Ralph Bonatz: Candidate Profile
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 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.
Twitter: Candidate did not respond.
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Family: I am married with two children, both D211 students.
Occupation: IT, Global Quality Control Manager
Education: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE)
Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
As a father of two D211 students, I did have some key concerns that first drew my attention to the BOE. I began attending board meetings and participating in a variety of events. These experiences motivated me to run for the school board. First and foremost, I want to ensure that D211 students have access to the instruction and resources necessary to prepare them for higher education and a successful career. Also, I feel the administration and the school board need to better respect the community's beliefs and values when implementing policies/practices. Because I am a parent, a taxpayer, and a long-time Schaumburg resident, I believe I could represent the interests of the community and add a common-sense perspective to the BOE.
What do you think about the process for measuring student success in your district? Is it adequate? What changes, if any, do you propose?
It is paramount to maintain grade-level-appropriate standards and to effectively measure a student's progress against those standards. Parents want to know that D211 schools are effective, that our students are at least as well educated as their peers throughout the country. The use of standardized testing is helpful to indicate district-wide success and also the comparative performance of individual students. However, many students have test anxiety or simply do not "test well," so such scores should be considered only one aspect of a broader evaluation. In the classroom, an approach to grading that overemphasizes test and quiz scores may not accurately reflect overall performance. Teachers should have some latitude to determine the relative weight of projects, homework assignments, quizzes, and tests. The district has goals concerning student enrollment in AP classes, dual credit courses, and also clubs and sports. Participation in these opportunities is an alternate, more subjective measure of a school's effectiveness. One new idea: I would be interested to learn more about our graduates' long-term success. We track the percentage of students who go on to attend college, but we might gain useful insight by surveying alumni five or ten years after graduation.
District 211 became nationally recognized for both its disagreement with the federal government and its subsequent written agreement over the handling of transgender students' locker room access. How would you characterize your own agreement or disagreement with the board's action? What would be your position on the board's future handling of such issues?
I strongly disagree with the board's action on this matter. The district's current practice allows students who are dealing with gender identity issues to use the locker rooms and restrooms designated for the opposite biological sex. I would move to replace this practice. The board should provide a district-wide locker room and restroom policy that protects the privacy and well-being of all children, and which includes reasonable accommodations for children with different requests.
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 or fee increases?
The district is on very firm financial footing and has sizeable reserves. I feel it is possible for the board to freeze or lower the D211 portion of property taxes without sacrificing the quality of education provided. Upcoming teacher and support-staff contract negotiations will play a big role in district finances over the next several years. I would like to see board member participation in these negotiations. Also, the board needs to optimize the value obtained from district-owned assets, such as its unused 60-acre piece of land in Schaumburg. I would like to see this become a source of revenue for the district. Finally, the board should continue to consider new systems/technologies that can save money.
What role can and should school choice play in your district? If Congress or the state approves a voucher system or other means giving students broader choices among public and private schools, how will that affect your district? What is the appropriate response for the board of education of a public school system?
School choice empowers parents by giving them more options for their children's education. In that way, it holds schools accountable. I do not think this is something that a robust school district should fear. However, ultimately, the BOE would not determine the role school choice would play in the district. It is important to note that school choice comes in different forms (e.g., charter schools, vouchers, and education savings accounts), all having their own implications. In D211, the quality of our high schools is good and the range of programs, resources, and services is broad, so I wouldn't expect a mass exodus of students unless families felt alienated in some way. If a version of school choice becomes a reality in Illinois, the BOE can minimize the impact to D211 by ensuring its schools remain competitive in terms of the environment, facilities and instruction they provide and by striving for consistency across the campuses.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
While attending Lane Technical High School in Chicago, I benefitted from the many shop classes and vocational programs offered there. They impressed me with the value of learning a trade. This is a path I would like to keep accessible to D211 students. Whether they plan to attend college or to enter the workforce after graduation, all students can profit from learning practical, marketable skills. Another goal I have, if elected, is to provide a hands-on iPad orientation to district parents. This would help them to better understand how our schools are using the technology and how parental restrictions can be set/requested.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs' Head Coach, for his sustained excellence, versatility, work ethic, superior expertise, and emphasis on teamwork.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
One key lesson was "two wrongs don't make a right."
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I was a very good runner, but had I started running earlier, I think I could have been great.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Electric shop imparted skills that I use to this day, earned me money between jobs, and helped me decide to study electrical engineering.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart...lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him...he shall direct thy paths."