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updated: 3/6/2013 10:47 AM

David Lamb: Candidate Profile

Geneva Unit District 304 School Board (4-year Terms)

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  • David Lamb, running for Geneva Unit District 304 School Board (4-year Terms)

      David Lamb, running for Geneva Unit District 304 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: Geneva

Website: http://none

Office sought: Geneva Unit District 304 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 49

Family: Married to Julie Lamb and we have two sons, Matt and Mark. Matt is a 2012 graduate of GHS and currently is a freshman at the University of Michigan. Mark is a sophomore at GHS. We have resided in Geneva for the past 21 years.

Occupation: Investment Management Executive Senior Vice-President, Nuveen Investments

Education: University of Illinois, B.S. in Finance, 1985

DePaul University, Accounting Coursework for CPA Exam

Passed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam and Series 7 and 24 licensed

Civic involvement: Geneva Baseball Association, Board Member 2001-2004

-Director of Umpires and Commissioner

-Coached travel and in-house teams for 12 years

Geneva Feeder Program and Geneva Park District Basketball Coach - 5 years

Geneva Academic Foundation Board Member -- joined the Board in April 2012

Lawrence Hall Youth Services Board Member 2000-2012, Pension, Investment and Endowment Committee

• LHYS was founded in 1865 and is based in Chicago. It is a not-for-profit child welfare agency established to assist at-risk youth. LHYS provides a therapeutic day school, foster care, residential treatment, and workplace developmental programs for children referred by the Chicago BOE, DCFS, and the courts. LHYS has an annual budget of $20-$22 million derived from government grants and contracts, private support, and allocations from the United Way of Chicago and Episcopal Charities.

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

Aggressively reducing long-term debt.

The School District's debt service obligation is scheduled to grow to such a level over the next five years that addressing this issue by setting an aggressive plan to pay down debt is my number 1 campaign issue. If not addressed aggressively, the weight of this debt load on the community could cause near--term and long-term issues for the District, and potentially harm the ability to deliver the academic excellence that the community has come to expect. We cannot allow this to happen.

I attended a School Board meeting last fall where Ms. Oberg, who is the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, was asked directly by a Board Member what she thought was the biggest issue facing the District, and she responded that the amount of debt is the biggest issue. I agree.

Debt service, which is a combination of principal plus interest owed on the District's outstanding bonds, was $14.6 million for fiscal year ended 2012 and is expected to grow by roughly $8.0 million over the next 5 years. The debt service obligation falls outside of the levy process, and the amount owed each year is simply allocated proportionately to all assessed properties within the taxing district. The impact of the increasing debt obligation to the average homeowner in Geneva is not a pretty outcome. The size of these potential increases to property taxes could cause the District future harm by not allowing anything to get done when future growth arrives. The District will need the support of the community at some point in the future.

The District has refunded bonds over the last several years with budget surpluses in the education fund over certain amounts. These actions have helped contain and smooth some of the future increases to the annual debt service obligation. I would continue refunding bonds to reduce the overall debt service, but would tilt towards a more aggressive use of fund reserves to pay down outstanding debt. As of the 2012 fiscal year-end, the District's governmental fund reserve balances were roughly 60% of revenues. I would recommend developing a plan to draw down reserves more aggressively, potentially to the 30% level, and use these monies to pay down additional debt whenever there is a net savings to the district.

Key Issue 2

Raising educational achievement expectations for the District.

Both of my sons entered the Geneva School District in kindergarten and both will graduate from Geneva High School with my oldest graduating last year and my younger son a sophomore. My wife and I value education greatly and have been pleased with our sons' overall educational experience. I believe maintaining and sustaining (two words I see associated with our District) the educational excellence of our District is not good enough. As a District, I believe we need to raise the expectations for success. I have read the District's goals, and while they are well crafted, they avoid any concrete measures of success. I believe we need to set specific educational goals and measure annually against these goals.

One measure of success that tends to get the most focus in communities is the average ACT score of the District. For the 2012 school year, the average composite ACT score for Geneva High School was 23.9. I believe we should set a goal of increasing this level by 5% over 5 years. That would put the score at 25.1. This is an aggressive goal but achievable. Over the previous 5 years, the District's average ACT score increased by 3.9%. A longer term goal for the District would be for the average ACT score to rank in the top 10 of all public high schools in the state of Illinois. This would put Geneva in the company of the Naperville, Libertyville, Vernon Hills, and Glenbrook schools to name a few. This is the company we should keep and comparing ourselves to the surrounding communities does a disservice to our kids. I truly believe our Geneva community has the ingredients to achieve at a higher level and we should raise expectations. 5% in 5 and top 10 in 10.

Now, a common criticism to setting aggressive goals is that the ultimate outcome is measured by a test score. While my proposed goals are measured by a test score, the most important part of the equation is the process in which we achieve success. The process for success is not limited to the exceptionally talented students within the District, but applies to all students of varying achievement levels. Raising expectations for all students and providing teachers with the appropriate tools and support is critical for raising the tide for all. The process of setting expectations starts at an early age and is where we can improve. I believe helping parents understand the educational opportunities available to their children as they enter the School District is important. Giving young parents the knowledge and resources of how they can impact their child's educational experience is critical. By arming young parents of children in the kindergarten through 3rd grade level with the knowledge of how they can interact with the School District, how they can be involved in the schools, how the District's curriculum evolves throughout the process, and ultimately what opportunities Geneva students can expect following their Geneva educational experience can provide the essential foundation upon which we raise expectations for future success.

