James Vroman: Candidate Profile
Wheaton Warrenville District 200 School Board
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.
Family: My wife is Susan and we have four children, Dan, Mike, Tom and Julie. We have three grandchildren and are expecting twin grandchildren this spring. All four of our children attended District 200 schools from K through 12. We have lived in Wheaton since 1983.
Occupation: Retired Attorney
Education: B.S. in History, University of Illinois, 1970 J.D., University of Illinos College of Law, 1977
Civic involvement: COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES Hope Presbyterian Church, Elder; Finance Chair; Capital Fund Campaign Chair; Sunday School teacher Scoutmaster, Boy Scout Troop 303, and Cub Scout Leader, Pack 365, Wheaton, Illinois Softball Coach; Baseball Coach, Wheaton Park District Co-chair WWSHS Lacrosse Boosters People's Resource Center volunteer Faith in Place, Chair of Board of Directors Friends of the Schools; New Hubble Campaign
Elected offices held: I am completing my first four-year term on the School Board and for the last two years, I have served as its Vice-President. I have also served on a variety of Board committees: Community Engagement Committee Collective Bargaining Committee Facilities Committee Compensation & Benefits Committee Legal Services Committee Learning & Teaching Committee Engage 200 Facilitating Team Leadership Team.
How satisfied are you that your school district is adequately 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 200 staff is doing a wonderful job in preparing our students for the challenges they will face as adults in the 21st Century. However, we, as a Board and as a District, can do more to provide our staff with the programs and tools that will enhance the learning environment in our schools to provide our students with the skills to be successful in their careers and in life, and we can do so cost effectively. Many of these programs and tools were identified in the Engage 200 Recommendations the Board received in July 2014. These recommendations included: (1) providing additional training and professional development opportunities in differentiated instruction; (2) improving the "technology device to student" ratio in a financially appropriate manner; (3) exploring and implementing "best practices" in instruction and intervention for all students; (4) enhancing our special education programs with research-based instruction and materials; (5) monitoring and prioritizing our District's technology needs and infrastructure for instruction and programming; and (6) identifying a solution to the District's early childhood facility need. The Board also must continue supporting and encouraging the District's Professional Learning Community program and enhancing communications with our residents to foster "Community Engagement."
What budgetary issues will your district have to confront during the next four years and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, be specific about programs and expenses that should be considered for reduction or elimination. On the income side, do you support any tax increases for local schools? Again, be specific.
Our responsibility, as a School Board, is to provide our children with a quality education that will prepare them for the challenges of the 21st Century and to do so in a fiscally responsible manner. During my first term on the Board, we have met our obligations by approving balanced operating budgets that provided our children with a quality education. We did so while maintaining the District's property tax rate below the median tax rate for DuPage County School Districts and without seeking a tax referendum for operational expenditures. At our next Board meeting, our financial advisors, PMA, will present their projections for our District's 5-year Financial Plan. At this time, I do not know the substance of the presentation, but I do not anticipate that it will project deficit spending in the near-term based on projected property tax revenue and revenue from state and federal education funds. However, we may encounter financial challenges imposed on us by "external" developments that are difficult to quantify at this time. These "challenges" could arise from: (1) the state's budgetary crisis, which may reduce and/or delay the funding we receive from the state; (2) legislation that shifts the obligation to fund the teacher pensions from the state to school districts; or (3) the General Assembly resurrecting and enacting a version of SB 16. In addition, the Board's Facilities Committee will submit in November a proposal to address the Jefferson Early Childhood Center, and it may include a "funding" recommendation for the Board's consideration.
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?
No, I am not currently employed by, or retired from, a school district and no member of my direct family is employed by Disrict 200.
As contract talks come up with various school employee groups -- teachers, support staff, etc. -- what posture should the school board take? 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?
I am currently serving on the Board and we have initiated collective bargaining negotiations with the WWEA. The Board receives updates on the status of the negotiations from the Senior Leadership Team during our Closed Sessions. Accordingly, I am obligated to maintain the confidentiality of the status updates and the specific negotiation issues being addressed. However, I can share the principles that guide me on compensation issues. First, from the Engage 200 process, we know that our residents believe we have "a high-quality teaching staff supported by the community." We also know that the residents are mindful of the academic performance of our "benchmark" districts. Accordingly, the compensation our staff receives should, if possible, be comparable to the teacher compensation in our benchmark districts. Second, we must be fiscally responsible and recognize the financial "demographics"of the District when considering compensation issues. This means tying compensation increases to the CPI, reviewing the appropriateness of scheduled salary adjustments, and, as the Engage 200 recommendations provided, "foster a balance of quality staff (experienced and new) while...optimizing instructional excellence and fiscal management." Third, employee benefit costs must be reviewed and evaluated to determine what adjustments to benefits should be implemented. District 200 has an Insurance Committee comprised of Senior Administrative staff, teachers and support staff. This Committee reviews the medical benefits the District provides and recommends adjustments when necessary. Historically, the Committee has acted responsibly. It is scheduled to meet in the near future. I await its recommended adjustments to determine their appropriateness.
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?
No, I would not support a substantial increase in any administrator's pay to simply boost the administrator's pension benefits. To do so would unduly burden the pension fund the State of Illinois administers. The compensation an administrator receives is for the performance of his/her duties and responsibilities on behalf of the District. If the administrator's performance improves, he/she may become eligible for a compensation increase. In short, compensation should be tied to performance. If a District wants to reward an administrator for his/her length of devoted service to the District, the District can explore alternatives to provide that reward without a boost to the adminstrator's pension benefits.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
The District 200 Board must continue to address the issues of "transparency," the changing demographics of the District and the Jefferson Early Childhood Learning Center. The "Engage 200" program we initiated last year was a wonderful effort to enhance the communications between the Board and the Community. We learned that "transparency" not only means improving the breadth and depth of the communications from the Board to the Community, but also means providing the means and opportunity to community members to share their ideas and concerns with the Board. Accordingly, I support a continuation of the Engage 200 process into the next school year, beginning with a State of the District address that our Superintendent will give at the beginning of the fall semester. The current Jefferson Early Childhood Learning Center is totally inadequate to meet the needs of the early childhood program for our challenged students. In compliance with the recommendations of the Engage 200 report, the Board's Facilities Committee is planning to present to the Board in November a proposal to address the inadequacies of Jefferson. The proposal will attempt to respond to the challenges that arose when the Jefferson issue went to referendum in 2013. I look forward to receiving this proposal and moving forward to resolving the inadequacies of Jefferson. Finally, we must continue to address the issues that arise from the evolving demographics of our District. This means continued support for differentiated teaching practices, and effective intervention to assist struggling or at risk students.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this past year for her efforts to promote education for all the world's children.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
To work hard and never give up. My father worked two full-time jobs. My mother emigrated to this country from Czechoslovakia as an infant.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I wish I could have spent more time with my Dad, who passed when he was 62.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
History. I learned the value of understanding all sides of an issue so a compromise can be reached to achieve a resolution.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be thankful for the blessings you have received and look for opportunities to give back to your community.