Sandra Pihos: Candidate Profile

College Of DuPage School Board

Updated 3/10/2015 5:46 PM
  • Sandra Pihos, running for College Of DuPage School Board

    Sandra Pihos, running for College Of DuPage School Board

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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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City: Glen Ellyn


Office sought:

College Of DuPage School Board

Age: 68

Family: Married to Bill, four children Andria, Peter, Deanna and Michael (deceased), three grandsons and one granddaughter and one grandson on the way.

Occupation: Former educator, business owner and retired state legislator

Education: Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL) Master of Science in Secondary Education, Guidance and Counseling (1971) Mount Union College (Alliance, Ohio) Bachelor of Arts in History, cum laude (1968)

Civic involvement: Women in Government-former IL State Director; National Alliance for Mental Illness-Advisory Board Member; IL Workforce Investment Board; Partnership for Educational Progress-Trustee; Family Shelter Services Advisory Board; Conference of Women Legislators-former co-chair; DuPage Regional Leadership Council of the American Cancer Society; Michael's Place Literacy Center Glen Ellyn School District 89-Founder

Elected offices held: State Representative 2003-2015; Glenbard Township District 87 School Board 1993-2003 - President and Vice President; Republican Precinct Committeeman Milton Township

Questions & Answers

What can the board do to help improve the relationship between the administration and its employees, including full-time faculty members?

The board needs to work with both the administration and the faculty and staff to develop a plan that would foster a climate of trust and congeniality by continuing to adhere to ethics, model civility and respect. There is a need to put into place some clearly defined protocol and standards that will begin to restore confidence that all employees, including full-time faculty members, are valued by the college and all opinions should be validated and considered even when agreement cannot be reached. Board meetings and the agendas must be effective and efficient and public participation should be encouraged and welcomed. This is a taxpayer funded educational facility and rightly so belongs to the public.

Are you currently employed by or retired from a school district, if so, which one? Is any member of your direct family - spouse, child or child-in-law - employed by the school district where you are seeking a school board seat?

I am a former educator retired from DuPage School Districts 205, 200, 86 and 99. No members of my direct family are employed by any school district in Illinois.

With enrollment up, what should COD be doing as far as available classroom/lab space, staffing and course work options to keep pace with the growth?

Until I perform due diligence in learning more about the projected growth rate and what the capacity is to accommodate COD's academic demands, I can't give a precise answer to this question. A thorough assessment by reliable experts should clarify what the needs will be into the future to allow for better planning for classroom space, staffing and course work options.

The board recently agreed to keep the college's operating property tax levy flat for this year. Is the college reaching a point where a tax levy increase is needed? If yes, how do you justify it? If no, why do you believe that?

I do not believe that a tax levy is needed as long as the current reserves are managed wisely. Trustees and administrators need to monitor policy standards and implementation, particularly in the fiscal business areas, and continually update board parameters and principles for budget development. COD should make sure that the integrated planning process and long-range plans remain a necessary part of COD's priorites and serve as reference points to maximize opportunities and drive the appropriate allocation of resources. Any future levy increase may depend on the state's ability to continue to appropriate sufficient funding. Residents are already feeling overwhelmed by high property taxes so any increase must be approached with careful consideration.

According to a recent Daily Herald report, COD board members approved more than $26 million in spending over a 16-month period without seeing what they were specifically paying for. That's because of a long-standing board policy that allows administrators to pay bills of less than $15,000 without providing itemized reports. Should that policy be changed? Why or why not?

In order to enhance COD's effectiveness and restore public trust, the trustees must complete a thorough review and update, including clarifying board financial policies and administrative procedures. A plan must be implemented to ensure that a systematic process is in place for regular policy review of financial expenditures and procedures. Given the current lack of oversight on itemized disbursements, the specifics of the budget must be detailed by the appropriate members of the senior management team and the officials issuing financial reports, vetted by the Board of Trustees, until there is confidence that the process in place is transparent and the board and the public knows exactly what the trustees are approving. The devil is in the details, as they say.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

The most important issue is the hiring of an effective leader as president for COD, by including representation from all the stakeholders. A future leader must have vision, integrity, good jusdgement, and above all be a collaborator. Successful community colleges find themselves with a host of partnerships to optimize their program offerings. They should be working closely with community groups and organizations to identify and respond to the community needs. Similarly, COD's president must develop a collaborative climate within the organization so that ways of gaining internal consensus are developed and strengthened. The more inclusive the involvement is with all the stakeholders, the more sincere and sustained the participation becomes in analyzing and resolving important issues. This creates a better opportunity for positive outcomes when everyone is invested. We must be mindful that good leadership will take the goals of the college and the people that it serves and brings these together for the common good. I also expect trustees to be visible and involved in the community, including business, industry, education, labor and civic organizations, in order to give them a broader barometer of the community perspective. COD needs to develop and implement a new strategic plan for an Office of Public Relations for effective communications to both the college and the external community.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

Barbara Walters is a trailblazer who forged a path for women to model. She maintained respect and integrity as a journalist with her forthright interviews.

What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?

As a latch key child, I learned independence and self-sufficiency, as well as a hard work ethic from my parents.

If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?

Nobody gets do-overs in life. We all learn and grow from life experiences. I am who I am today, because of my past.

What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?

History - I learned that the world as it is right now is never frozen in place - there is always the ability to change.

If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Instead of giving advice I try to lead by example. I do, however, emphasize that when it's your fault, you should take the blame.