Susanne Tauke: Candidate Profile
Grass Lake District 36 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.
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Occupation: Home builder/developer, owner of New American Homes Inc., a company I founded three decades ago.
Education: Bachelor's in mathematics, Clarke University, Dubuque, Iowa; Master's in English, University of Iowa; Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, University of Iowa Writers Workshop. After completing my degrees, I taught at the University of Iowa.
Civic involvement: Grass Lake School building committee, Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago - board member and county president, precinct committeeman - Antioch, Antioch Republican Club.
I am active in several veteran's charities; a few years ago my company built and donated a home to a wounded veteran in rural Antioch.
Elected offices held: Precinct committeeman since 2014.
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?
Grass Lake School's student scores are well below the 50th percentile, yet the school's cost per student in 2016 topped $30,000 per child, one of the highest in Illinois. Moreover, the school's truancy rate is at 13 percent, well above the state average. Something in the school system is not functioning properly; the money is ample, but the results are poor. I believe every child deserves and needs a good education, and I believe my background in business and education could help identify and analyze the issues, could play a part in putting this school on a more positive track.
What do you think about the process for measuring student success in your district? Is it adequate? What changes, if any, do you propose?
The process for measuring success seems adequate. The success itself is inadequate.
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?
The board of education should influence the curriculum, but the superintendent and principal should be the ones to set the curriculum. It would appear that the Grass Lake School curriculum needs to focus more on basic education - mathematics, reading, writing, science.
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?
Our small school district has an annual budget of $3 million. In the past 10 years, the district has amassed a war chest of more than $12 million. These funds should be spent on the students or, if not, rebated to the taxpayers. School boards should be in the business of providing excellent educations, not in the business of hoarding taxpayer funds,
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?
The Grass Lake School area offers little opportunity for school choice. The local Catholic school has closed, and other religious schools have limited space. A voucher system would appear to have almost no impact here. What will have an impact is the district's declining student population. At one point the school had several hundred students. Although the student population varies, it appears that the district now serves an average of no more than 170 children, from pre-school through eighth grade.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Grass Lake School's role in the community troubles me. The 1,000 homes in the district generally house an aging population. Property taxes continue to go up, making it difficult for many of these older owners to stay in their homes. However, because the school scores are so low, potential buyers with young children tend to shy away from the area, making it difficult for our elderly residents to sell. This is creating a downward spiral for the entire community. The answer is a better school with better fiscal management. With so few students and such ample resources, Grass Lake School should be a GREAT school. It isn't. I am hoping that a new school board of like-minded people - people who are dedicated to changing the status quo, to providing an excellent education for our students - can make a difference, not just for the students, but for everyone who lives in the community.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
If you start something, finish it.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I would focus less on regrets, more on the here and now. The past is past, but we can impact our present and future.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
I had no favorite subject - liked math, music, writing; maybe that's why I had many careers: journalist, teacher, writer, agency exec, commodity trader, homebuilder.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Learning is life-long and unlimited. Give yourself the best education possible in as many areas as possible. Learn a skill, but also follow your dreams.