Diane Birkley: Candidate Profile
Bloomingdale District 13 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.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Bloomingdale District 13 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married to Alan H. Birkley son Andrew, age 17 two step sons, Grant (Laura) and Justin (Angie) Birkley five grandchildren: Gavin, Caden, Madilyn, Dylan and Nora Sue
Occupation: Newbridge Securities, Inc. operations and compliance manager
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics, Michigan State University, 1979
Civic involvement: served two consecutive terms on the Bloomingdale District #13 Board of Education current Co-Chair of LEND, Legislative Education Network of DuPage board member Heroes Foundation past treasurer Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church, Director of Vacation Bible School and Sunday School Teacher
Elected offices held: school board member Bloomingdale #13
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy school safety has become a top priority for every school board member, administrator, teacher, support staff person and parent. As a district we are in the process of reviewing our safety policies and procedures. School safety is a priority for our Regional Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Darlene J. Ruscitti. President Obama has made this a priority in his administration. To ensure that our students are safe on the bus, playground and in the classroom requires commitment and community cooperation. As a board member I will remain steadfast to my commitment to the children in the district.
Key Issue 2
STEM: Science, Math and Technology education is another priority issue and important focus for me as I seek re-election to the Bloomingdale #13 Board of Education. I am very proud of our students and highly qualified teachers. Last year 95.8% of our students met or exceeded state standards on the ISAT exam. I firmly believe that science, math and technology education must begin at the elementary school level. We must connect this need for high quality science, math and technology education to our district vision. We must communicate this vision to our administrators, teachers, students, parents and community.
Key Issue 3
Bloomingdale District #13 has experienced and will continue to experience many administrative changes over the next few years. It is my hope and expectation that these changes in key personnel will have a positive impact on the district. It is my hope that this time of transition will not be disruptive, rather smooth and successful. I am fully satisfied thus far with the administrative changes that have occurred and enjoy working with our new team members.
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 think that the shift to Common Core State Standards will be good for the students in Bloomingdale District# 13 as well as students throughout the state and country. I applaud this national initiative which sets new goals and expectations for students, teachers, administrators, school boards and parents. This standards based education reform effort seeks to align state curricula to a national standard, measure student achievement over time as well as raise standards for teachers and principals. Common Core provides a clear and consistent understanding for what students are expected to learn at each grade level and prepare them for the next academic challenge or career choice. At the National School Board Association conference I had an opportunity to participate in an actual English Language Arts assessment. First we were given a test based on current curriculum and then the new more rigorous CCSS assessment. The CCSS assessment was clearly more complex and broader based which required more critical thinking on my part. This exercise provided me a better understanding of the reform rationale and the possible challenge to our schools as we roll out these new, tougher standards. As a district our board, administrators and teachers have been preparing, planning and developing professionally for this new system of standards and measurement. We are communicating with our students, parents and community about this new academic challenge. Our board receives routine updates and is planning for associated costs and/or technology needs which may occur as we implement the CCSS. We were concerned about our current curriculum as compared to the new, more robust and rigorous CCSS. Our teachers and administrators are reporting that our curriculum foundation is solid and that the process is proceeding smoothly. As a board we will stay informed and monitor developments and issues within our district and throughout the state and nation.
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?
Bloomingdale District #13 is a K-8 school district which prepares students for their transition to high school. Most of our students attend Lake Park High School in Roselle, Illinois. Based upon formal and informal feedback from Lake Park I am well pleased that for the most part our students seem to transition easily in terms of academic performance as well as social and emotional readiness. Many of our former students are excelling in honors and advanced placement courses. Of course, we must strive to ensure that ALL of our students transition with ease and confidence. As we strive to make that transitionbridge? from middle school to high school stronger we must first look to the transition from elementary school to middle school. Case in point, in the area of math, our teachers and building principals identified some weak points and immediately developed strategies to make the math bridge stronger. Our math teachers at the middle school work with the math department chair at Lake Park High School. They are making every effort to ensure that our students are ready for the advanced math high school coursework. There is much public criticism and concern about the math aptitude of the American student. As a district we are identifying problem areas and taking pro-active steps to address any real weakness. I think that the Common Core State Standards will take us in the right direction with regard to mathematics as well as other core subject areas.
