Chris Crabtree: 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: I am married to Todd Crabtree for 26 years.We have two daughters, Emma a sophomore at Wheaton North and Sophia an 8th grader at Monroe.
Occupation: District 200 PTA President
Education: Bachelor's Illinois State University, 1986 Fashion Merchandising and Design. Master of Arts in Teaching,from National Louis University, 1995
Civic involvement: Former PTA Vice President and President Pleasant Hill School, Former PTA Vice President and President Monroe PTA, Former District 200 PTA Council Vice President Current District 200 PTA Council President District 200 Enrollment Committee Engage 200 Facilitating Team Former Girl Scout Leader New 200 Foundation Grant Review Committee
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
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?
Having a high school student, I am very proud of the efforts our district makes to prepare our students for a world after high school. In order to continue to prepare children for college and career readiness, our curriculum, instruction and programming need to constantly be evolving to match what higher learning institutions and the job market dictate. This means the high school course catalog used when students enter as freshmen could look significantly different by the time they graduate. I believe joining the eLo Consortium gives some flexibility in partnering with other school districts to offer more classes in an online environment, without the entire cost burden being added to a single school district. I do not feel online learning should replace classroom instruction, but do feel all high school students should be exposed to an online class during their high school tenure. At middle school, we have added STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiatives into electives for all of our students. I would like to see more STEM education shift downward to 4th and 5th grade, so we expose more students at a younger age to these fields. Since students start plotting out their high school courses of study beginning in 8th grade, the additional exposure will help them make decisions based on experiences.
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.
The community needs to be a part of the discussions on what they want and value in their schools, and as a school board, we need to take these community priorities and determine what revenue we would need to make that happen. It would be our responsibility to communicate actual cost of these non-negotiables so that the community has a clear understanding of what their priorities would cost. The community also would need to understand what cuts would look like, should we see a substantial decrease in revenue, and as a school board, we would need to be clear and put dollar figures to programs. We should not go to a referendum until we have evaluated all options and our community has been engaged in the decision process. With SB-1 replacing SB-16, school districts throughout Illinois will most likely see a decrease in state funding that may be difficult to absorb into our current budget. ISBE has asked for more money to be added to the general fund; however, due to the debt situation in Illinois this is not likely to happen. Without knowing the context of what our state revenue will look like over the next four years, I think making a blanket statement in regards to a tax increase or program cuts would be premature. Before I would support a tax increase, I would need to believe we have exhausted all efforts in finding revenue sources, and that includes evaluating non-traditional revenue streams.
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 proud to have been a District 200 teacher at Whittier Elementary School for 11 years, from 1993-2004. While it was a difficult decision to make, I opted to resign my position when my oldest daughter went off to kindergarten. However, my interest and passion for our school district never waned, and I immediately pursued other opportunities to serve in the district. Over the last 11 years, my volunteer work has ranged from chairing committees, to serving as PTA President at Pleasant Hill School and Monroe Middle School, to my current position, leading the Wheaton Warrenville PTA Council. Furthermore, I have invested a significant amount of time and energy committed to several district committees over the years. Interacting with employees at every level of our district has provided me with a unique perspective of our strengths and challenges.
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?
In order to have contract negotiations be productive for our school community, we need to build a sense of trust amongst all groups. This should not be a standoff where people need to posture for positions. Approximately half of our staff lives in the school district; therefore, they are vested members of the community. Negotiations need to be fair and create a balance that considers everyone's needs: our students, staff and taxpayers. Communication between the school board and unions must be constantâ€"even during non-contract years. This ongoing communication regarding the priorities of the board and the unions will enhance the development of mutual respect and trust. Moreover, it allows the district time to research and act proactively to address concerns. For example, if health care is a priority, then perhaps a committee could research different carriers and options before formal negotiations begin. In the last contract, our staff made concessions in which they chose to freeze salaries to lessen the cuts that directly impact our students. I do not feel the answer is always to expect the employees to be the ones to bear the brunt of the burden. If communication is ongoing, both parties have an understanding of the limitations and can prioritize and work together to find a contract that is fair to all parties involved.
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?
Having just had a superintendent leave our district in the last year, I am optimistic this will not be an issue in the near future. While I feel strongly that we need to pay our administrators based on the skill set they have, the leadership they provide and how well they achieve the goals set forth by the board of education, I am not in favor of salary spiking to increase pension benefits. A school board has a fairly fixed revenue source; therefore, if we are increasing salary to boost pension benefits, we in essence are reducing the number of staff we can employ, services we can offer, and resources we can provide. In addition, while long term contracts may seem attractive by offering stability, they can also box a district into a situation that may not be conducive in the long run, as witnessed with recent events at COD. In an ever changing world, flexibility is paramount. I would invest time and energy into building relationships between the school board and the administration to keep longevity desirable between both parties.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
As a member of the Engage 200 Facilitating Team, I believe strongly in community engagement. We need to be aware that approximately 75% of our residents do not have children in our schools. In order for our tax payers to place trust in the school board managing their tax dollars, we must educate all members of our community on what is happening in our buildings. It is paramount that we find new ways to reach out and engage pockets of our population that don't have traditional means of seeing what is happening in our schools. In addition, I would like to see even more emphasis be placed on staff development. With an increased number of initiatives such as newer technologies, Common Core and PARCC, and the range of needs in classrooms becoming wider, it is important that we give our staff the training and resources they require to support high quality instruction. I am in favor of utilizing the efforts of our PLC (Professional Learning Communities) groups to help identify areas for training, as well as recognizing the success of educational leaders as mentors within our district. Lastly, as a district and a community, we need to make a decision on how best to handle the facility needs of all our buildings. In regards to Jefferson, we must come together to find a solution that addresses the best way we can house early childhood learning, while being fiscally responsible and supported by our community.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
I'm not Catholic, yet Archbishop Cupich inspires me through his nonjudgmental approach to life, that focuses on serving those that need help and accepting everyone.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Model the importance of service to your children. I am a second generation PTA President-both of my parents served as co-presidents.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I can't think of a do-over that wouldn't have a spiral effect that could eliminate something good in my life.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Reading helped me develop of love for learning and provides me an escape to relax.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
If you live your life giving to others, you will reap the benefits tenfold.