John K. Rutledge: 2023 candidate for Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 board, unexpired 2-year term


Town: Wheaton

Age on Election Day: 78

Occupation: Retired real estate consultant

Previous offices held: Wheaton City Councilman from 2011-21


Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

A: I have a long history of public and community service including 10 years on the Wheaton City Council, 5 years on the College of DuPage budget committee, and 2 years (incumbent) on its foundation finance committee, multiple terms on church boards, Rotary committee service, and Boy Scout leadership, as well as numerous leadership positions in local and international professional and civic associations.

I have sponsored and contributed to the Jefferson playground equipment, the Monroe Eagle dinners, the Wheaton North drama program, and the Lowell art program. Schools are our largest local public entity and I saw an opportunity use my experience and interests toward assuring their continued high quality.

Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?

A: The Illinois State Board of Education sets standards and expectations of what students should achieve at each grade level. The board as an entity and with input from faculty approves curriculum and textbooks to meet those standards. Assessments show if the students are meeting those standards, and shortcomings can be addressed through coaching and other means to help those students who are struggling. Standardized tests are important but are not, and should not be, the only measure of progress in learning.

Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?

A: Our student population is diverse with diverse curriculum needs. Students will complete their time in District 200 and move on to a broad range of future careers. I am pleased with the offerings of A/P and dual credit courses as well as preparation for the trades and other paths of life.

We should continue to review, expand, and update the curriculum to meet evolving needs and opportunities for all students.

The Portrait of a Graduate also addresses communication skills, problem solving, resilient learning, and collaboration skills, all vital to success.

I do not see a need to “fix something” but rather to ask questions and contribute toward assuring that the children in our district are getting a good education.

Q: How do you view your role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents — even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?

A: In roles similar to that of a board member, I have researched the question, listened to constituents, consulted with outside experts as appropriate, and considered the recommendation of senior staff who are in their positions due to their qualifications. Then I have used my judgment to debate and vote as I see appropriate.

In the past, I have been advised and urged to defy state law and I have refused. Guidance must be considered in the context of local circumstances and liability associated with deviating from direction from state (or other) authorities. The right answer is more important than popularity and reelection.

Q: Concerns are growing regarding a new resurgence of the pandemic. If another massive outbreak of infectious disease occurs, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that will guide your decision making?

A: I am not a doctor or epidemiologist. In my time in public service (and career), I have been faced with various legal, engineering, accounting, and other questions for which the guidance of experts is essential. I ask questions and evaluate answers to satisfy myself that the expert advice is sound. If we face another health/disease or any other kind of emergency or crisis, I will participate actively in the discussion of the situation with heavy reliance on those with deeper professional expertise than mine. Further, decisions must be made in real time. What do we know at the moment without the benefit of hindsight?

Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.

A: Besides my 10 years of city council service, I have been president, board member, committee chair, and committee member of a wide variety of professional, educational, and civic organizations with responsibilities including public policy, audit, bylaws, finance and budget, and member education.

I have followed two important practices. First, I want to be thoroughly prepared for policy discussions. I do not want to be surprised by information that I should have considered.

Second, I have avoided committing on how I will vote until I am completely sure that I have received and evaluated all relevant information. It is awkward to take a position and then gain new information that points to a different vote.

The optimal decision is made after diverse and well-prepared points of view are really heard and discussed.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: I offer extensive experience in similar roles, a strong commitment to public education, and dedication to the students and schools of District 200. I have no other agenda. I am obligated to no one anywhere for financial or other campaign support.

Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?

A: District 200 encompasses a large, diverse, and well-educated population with no shortage of good ideas already implemented or under consideration. I would like to explore opportunities for greater intergovernmental cooperation. Can we achieve better results and/or lower costs through more collaboration with municipalities, park districts, and other governmental entities?

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