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?
These economic times have been especially challenging for public schools in the state of Illinois and throughout the country. Bloomingdale District #13 is not an exception but we have managed to maintain a healthy fund balance for the past several years. The District has in recent past been fiscally conservative in the budget preparation process. The Board has established long term and annual goals and adopted budgets that reflect desired outcomes and goals. At every step in the budget process we analyze revenue projections and review expenditures. We again look at goals and assess specific academic programs. We look at population/enrollment trends and staffing needs. We have realized energy savings by joining the Illinois Gas Cooperative and look for other cost saving opportunities. In 2008 our Director of Buildings and Grounds provided the Board with a Facilities Master Plan to assist us with long-term financial planning. This has been a helpful guide for prioritizing capital projects as we operate, maintain and update our aging buildings. Because of current economic trends, we have shifted and adjusted programs and projects as we continue to provide quality education and a safe and healthy environment for our students. I am most proud of a project we completed this summer- the remodeling of a bathroom to accommodate our special needs students. This approach to fiscal management has served us well through periods of economic prosperity, economic decline and dare I say recovery. Because of prudent fiscal management District #13 has earned a perfect 4.0 score and been awarded Financial Recognition status from the Illinois State Board of Education. Our District bonds carry an A1bond rating. Bloomingdale #13 receives about 80% of its revenue from local property taxes. Other sources include Federal and State dollars as well as operating Grants, contributions and charges for services. Assessed value in Bloomingdale has been decreasing and the state is behind on payments. Again, as a Board we look at our goals, revenue projections, programming, projects and priorities as we prepare our budget. Tax increases may be a necessary component of Illinois economic recovery. However, tax increases alone can not solve the problems confronting the citizens of 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?
Bloomingdale District #13 will soon begin contract negotiations with our teachers union. These are difficult financial times and this is a difficult question. We are all aware that this may make negotiations more challenging than in times past. I do believe that with respectful, honest and open dialogue a reasonable conclusion is possible. As a board we fully understand and respect our dedicated and professional teaching staff. Our community respects and values our committed teachers. We enter contract negations as our legislators in Springfield continue tonegotiate? or debate the Illinois Public Pension problem. We are monitoring the pension discussions. Our teachers are monitoring the pension discussions. Our teachers are concerned. I am concerned. I expect some sort of pension legislation to come out of the 98th General Assembly but no one knows what that legislation will look like. As this public pension conundrum looms in Illinois we must come together in Bloomingdale for the good of our children. Concessions may be necessary, compromise is necessary. Even in this climate of fear and uncertainty I believe that we can come together and successfully conclude a contract that will be satisfying to all parties.
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?
The end of career pay increase practice is legal and widely used throughout the state. Though local school districts pay the initial costs associated with this practice the inflated salary ultimately adds burden to all taxpayers in the state of Illinois. Recent legislation has put limits on the actual percent increases and imposes penalty schedules for abuse, but more and immediate action is necessary. I think that taxpayers and school boards as well as administrators and teachers fully understand the gravity of the current fiscal crisis in our state. We know that current practices must be examined within the context of the total state pension liability. Current practices and the current structure make the public pension system unsustainable. The debate rages on and the debt continues to mount. Bloomingdale #13 is a member of LEND the Legislative Education Network of DuPage and is thereby an active participant in this critical dialogue. I have represented our district at LEND for the past eight years and currently serve as LEND Co-Chair. Our lobbyist, Peg Agnos represents the school communities and school children of DuPage County. She is well-respected and well-received in Springfield. As an active member district our Bloomingdale voice is heard by our elected representatives. As the debate continues in Springfield teachers, administrators and board members grow more frustrated. Teachers and administrators deserve to be well compensated for work well- done but I believe that end of career pay bumps are no longer a viable option. I am concerned that good educators will leave this noble profession. I am concerned that college students will be discouraged from entering the profession. As citizens of the state of Illinois it is our duty to take responsibility for our current economic reality and help construct a reasonable solution to the fiscal crisis.