, running for Grayslake District 46 School Board (4-year Terms)

    Steven Strack, running for Grayslake District 46 School Board (4-year Terms)




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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Hainesville


Office sought: Grayslake District 46 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 42

Family: Married for 18 years, 2 children in CCSD46 (one at Prairieview, one at Grayslake Middle School). Resident of Hainesville since 1999.

Occupation: Business Continuity Manager, VW Credit, Inc., Libertyville IL (Employed by VW Credit, Inc. since 1999)

Education: BA, Augustana College (IL) MBA, Keller Graduate School of Management

Civic involvement: Member of the Augustana College Chicago Advisory Group for strategic planning. Volunteer coach for Science Olympiad. Participated in the Grayslake/Round Lake Area's Relay for Life for five years.

Elected offices held: None

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

School funding Of the three main sources of school funding the local property tax component is the most well-known and oversubscribed. Currently, the district budget for FY2013 is covered approximately 69% by local funding, 27% by state funding, and 4% by federal funding. In my opinion, the funding split should be closer to 40/30/30. As a society we speak about how we value education, but then many people support policies that undermine the programs and funding that support the very education we claim to value. So what do we do? On the local level we try to hold the line on the levy at the current level and find savings where we can. We can also explore other potential revenue streams for the district in order to supplement or lessen our reliance on property taxes. On the state level, we can fight for more equitable funding so some of the wealthier districts are not receiving 20-30% more state funding per pupil than districts with higher numbers of students living at the poverty level. On the federal level, we can work with other districts across the country to convince the people and Congress that increased education funding is better for everyone. It's going to be a long road for sure, but these are fights worth having.

Key Issue 2

Long range planning - Based on my observances at the board meetings, there is very little public discussion regarding the long-term effects of the decisions that are made. There is rarely any substantive discussion about long-term costs, benefits, effect on student learning, or other issues. On most every issue, the discussion is strictly about short-term cost and how the school board can lower the tax levy as soon as possible. The Board does not appear to look more than 2 or 3 years into the future. There is no in-depth public discussion about the long-term efficacy and cost of ideas, such as using digital textbooks, or the future effect of grade level centers on learning and student behavior. I think the people of the district deserve to be well-informed and they are currently being underserved. As a board member I will drive these discussions toward a more thoughtful review of the district's planning. This will involve a thorough analysis of our situation in the context of the current local, state and federal funding system, using that analysis to develop strategic plans for the short, medium and long term, and subsequently working to ensure this plan is executed. In addition, we need to band together with other school districts across the state and the nation to work with the state and federal government regarding the appropriate levels of funding for education. We have to take the long view to see that the entire system of education funding has to be changed in order to make a meaningful and lasting difference.

Key Issue 3

Community involvement - The district would be well-served by the formation of standing committees whose membership includes persons from the community who are interested in examining issues in-depth and presenting solutions to the problems faced by the district. These committees should include, but not be limited to, Finance, Facilities, and Curriculum, with policy statements and charters for each that define its authority, reporting requirements, goals and boundaries. It's in these committees, held in public view, where the in-depth policy discussions might primarily take place.

Questions & Answers

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?

Civility has been a recurring issue at board meetings to be certain. In my opinion, when meetings have devolved into arguments, the problem has usually been a lack of control both on the part of the board members involved and the board president himself losing control of the proceedings. I think more effective leadership and a renewed focus on the issues facing the district will go a long way toward bringing the membership back to the table. There is too much at stake for petty differences to get in the way of finding a path forward for the community and the district. While it can be easy to criticize the behavior of others, the important point in this situation is to show respect for people and their opinions. I will not always agree with the views of the other board members, but I will always respect their right to have and express those views.

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?

I think, in general, the district is preparing students well for the next stage. If you look at test scores like the ISAT, you'll see that the district is at or above the state average at most every grade level in both reading and math. I think we need to at least maintain current achievement levels and, of course, strive to improve. One change I would like to see is more discussion regarding curriculum and future planning for the shift to the common core standards. I am concerned that rushing to implement the standards could lead to overlooking or dismissing other factors that greatly affect student achievement such as level of parent involvement and poverty levels.

Many school boards are perceived to do whatever the superintendent recommends. Do you think this is a good way to operate? Please explain.

No, I do not. The Board should provide the framework for the district to operate within. If the Board can lay out a clear vision for the future with stated goals, levels of achievement, benchmarks and other measures of success then they can rely on the Superintendent to execute that vision. The Board should not micromanage every detail but should, instead, govern the direction of the district. If the Superintendent has a clear idea of what the Board has decided is good for the district then he or she can formulate plans and present solutions to move the district in that direction. The Board has to be able to trust the judgment of the Superintendent, Business Manager and other administrators.

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?

This question assumes that reductions in spending and/or staff are imminent and required. In general, I believe the district should save money where it can while examining the effect of each cost-saving decision on the quality and availability of our educational opportunities. It is better to maintain current spending levels in order to maintain the current quality of the education we offer rather than make drastic cuts that will require the district to play catch-up down the road. To prevent or minimize the possibility of this situation occurring again in the future, I think we need to work toward obtaining additional revenue from State, Federal and other sources rather than having a singular focus on spending cuts, and we need to be creative with all of the funds that are currently available. The district must also explore additional revenue streams from sources such as the rental of district facilities, sponsorships and foundations. Additionally, there are opportunities for savings in areas like electricity use and transportation.

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 think we need to be cautious about shifting to the common core standards in that any expectation that these standards will elevate achievement at all levels must be tempered by the understanding that without equitable resources, no set of standards will be as effective as we'd like. We also need to consider that no two children learn in the same way, use the same methods, or learn at the same speed. The common core standards will be more effective if we take these student differences into account and we don't rely too heavily on standardized test scores. As a board member I would rely on the Curriculum Director to provide the information I will need to make decisions regarding the content and direction of the curriculum itself. In addition, the formation of a Curriculum Committee (as mentioned above in Campaign Issue #3) will provide good insight into the thoughts of the community regarding our curriculum.