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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 Villa
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Lake Villa District 41 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married Five children I have lived in Lake Villa for more than 20 years and all five of my children have gone through District #41 schools since kindergarten. Two of my children are still students of District #41.
Occupation: Sales and Operations AVP, Sallie Mae
Education: Bachelor of Science Business Administration - Finance & Economics, University of Missouri, Columbia MO 1985
Civic involvement: Lake Villa District #41 School Board - 4 years Boys and Girls Iceless Hockey Coach - 6 years Lake Villa District #41 PTO volunteer - 12 years "Yes for District 41" referendum chair - 2004
Elected offices held: Lake Villa District #41 School Board Member of the Financial Advisory Committee (LV #41), Board Representative of the Teachers Employment Contract Negotiation Team (LV #41), Member of the Board of Education Finance Committee (LV #41)
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
District Finances - the number one issue facing our District is declining enrollment and declining state revenue. Over the past three years our District has received an 11% reduction in General State Aid and a 42% reduction in our Transportation reimbursement. Our District also received the ISBE Financial Recognition Award every year since 2004. We are a well managed District that is facing the same challenges as almost every other IL school. Today, 67% of all districts in IL are operating at a deficit. I am not optimistic that the state will provide any assistance as the the amount of General State Aid we receive per student has been static and not fully funded for the past four years. As a result, we will have to address these issues ourselves.
Key Issue 2
Cost reductions - During the course of this next four year term, the board, administration, staff and community will need to address serious and significant issues. For example, the optimal enrollment of our buildings is in excess of 3600 students. We currently have 2975 students enrolled. Projections provided to the board by an outside demographic study show that our enrollment will continue to decline by hundreds of more students in the next few years. The unfortunate reality is that we are overbuilt (staff, administration, and buildings) and we will need to consider changes in our District that will be unpopular. This could include closing of a building, changing to grade center schools, changes to student programs and/or asking the community for a tax referendum. We already run a lean District, our teachers are underpaid relative to their peers in Lake County, and our student to administrator ratio is one of the lowest in Lake County. The tax base in Lake Villa & Lindenhurst does not allow us to spend excessively. District 41 is be very conservative with our spending. I believe we provide students a great education - full curriculum, safe schools and rising test scores - and the community with great value.
Key Issue 3
Openness & Commitment - I will campaign in the community as being an open minded member of the board that is willing to discuss all points of view. I am willing to dedicate the personal time required to learn the financial issues facing this District and have shown a willingness to discuss these issues in an open, honest and sometimes painful way with the community. I have gained a reputation as a member of the board that is well educated on the financial issues facing the District. Past boards had the reputation of ignoring questions from the community to the community's great frustration. I understand that I represent many constituencies - parents, children, taxpayers and staff. I will not be a single issue candidate that only advocates my personal agenda.
District 41 faces a large deficit and tough financial choices. Name one step you would push on the board to address the situation. Please explain your idea.
The Financial Advisory Committee is a group of community members, staff, administration, parents and board members that has been working together for the past two years discussing ways to balance the District's budget. Currently we are presenting the pros and cons of closing a building, changing to grade centers, eliminating some programs and/or asking the community to pass a tax referendum. All of these decisions are unpopular but they are the only changes that have enough leverage to effect the financial condition of the District. It will take a combination of two to three of these solutions to solve the problem. We do not yet know the financial impact/benefit of each of these solutions but they will be identified in the next couple of months. I will say that I am most willing to support the closing of a building if that gets us significant savings. I am least willing to cut the programs that benefit our students. I am currently undecided on the benefits of the other two options until presented with more financial information. 65% of the money our District spends is salary and benefits to our 300 District employees. Unfortunately the biggest lever we have for impacting our District's financial condition is staff cost.
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 am modestly satisfied with our progress here and believe we can always do more. I think we provide a solid and robust curriculum. This is a credit to our teachers and administrators who are well trained and provide a consistent educational experience across the entire District. I am very concerned about school funding and the impact it will have to a typical student's education - the state's financial problems will cause many schools to trim and trim until there is nothing left except a core curriculum and/or large class sizes. I find that unacceptable. I am a strong supporter of extra curricular programs - band, art, music & sports. From personal experience I recognize the value of the arts: had I not learned how to play a musical instrument in the fourth grade, I would have not been playing in the marching band in college. I will do everything in my power to preserve the extra-curricular activities our students enjoy because I believe they are of significant value to student in their immediate and long term future.
How would you define the ideal working relationship between a school board and its administrators and teachers? To what degree does your school district represent this relationship now?
I have had the opportunity over the past few years to witness what happens to districts that have dysfunctional boards and ineffective administrations. The leadership of the district must have common goals and willingness to openly debate their differences. I think we have a very good relationship now between the board, administration & teachers. We are professional, trustful and dedicated. This happens because the board is respectful to other points of view and invests significant training time learning how to be a high functioning group. But that does not mean we always get along, and in fact we disagree often. But through thoughtful debate and discussion, I think we have managed to work well together.
As contract talks come up with various employee groups what position should the school board take? Should the district seek concessions, expect employee costs to stay about the same now or provide increases in pay or benefits?
I was part of the Board's negotiation team for the teachers contract that was just renewed in November. The process was very time consuming and took eleven months of discussion with the teachers, board and administration. The outcome of those discussions was no work stoppage, a decrease in cost to the District in healthcare costs, a decrease in cost to the District in retirement benefits, changes that increased time for staff development without decreasing student education time, a reduction in the annual salary increase for our most senior employees and a cut in the growth of total cost of the contract relative to the expense run rate of our previous two agreements. We achieved this outcome because both teams were reasonable, truthful and and open on our needs and goals. Over the course of the next three years several of our administrator contracts will be up for renewal and I will be part of the team discussing changes to these agreements. As a Board we will have the opportunity to closely look at the cost of the administrator agreements and apply cuts in a fashion similar to those passed on to our teachers. Another way to control the spending in the District is to manage the size of the staff. Over the past two years we cut our staff by 7% overall and our administration by 9%. As our District gets smaller, we will continue to look for ways to equitably reduce cost across all our employee contracts.
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 believe the Board has a significant role to play in overseeing changes to the curriculum. Over the past several years we have been actively involved in changes/updates to our math, english/language arts, technology, and middle school health curriculums. More recently (past two years) the District also implemented a curriculum standard alignment, new report cards, new professional development protocols, and new teacher evaluations. These are all requirements of common core and the Board played an active role in managing these changes. Our administration and staff have been very engaged and the common core has required our teachers to change the way they teach and evaluate students. These changes have been well implemented because we have been able as a District to devote more resources to professional development.