Vasili Russis: Candidate Profile

Lake Zurich Unit District 95 School Board

Updated 3/20/2017 3:31 PM
  • Vasili Russis, running for Lake Zurich Unit District 95 School Board

    Vasili Russis, running for Lake Zurich Unit District 95 School Board

Back to Lake Zurich Unit District 95 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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City: Hawthorn Woods

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Twitter: Candidate did not respond.

Facebook: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought:

Lake Zurich Unit District 95 School Board

Age: 50

Family: Wife, Michelle

Son, Nicholas

Daughter, Elizabeth

Occupation: Attorney/CPA - Head of Tax & Wealth Structuring Group at Kelleher & Buckley, LLC

Education: B.S., Accountancy, University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign

J.D. - Chicago Kent College of Law

Civic involvement: LZBSA

Lake Zurich Lacrosse Club

Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

Questions & Answers

What do you see as priorities for facility upgrades in the district?

The upgrades need to be approached first with a view towards our children's safety. From the DLA Architects report, it seems that May Whitney has the greatest priority for safety upgrades of all the buildings. After addressing safety concerns at all buildings, I would look to see what facility upgrades will allow the buildings to extend their lives the most with an eye to the reasonableness of cost. I would also look to see the needs for the high school, as that is the building that is the centerpiece of education for our community, a building all in the district attend and what those in our area and others outside our area look to in valuing our community. From a cost standpoint, it may be economic and efficient to have any work at Isaac Fox and Middle School South done at the same time, as they are adjoining buildings and can be worked on and staged for construction at the same time. There are also issues with a decision on air conditioning at the five schools without it, and the DLA Architects report has outlined multiple cost alternatives.

There has been talk of seeking voter permission for a funding mechanism to pay for building projects without raising taxes. Is this something you support or should the district seek more money through a tax increase referendum to address building needs faster?

Any time you go to voters for a referendum or to weigh in on financial issues, you first need to get their thoughts on the issues, as voter permission for a school board to take action on financial matters is a last resort. All avenues of financing need to be examined before going to voters for a referendum. Although it was generally discussed in the Forward 95 meetings, there should be specific information given to the community about what is involved and be able to have the community voice their comments to understand the need for a proposed project. The board needs to review and communicate to the community what the budget looks like today, the number of projected construction projects, what the salary structure of the district will look like in future years to see what the anticipated cash flow will be at its disposal, what future revenue sources look to be both from local sources and from governmental sources, what the long term enrollment projections are for the district, the projected 5 year budget for the district, the ability to utilize any portion of the district's cash reserves for projects, and anticipated bond rating for the district in the future along with anticipated future interest rates "“ all these factors affect the economics of the proposed projects. You always want to stay away from raising taxes except if the community believes it is a wise choice.

Has the district done a good job in conveying information to parents on the Lake Zurich High School football team hazing situation? Please elaborate and explain if you have ideas on what could have been done differently?

Although the district is striving for transparency and has to keep privacy in mind under the Illinois School Code, information could have been conveyed differently to parents regarding the football hazing situation. Unfortunately, we learned about the hazing situation from the press as opposed to the district. Further, in addition to its primary responsibility to protect students and keep them safe, the district also has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the high school, the district and the community "“ as such, the district needs to understand the effect of its written communications on the community. When a communication can bring on a negative impact, there needs to be thought given as to what is contained in that communication and the need for such communication as well as the timing on the release of such communication.

What should the district do in an effort to prevent a similar hazing problem in the future?

The number one goal to prevent hazing from happening in the future is to ensure our children are in a safe environment during regular school time and extracurricular activities and that we build a safe culture. Appropriate steps must be taken to make sure children are safe, such as monitoring of extracurricular groups when they are using district facilities or on district property outside of the normal school teaching hours, which district staff should be able to handle, and review and reassess those steps at least annually. Although it should be obvious to anyone that hazing has no place in the district, it is key to have staff and students educated about not just the problems of hazing but also how to be a leader and build a positive culture. Further, the district has in place a code of conduct and, at the high school for extracurricular activities, pledge cards, which state there are consequence for actions involving certain poor conduct. By enforcing the consequences set out in the code of conduct and agreed to in a pledge card, there would be a consistent message that any poor conduct is not tolerated by the district and there are consequences for such actions, such as suspension from extracurricular activities. Any consequences also need to be reasonable based on the level of involvement, or lack of involvement, of members in an extracurricular activity. By enforcing the consequences, our school district also teaches the lesson of responsibility.

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?

I am not in favor of school choice for our district. The community as a whole needs the necessary funding in order to have a solid school system. School choice diverts tax funding away from a school district. Without having that funding, the schools suffer and, to a greater extent, the community suffers by not having the needed funding it would otherwise have without school choice. Further, money used for school choice many times goes to institutions that are run for profit and do not have the same oversight as do public schools. Part of this district's obligation is to serve the community and school choice and only weakens schools which hurts the community - it is something the district should not favor. As we have quality education in District 95 and want to improve on that standard, school choice does not make sense for our community. Normally, a voucher system works in areas where the schools are not strong; therefore, it should not affect what happens in our district. Everyone has a right to quality education and I believe school choice has a negative impact on our school system.

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

In the Forward 95 initiative, one of the issues uncovered, in addition to facilities and finance, were the education concerns voiced by staff. It is the board's responsibility to make sure to communicate with staff and understand their concerns so we can advocate for our children and their curriculum. No matter what, our schools are only as strong as our teachers and administrators in the buildings where our children learn, and their feedback is vital.

Also, I have been fortunate in my career as an attorney and CPA to be exposed to many different issues in the areas of finance, real estate, construction, high profile litigation and high-profile transactions, to name a few, and I've also been fortunate to work with school boards addressing various issues. Although all these disciplines are important for a board member in District 95, they are not as important as the ability to communicate, listen, lead, collaborate and carry out policy as one does as a member of any board. Those are the goals of a board member to make a positive impact in the district and I intend to use those abilities to be a positive piece of District 95.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

Joe Maddon - He respects his staff and players, he sets expectations which help his team reach their goals and he makes his workplace enjoyable.

What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?


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

Be more trusting of people when I was younger.

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

Social studies because you realize that history can repeat itself if you are not careful with your actions today.

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

Work hard - nothing is handed to you and everything good in life is earned.