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Article updated: 2/22/2013 6:21 PM

James Weidman: Candidate Profile

Grayslake District 46 School Board (4-year Terms)

James Weidman, running for Grayslake District 46 School Board (4-year Terms)

James Weidman, running for Grayslake District 46 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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Grayslake

Website: http://d46focusoneducation.com

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

Age: 43

Family: I am married to my lovely wife Karin for sixteen years and have three children that range in age from 7 to 13 all attending District 46 schools.

Occupation: I am currently a Battalion Chief with the Grayslake Fire Protection District and have been employed with Grayslake for over 23 years full time.

Education: Bachelors of Science in Fire Science Management from Southern Illinois University.2001 Associates Degree from CLC in Fire Science Technology.1999

Civic involvement: I have worked as a volunteer coach for AYSO coaching my childrens soccer teams. Organized and facilitated the Grayslake Fire Department Troop Care Package Drives in 2011 & 2013, as well as raised money for breast cancer awareness by selling pink fire department t-shirts.

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

Planning I believe D46 needs to establish both a long range plan and a short range plan. We should be able to predict future costs to the District for 5, 10 and 15 year periods. These plans need to be fluid and changeable. They are not set in stone, but they should help predict future projects, costs, student enrollment, and salary costs. Everything needs to be evaluated, for life span, usefulness, and priority. This will take a little time and will not be done in 2-3 months, but over the course of a year.

Key Issue 2

Finance While the district can sustain deficit spending in the short term, it is not something that can be done for a long period of time. If we do not get the financial situation under control, D46 will be out of money in the near future, and that benefits nobody. The Board of Education has to look at alternative funding, like grants, and potential cost savings in the budget. The Board of Education needs to try and negotiate a lower price on all of the current contracts it has. This could include transportation, health care, food service, janitorial, and utilities. I think an open dialog with the teachers, could lead to an initiative where they can help the BOE with cost savings, by eliminating waste and increasing savings to the district. There have been many businesses that have used this type of initiative successfully by having buy-in from the employees, to reduce expenses. I would also like to see if working with other area school districts on projects would lead to cost savings for both districts.

Key Issue 3

Cooperation The current board has had a lot of bad press over the last 2-3 years for their inability to even have civil discussion during board meetings. The BOE needs to get past individual differences and have open civil discussion on all issues. I am confident that with four new board members we will be able to accomplish cooperation between board members. I would also like to see the BOE open a dialog with each of the villages that D46 covers, to encourage non-residential development. The largest issue for homeowners is their tax bill, by encouraging and attracting non-residential development to D46, it will help to slow the growth of the tax bills year after year. It will also add revenue to D46 without adding students into the system. The Board of Educations has to become more proactive with this issue.

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?

All members of the Board of Education need to remember that if we cannot have civilized conversations regarding the issues, nothing will ever be accomplished. Each member of the Board of Education has different strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the position. By working together as a group, we can build upon those strengths, and help each other with our weakness to make a more productive BOE. Each member of the BOE needs to have their ideas listened to, and evaluated by every member of the BOE. This will help to improve the relationship between the three remaining board members, the four new board members and the community.

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?

When I compare the D46 education my children are getting to the D46 education I received as a child, I think we are doing a good job of preparing our children for high school and beyond. When I see my daughter doing math in 8th grade that I was doing my sophomore and junior years of high school, I feel District 46 has done a good job of evolving the curriculum for the students. I would like to see D46 move to keep up with technology. I know they have started doing this and I believe there was a plan in place to have the latest and greatest in technology for teachers to use in the class room, however it does come at a cost.

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

I believe the Board Of Education has to have a large amount of trust in the Superintendent. A Superintendent has a large amount of education and experience in the Education field. They have worked very hard to get to the position they currently hold. The typical Board of Education Member does not have all the knowledge that a Superintendent has. The Board of Education should be setting a broad set of policies and objectives for the Superintendent to execute. While the BOE should not follow whatever the superintendent recommends, they also should not micro-manage day to day operations.

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?

The financial situation of District 46 is definitely not a good one. I think all aspects of the budget need to be scrutinized for any potential cost savings. I do not believe there is aMagic Bullet? solution to this issue, unless you want to dramatically cut staff, but that has educational consequences, such as higher class sizes, fewer aids in the classroom and cutting of programs. I do not believe that is in the best interest of our students. I want to be able to maintain the quality of our school system for the current students, the next generation of students, and citizens of District 46. As a group we have discussed re-establishing the citizen finance committee to help look at the budget from all angles to make recommendations to the BOE for the purpose to improve D46 finances. In order to prevent this from happening again, in the future, when the economy has turned around and the finances of the District improve, D46 must build up a contingency fund, or savings account, just like you do with your own finances. That way when the economy takes another downward turn, the District will be able to ride out the downturn without making significant cuts to services and without the BOE having to go to the voters/taxpayers for more money, when we know that everyone is hurting financially. This will allow District 46 to save during the good times and maintain during the bad times.

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?

On a national level, it makes sense, to have a common set of goals for each grade level. These expectations are built around the premise of educating students for the eventual entry into college level programs or directly into the workforce. They are meant to raise the level of education in the United States, so that we can compete with other countries. However, it still allows for a teacher to have their own individuality on how they accomplish these standards. I think this is an important part of the common core standards. Each teacher has a different way of teaching as does each student have different ways of learning. The important thing will be for the teacher to develop a teaching style that will help his or her students achieve the new standards moving forward. As far as the BOE's role in setting the curriculum, I believe this would need to be on the recommendation of the curriculum director for D46. I am not an educator, nor will I pretend to know everything regarding setting curriculum for a school system. This is where the trust factor comes into play with the people that hired to fill those important roles. This may also be a place where the Board of Education can work with other school districts to share resources in establishing the curriculum, thereby reducing costs to multiple school districts.

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