The setting of District goals is the Board's responsibility and how we achieve these goals is ultimately the responsibility of the Administration. Achieving future goals will require strong leadership from the School Board, Administration, and teachers. Clearly defining goals that can be measured is important, but having a strong and dynamic leadership effort throughout the District will be essential to achieving any and all goals. Strong leadership begins with the Board, and then expecting leadership from the Administration that inspires teachers, children, and the community to achieve beyond current expectations is very important. Throughout my professional career and even in my community involvement, I have witnessed varying degrees of strong and effective leadership. I believe the one skill I have and can bring to the Board is the ability to lead and inspire others to perform.

Key Issue 3

Ensure community support for Geneva Schools remains high.

As mentioned above, I believe parent and community involvement in the School District is essential for future success. I have a strong sense that following the recent teacher contract negotiations that cynicism among community members and parents towards the whole school system has increased. We need to repair this divide and build back community support for our schools and teachers.

The Board can play an important role in building back potentially declining community support. The Board does this by increasing the transparency in which it conducts School District business, allowing for and encouraging Board Member dialogue on important issues at meetings, and engaging community input into critical decisions facing the District. The recent Coultrap Building decision is an example where I believe the Board did a good job of working through the decision process. While there will not always be community consensus on certain issues, I believe a rigorous review process which allows for community input is essential to making appropriate decisions on major initiatives. The Board followed a good process, in my opinion, in making a determination on Coultrap.

Questions & Answers

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?

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 generally believe the shift to common core standards is a positive for the future of our children. I believe the focus on providing clear, consistent, and measureable performance standards will help our children gain the knowledge and skills needed for future success in college and in their careers. One of the objectives of the common core standards is to provide more depth in the core subjects of reading, writing, math, and sciences. I am a very strong proponent of building a solid educational base in these core subjects during a child's primary educational years. One of the common criticisms of the standards is that it stifles creativity and innovation. I understand this criticism, but I also believe that as a student moves into their secondary educational years there are adequate opportunities to explore more creative and innovative curriculum. No matter what path a child chooses following their high school education, I believe they will be well served throughout their lives by having a strong background in these core subjects.

The Board of Education should set expectations for the curriculum based on the desires and feedback from the community. The Board should be clear with the Administration about their expectations for the curriculum, but ultimately, the implementation and execution of the curriculum plan is the responsibility of the Administration. I believe the current success of our District breeds future expectations for increased success. Incremental future success is dependent upon a robust and challenging curriculum, especially within the core subjects.

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?

During my years in Geneva, I have been fortunate to know many children in the District as well as their families. I also have a son that is a sophomore at GHS and a son that is a freshman in college. It is this background upon which I have formed the opinion that our children generally transition well to a college environment or directly into a vocation. I believe the academic environment of Geneva High School prepares our students for the rigors of a college curriculum. The opportunities for our children to participate in extra-curricular activities provide a well-rounded high school experience for many of our graduates, and the level of participation in activities is very high at GHS. I believe our District produces well-rounded and socially prepared students that tend to adapt well to new environments.

In my opinion, the most difficult transition for our students occurs between 8th grade and high school. I understand there are some programs in place to assist students and parents for this transition, but I believe there needs to be increased focus on this critical transition. Parents also need to be better prepared for the rigor and expectations of the high school environment. The critical components of this transition relate to time management, effective study habits, and prioritizing activities. I tend to believe we should have mandatory, not optional, introductory sessions for students and parents where time management and effective study habits are taught and discussed. Many students feel overwhelmed right out of the box, and it is critical for future success that our students are all prepared from day one in managing their work load. I would also like to see a freshman mentoring program expanded as an effective way for young students to transition into the high school environment.

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?

The Geneva School District, like most other districts, is facing significant pressure on the revenue side of the budget equation as assessed valuations within the taxing district decline and as state funding becomes more unpredictable. Cost containment, delaying certain expenditures, and identifying additional budget cuts/efficiencies remains a high priority in the current climate. The education budget and the delivery of a quality educational program to our students is the one area where we need to be careful. We can and should explore additional efficiencies within the education budget, but we need to carefully understand and monitor the impact of any actions to the delivery of a quality education to our students.

The largest budget issue facing the District over the next five years is the growing debt service obligation, as I mentioned above. An aggressive debt reduction plan is key to the long-term financial health of the district which will ensure our ability to deliver a quality education to current and future generations of Geneva children.

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 the Geneva School District should pay a fair and competitive wage to its employees. I believe the determination of what is fair is tied to many factors including the overall economy, the financial health of the District, competitive marketplace for employees, and the performance of the various employee groups. I believe it was appropriate for the District to seek concessions in the recently negotiated teacher's contract based on the economic conditions in the community.

To assist with future contract negotiations, I believe it is important for the District to engage employee groups in regular updates on the overall economic climate, competitive marketplace for employee services, and the financial health of the District. Having a common understanding of these factors prior to contract negotiations may help manage each side's expectations prior to entering a negotiation. Depending upon these factors, there may be times where either side may need to provide a concession during a negotiation.

The recent teacher's contract calls for the Board and Teachers Association to establish a Joint Salary Study Group to address the issue of future compensation for teachers. I believe the work of this Group can provide a solid base for future negotiations and help provide a fair recommendation to the Board and Association. Again, fair and competitive should be evaluated in the context of the factors I mentioned above -- overall economy, financial health of District, and employee's performance.

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?

No, I would not support end-of-employment salary spikes to boost pension benefits. I believe in paying administrators a fair wage during their time of employment, so artificially spiking their pay as they near retirement in order to boost pension benefits does not seem appropriate to me. The theory behind this practice has been to provide a retirement "bonus" for an employee's contribution to the District and to provide this extra benefit for what was traditionally a lower paying field. I generally believe our administrators are currently compensated fairly. Ideally, I would prefer to tie compensation to performance so that administrators that perform at a higher level have the ability to earn at a higher level, which would then allow them to earn greater retirement benefits. Again, all tied to current performance and not just granted at the end of employment in order to boost pension benefits.

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