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updated: 3/3/2013 3:23 PM

James Conro: Candidate Profile

St. Charles Unit District 303 School Board (4-year Terms)

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  • James Conro, running for St. Charles Unit District 303 School Board (4-year Terms)

    James Conro, running for St. Charles Unit District 303 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: St. Charles


Office sought: St. Charles Unit District 303 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 63

Family: Married, with four adult children, two boys and two girls

Occupation: Retired teacher

Education: Bachelors in Education, Masters in Education, hours toward an administrative certificate

Civic involvement: I am involved with my church, and I was involved as a coach, assistant coach and referee for Tri-Cities Soccer

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

We must investigate ways to ensure the safety of our students and staff from any type of threat they may encounter from the time they leave for school until the time they return.

Key Issue 2

We must investigate ways to ensure that our students are college and career ready for employment that awaits them in the twenty-first century.

Key Issue 3

We must continue to provide each and every student with the best education we can while we remain fiscally responsible.

Questions & Answers

Do you believe St. Charles Unit District 303 taxpayers should shoulder more of the responsibility to fund local teacher pensions? Why or why not?

The government workers pension crisis remains a power keg which will most likely be diffused this legislative session. There are dozens of proposals out there for the Illinois Legislature to consider this session. Shouldering more responsibility for funding local teacher pensions may not be a choice that is left up to the local school boards after the State Legislature decides upon a course of action. I have both called and written my State Senator and Rpresentative urging them not to shift the burden of funding pensions to the local level. Local school districts cannot afford this extra burden without making sgnificant cuts somewhere in their programs.

What is your opinion of transition to grade level centers for the former Davis and Richmond Elementary schools? Should that approach be used with any ther district schools?

I favor neighborhood elementary schools housing grades K-5. Brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors all attending the same school near to where they live is ideal. If we would close our eyes and think of the pioneer days in America one thought that may come to mind would be groups of children of all ages making their way to the school nearest their home even though it may have been a few miles away. Unfortunately we do not live in this idealistic world anymore. A few years ago the Federal Government brought about increased accountability and mandated testing of students to determine if they are progressing as they should.

Schools must continue to make Adequet Yearly Progress (AYP), and if they do not meet AYP programs must be put in place to remediate these struggling schools. This remediation process became necessary for a D-303 elementary school and one of the first measures used to remediate that school was to give parents the right to choose which school they would like their students to attend with the hope that test scores would improve. This was tried for two years, but the situation did not really improve becoming instead more desperate. It was after these measures did not work out that the idea of changing the boundaries of Richmond and Davis schools was fostered. Their previous borders were adjcent with no natural obstacles, and one would be made a lower elementary while the other an upper elementary.

Overall St Charles elementary schools test very well. Eight St Charles elementary schools received academic awards from the Illinois State Board of Education this past year. Richmond Intermediate School was named one of the 81 statewide recipients of the ISBE Academic Improvement Award for making substantial gains in student performance. Because of this award it would seem there has been a positive effect on the Davis and Richmond grade level centers.

Do you support the current financial plan to increase the overall tax levy for the school district by 2.5 percent every year for the next five years? Why or why not?

As much as we would all like to see our taxes go down I feel we have to support the financial plan to increase the levy by 2.5% a year for the next five years if we want our students to continue to receive the wonderful education they receive. Legally, the levy could have been increased more than the 2.5%, and I believe the financial situation of district taxpayers was considered as the vote was taken. We have to be careful because setting the levy too low can have a negative impact on the District's ability to provide funds for the education of our students in the future.

Do you support the results of the Summit 303 process, which called for more foreign language classes, a wider range or electives and a computer for every student in the district? How would you pay for them?

The Summit 303 process is a forum for parents, students and staff to come together and dream about what would be wonderful opportunities for our students to have access to in the future. It could be the process where the District can set what would be ideal goals for the future. The student of the future may well need a wider range of electives and increased technology in our schools in order to compete in the global market, and this will come in time. Better times will return, and with better time we will see an increase in funding. The housing market will pick up, and as it does the ideas coming out of the Summit 303 process can be implemented if these ideas are still believed to be of high priority.

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?

The shift to the common core standards was a national initiative attempting to raise test scores, increase accountablitiy in our schools and raise our global educational ranking. About 40 of the 50 states have voted to implement the common core standards in the public schools in these states. The common core standards have been adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education and the common core will drive the tests our students will be mandated to take in the near future. The common core standards outline what curriculum needs to be taught in Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts. In some areas this curriculum has been completely outlined and some areas are still being studied. A school district or board does not get to vote on whether the common core is adopted or not if they hope to see improving test scores with their students.

The school board does get the final vote as any curriculum for the students is adopted. I do not have proposed curriculum changes, but rather what may be a changed process. I believe that committees on the elementary, middle school and high school level should meet annually to consider any curriculum changes. These committees made up of parents, staff members, administrators and in some cases even students should meet to recommend any changes needed for the future. They would study data from test scores, data from students transitioning from elementary to middle schools, from middle schools to high school, and data concerning college and trade school admissions collected by counselors, and see if there are things that can be done better for our students. These committees would forward all changes considered, both those approved and those not approved to the school board for final approval. The school board would then consider factors such as how soon a change is needed and the cost, and then make a final decision for the future.