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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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Office sought: Aurora West Unit District 129 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: wife -- Mary Clark Ormond children - (all West Aurora High School graduates) Neal, Laurel, Chrissy
Occupation: Retired Vice President of Human Resources, W.W.Grainer, Inc. -- 20 years.
Education: West Aurora High School; Yale U. - B.S. degree; Stanford U. --MBA degree; John Marshall Law School.
Civic involvement: Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley -- Chairman of the Board; A+ Foundation for the West Aurora Schools -- Board Member; Blackhawk Sports Boosters -- Board; High School Volunteer Varsity Coach -- in 51st season; radio and television sportscaster for West Aurora football and basketball -- in 49th year.
Elected offices held: District 129 Board of Trustees Member, 1995-2013. President of board 2009-2013.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
The need for prudent fiscal management and wise prioritization of needs in the face of serious pressures on the district as a result of significant cutbacks in state and federal support.
Key Issue 2
The need for experience, wisdom and good judgment in decision-making, as well as the demonstrated ability to make the commitment of significant time which is necessary to be knowledgeable and effective as a school board member.
Key Issue 3
The importance of constantly striving for open, transparent communications and dialog with the community, staff and students regarding district achievements, issues and challenges.
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 Common Core Standards set the bar a little higher and with more specificity for most districts. There are many benefits to this approach and it will bring more consistency to standards on a national basis. Our district has already been teaching to many of these standards, and we feel that they still provide considerable flexibility for us to make curriculum decisions within the designated parameters. We have a strong teaching and learning process currently in place in District 129 that provides for significant staff input, examination of best practices and resources and a continuous review cycle for all of our curriculum areas. As a result of this process, numerous changes and improvements are being considered in essentially every subject area.
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?
According to feedback from numerous parents and students, as a result of our diverse and challenging curriculum, our district has done an excellent job preparing most of our students for successful progression through elementary, middle and high school, all the way to noteworthy postgraduate programs. For those students who are not necessarily interested in a four-year college degree, our district has recently taken a leadership role -- not only in Aurora and Illinois but on a national level -- with the Aurora Regional Pathways to Prosperity initiative, partnering with Harvard University and Jobs to the Future. This program, which has attracted significant financial grant support, targets student employment success and career readiness skills. We are in the process of creating additional pathways that combine rigorous academics with strong technical education to equip the majority of young people with the skills and credentials to succeed in this country's increasingly challenging labor market. I am proud that through our board and superintendent's aggressive sponsorship it will become an integral part of our city's economic development strategy.
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?
In the very near term, the financial pressures resulting from both state and federal actions will pose the greatest challenge for our district. District 129, because of its large (61%) low-income population and its declining local property values, is much more dependent on state aid than most other districts in Illinois. When the state delays or reduces a large amount of their *promised* general state aid, as is now the case, the loss of millions of dollars of revenue poses huge challenges. The problems are exacerbated by the sequestration cutbacks which, starting this month, will reduce our federal revenue by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Again, because of our high number of Title I schools, special needs students, and early childhood programs that are heavily dependent on federal monies, this will cause a very significant reduction in our revenues.
In response to the pressures our district has, for some time now, been taking a close look at both the expenditure and revenue sides of our budget. A number of steps to control costs have already been implemented. As part of this process we are communicating closely with our staff and community to obtain their input on the optimum strategies for balancing our budget. Over the next few months this process will evolve and will enable us to identify which programs and expenses need to be impacted, as well as identify possible strategies for increasing revenues. I do not support any tax increases at this time. Rather, I will continue to work to educate our legislators on the importance of changing how public education is funded in Illinois.
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?
In view of the very significant financial pressures facing our district and many others, I believe it is critical that a collaborative process be followed to jointly examine these issues with our employee groups. That process is currently underway in District 129, and it would be premature and presumptive to try to predict the outcome at this time. Just as we have successfully done in prior years when facing these conditions, I'm confident we will arrive at solutions that are in the overall best interests of the district and its constituents.
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?
I would not support substantial increases in pay to help boost pension benefits under most circumstances. Only when it was in the district's best interest to do so should it even be considered. For example, if giving an incentive for an individual to retire early woujld enable the district to eliminate that position or hire a replacement at a considerably lower salary, then it might be financially prudent. It should be noted that the current employment contract for the District 129 superintendent does not contain such provisions.