Kristin Fitzgerald: Candidate Profile
Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms) (Republican)
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.
Office sought: Naperville Unit District 203 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: I am a widow. I have three daughters who attend District 203 schools. Since my husband's death from cancer four years ago, I have curtailed much of my consulting work to focus on my children, their schools and advocating for cancer research.
Occupation: Principal of Fitzgerald Consulting, a health policy firm. Previously, I was education policy advisor to U.S. Representatives Harris Fawell and Judy Biggert in the U.S. Congress.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude, Political Science, Taylor University, 1993
Civic involvement: Committee Chair Mill Street Home and School Association, Co-Chair School Family Community Partnership, Member School Improvement Plan Team, Classroom Volunteer, Room Parent, Naperville Park District Soccer Coach, St. Raphael Religious Education Teacher, Corporate Advisory Board Can't Stomach Cancer Foundation, Member of National Cancer Institute's Cancer Genome Atlas Stomach Disease Working Group
Elected offices held: None.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
I'm running for school board to ensure academic excellence, challenge and opportunity for each student in District 203. If elected, I will work to improve academic consistency and close the academic achievement gap. The Naperville 203 School District is an outstanding school district with many resources -- dedicated teachers, strong administrators, supportive parents and an engaged community. The students who are lucky enough to attend Naperville 203 schools benefit greatly because of these tremendous resources. I strongly believe that we need to build on the track record of success established by District 203. However, our district has over 17,000 students with different gifts and challenges. Some students still need more help to be academically successful. Together, we must meet the challenge to ensure that every student reaches their full potential.
Key Issue 2
Together, the Board, the Administration and the community -- students, parents, teachers and community members -- must work together to set educational goals and priorities for our future. District 203 is working to implement many changes. The implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments are ground breaking changes to curriculum and assessment. At the same time, District 203 is rolling out All Day Kindergarten in our seven Title I schools during school year 2013-2014. In order to successfully implement these changes, they must be one of our greatest priorities as a district. It is essential for us to have a prioritized plan that includes short and long term goals for our educational future. As important as setting our core priorities for the future is working to fund those priorities. Budget expenditures must mirror the priority system set by our Board and community. It is only in this way that we can be sure that our greatest priorities will be successful.
Key Issue 3
It is essential that the Board is a partner with the community. For a community, few missions are as important as the effort we undertake to equip our children for the future. Our work to educate our children ensures not just their success, but our own. We must always remember that we are a partnership. The Administration and Board are partners with the community. Neither can be successful in this mission without the other. Throughout our district, parents, teachers, administrators and community members work together to make our schools succeed. Just one look at the calendar of events taking place at each of our schools will confirm the successful partnerships that are already in place. Like the efforts we make to build on our academic success, we must also build on the successful community partnerships taking place in our schools. The School Board and the Administration must understand and utilize these ongoing partnerships when developing plans, communicating policies, and obtaining the views of the community. It is through these types of efforts that the Board and Administration build and maintain the community's trust and cooperation.
The school board has struggled with major issues such as boundary changes and implementing all-day kindergarten. How can the board improve its process of addressing such major undertakings and how will you specifically help it succeed?
Issues as emotionally charged as redistricting require us to work together with a shared belief in the importance of what we are trying to accomplish. As stated above, the Administration, Board and community must work together to set educational goals and then work as partners in search of shared solutions to problems so that these goals are successful. Equally important is understanding what is happening on a day-to-day basis in our schools. Where are our schools unacceptably overcrowded, where are we successfully reaching each student even in a crowded room? The Administration and Board must know the answers to these questions and respond with proposed solutions that address problems and make it possible for us to move forward as a community. As a part of my preparation for this role I have been visiting the schools, attending Home and School meetings and school functions, and talking to teachers, administrators and parents about what is happening in their schools. I am committed to knowing the school environments, the parents, the teachers and administrators in each school. This kind of understanding and communication is essential for the School Board. While the Board will always have to make difficult decisions, when the Board partners with the community to develop shared solutions to problems in order to reach mutually agreed upon goals, the efforts are met with a greater degree of community support and success.
What in-the-classroom change would you like the district to make?
