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updated: 2/22/2013 6:06 PM

Valerie Brown Dykstra: Candidate Profile

Aurora West Unit District 129 School Board (4-year Terms)

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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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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Aurora

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: Aurora West Unit District 129 School Board (4-year Terms)

Age: Candidate did not respond.

Family: Married for 24 years with two daughters, 20 and 15.

Occupation: Attorney in private practice in Aurora, Illinois.

Education: Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law, 1988 Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Western Illinois University, 1985

Civic involvement: Daisy Girl Scout Leader, Brownie Girl Scout Leader, Junior Girl Scout Leader, Cadette Girl Scout Leader, Lector and Communion Assistant, Sunday School Teacher, Faith and Daily Life Teacher, Vacation Bible School Teacher, Aurora YWCA Board of Directors, Schneider Elementary School PTO, Vice-President-Jefferson Middle School PTA, Chair-Teen Nights Jefferson Middle School, Chair-Eighth Grade Formal Jefferson Middle School, Chair-Senior Citizen Band Breakfast Jefferson Middle School, West Aurora High School PTSO, West Aurora High School Band Boosters, West Aurora High School Sports Boosters, West Aurora High School Patrons of the Performing Arts

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: NO

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

My number one campaign issue is to assure that each and every student in the district receives the best possible education that he or she can.

Key Issue 2

My second campaign issue is to increase the transparency of the actions of the board of education and the adminstration in order to increase the confidence of the taxpayers in the district.

Key Issue 3

Candidate did not respond.

Questions & Answers

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?

While the common core standards are useful to establish national standards for the education of the nation's youth, it must be remembered that that there are some students who will never meet those standards, just as there are some students who will far exceed those standards. Therefore, a well-rounded classical education that provides students with critical thinking skills and necessary life skills is far more important than "teaching students to pass a test". The board of education is fundamental in approving the curricula used by all students within the district as the board is the representative of its citizens.

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?

The district is generally doing a good job of preparing students for the various educational transitions that they face. The district has initiated innovative programs that may provide additional skills for students. There are a number of programs that provide students with training for a career after high school. I would like to see a life skills program for all high school students to ensure that they have the necessary skills to function in society, such as opening a bank account, writing a check, securing utilities, negotiating a lease, and basic cooking, sewing and home repair skills.

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?

I do not support a tax increase for the school district as the taxpayers have recently incurred an increase. The economy has not recovered, and the taxpayers cannot afford an additional increase at this time. The district will likely confront a reduction in state aid as the State of Illinois is contemplating an additional reduction to school funding as a result of its budget crisis. If the district's budget must be reduced, the first area of cuts is to non-essential functions and expenses, such as conference travel, honoraria, memberships and similar expenses.

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 light of the current economy, an increase in pay or benefits for district employees pursuant to contract talks would not be a responsible stewardship of the taxpayers' funds. The district's employees recently agreed to concessions, so I would not expect further concessions at this time. My expectations would be that the board and the district would work to keep costs to the same level.

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 State of Illinois is having major issues with the funding of the Teacher Retirement System and pensions for educators within the state, and the State of Illinois is further contemplating the reduction of funding to school districts within the state. I would consider it a violation of the trust the taxpayers placed in me to vote, as a board, to substantially increase a superintendent's or other administrator's pay for the purpose of boosting his or her pension benefits in light of the funding crisis facing the State.