One of the greatest strengths of our district is our high quality, dedicated educators. Each day our teachers strive to impart educational inspiration to students who come to them at a variety of levels. Differentiating instruction to reach the below grade level, at grade level and above grade level learners in each class is an enormous task. One of the promises of the PARCC assessments is to give teachers a snapshot of students' progress on a periodic basis throughout the year. This information is enormously helpful, but we must be able to utilize it to tailor instruction going forward. Our district is assisting teachers with imbedded professional development that supports differentiation. We must support efforts like this and look for additional ways to give our teachers the technical and classroom support, training and resources to reach every child at their level. At every stage, our children must be challenged and inspired to grow and move forward.
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 State Standards (CCSS) are robust measures designed to fully prepare our students for colleges and careers. Curriculum progression starting from Kindergarten will allow our students to build the knowledge they need to be successful and internationally competitive. I support our district's effort to move to the Common Core. Our district believes these standards offer students a promise and an opportunity and I am hopeful that our implementation of these standards will indeed deliver this promise to our students. Our curriculum specialists, teachers and administrators are working collaboratively to make sure that the curriculum containing the CCSS is well designed and will do the job of imparting the complex understanding necessary for students to succeed under the new standards and assessments. Successfully implementing the CCSS should be our number one goal for our curriculum at this time. The Board plays an important role in developing policies that set forth curriculum expectations and requirements, imparting their views and the views of the community, approving programmatic changes that direct curriculum needs in particular areas and approving the curriculum that is developed by our curriculum specialists. The development of the curriculum itself, is best done by trained specialists working in collaboration with teachers and administrators. However, the Board plays a part in this as well by approving the hiring of quality specialists that lead curriculum development efforts. The Board's role in hiring a qualified Superintendent to oversee these efforts is one of the most important jobs the Board has to ensure that students continue to meet and exceed the academic goals set by the Board of Education.
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?
Ninety eight percent of our high school graduates attend college. This is a statistic many school districts can only dream about and we should be tremendously proud of this accomplishment. We are a high-achieving district, and many students are successful in reaching their academic potential. The shift to the CCSS will further enhance our students' preparation for colleges and careers, seeking to make them even more internationally competitive. Our mission should always be to help our students continue to grow and achieve even more than they think possible. However, not every student is successfully reaching their potential. Naperville 203 has a growing population of students who are at-risk. Through diversity and other initiatives, we must work collaboratively to reach these students and ensure that they do not lag behind their peers, whether it be in elementary school, junior high, high school or beyond. All day kindergarten is an important programmatic change that will address the needs of students as they enter their very first transition, from home to school. Research clearly shows that all day kindergarten helps children make more progress than half day kindergarten. In many cases, at-risk students are able to catch up to their peers who begin at grade level. The DuPage County Regional Office of Education recently surveyed outgoing seniors about their perceptions of the academic achievement gap. Some of the top recommendations from this survey were for schools to educate families about the importance of education, and implement school-wide parental involvement programs. As Co-Chair of the School Family Community Partnership at my children's school, I am already working to accomplish these important goals. Our district must continue to identify ways to ensure the academic success of at-risk students, just as we work to ensure the challenge and opportunity for every student in District 203.
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?
District 203 has a strong financial foundation. Our budget is balanced and we have the funds to ensure a quality education for our students. However, due to the state's budget problems, the future budget climate for schools is uncertain. The Illinois State Legislature is poised to implement a pension cost-shift that will be a serious additional financial burden for our school district. As in recent years, state funding for schools is also likely to be reduced again this year. As a district, it should always be our goal to do things smarter and in the most cost effective way in order to achieve savings for our taxpayers. In addition, we must carefully prioritize our expenditures to ensure that our budget is able to support the initiatives most important to our students' continued growth and development. When we consider new programs, program and facility expansion, technology acquisition, and other expenditures we must evaluate them in light of the short and long term goals and priorities that are most important to achieving our core mission. We must be very careful to ensure that actions in Springfield will not endanger our schools' financial future. Given the current budget uncertainties, I believe that we will need to budget within the constraints of the tax cap, reducing or abating tax increases if possible, while still maintaining the operational resources necessary to accomplish our present and future educational priorities. If actions by our State Legislature bring unanticipated financial burdens, we will need to make difficult decisions and potentially defer spending on initiatives that are not as essential to our most important educational goals. This will ensure that we can maintain the funding necessary to ensure the continued excellence of our school district.