Renea Amen: Candidate Profile
Woodland District 50 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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Family: I am married to Semaj Amen. I have 4 kids, Olivia Finley, who attends Illinois State University. Semaj Amen II, who is 12 and attends Woodland Middle School. Samaria Amen, who is 8 years old and attends Woodland West Elementary, and Khalil Amen 14 who attends Chippewa Middle school in Des Plaines, Illinois
Occupation: I am a criminal Defense Attorney, and Adjunct Professor.
Education: Juris Doctorate Degree from john Marshall Law School.
B.A. in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia College of Missouri.
Civic involvement: I am a member of the Lake County Bar Association. I am also a member of the Chicago Bar Association, and the Illinois State Bar Association.
I often spend time helping people to expunge their criminal records by participating in workshops in the community as well as in Cook County. I am invited to schools often where i speak to students regarding their rights and how to properly interact with the police.
Elected offices held: I have never held a public office besides the one i currently sit on, which is the Woodland District 50 School Board.
School finances seem to be a problem. What do you see as the main cause of financial difficulties and what solutions would you offer if elected?
The main cause of financial difficulties as i see them is that our district demographics are changing. We are at a time where we do not have the same amount of children as we had in the prior years.Although we have less kids and it would seem more money, Praire Crossing receives a substantial portion of our state aid.
As you know, state funding follows Woodland students whose parents elect to send them to Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake - a longtime bone of contention. Do you see that as a problem? Please explain.
Yes, and the main problem with it is the funding. As stated in the previous answer Praire Crossing receives a substantial portion of our state aid and funding. So every time a parent sends their child to Praire Crossing it takes away from the Woodland budget.
With enrollment declining to 5,882 from 6,549 in 2012, per the state's report card, how to you view the district's staffing levels. Are there too many employees and what should be done? Please elaborate.
I do not believe that Woodland has too many employees. As it stands right now, I believe our district is running as efficiently and effectively as we can with the bare minimum of staff. I don't think that we should make cuts because we would then be looking at the quality of the education our Woodland Students are receiving. I believe that any cuts made would seriously hurt our district and our student's education.
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?
I would support tax and fee increases if it would allow us to not have to make drastic cuts. as i stated previously, i believe that any cuts would affect the quality of education our students receive, but with that being said i would not be opposed to looking at cuts in other areas, such as spending. When we were at the board forum, i realized that we had told parents that we were making staff cuts, however, in the very last slide on the Power Points we also said we hired a a consulting company to tell us how to effectively use our space. I personally thought that was ironic, in light of the fact that we are complaining about making staffing cuts. While i understand that cuts may be necessary, I would like for us to look at all aspects and be reasonable in what we cut and how we spend.
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?
Any measures that takes money form our public schools, be it a voucher or charter program will effect the district. I am a proponent pf public school because i went to public school, i would like to see more support for our public schools over a voucher program. The effect of that on the district would be that we would lose even more money and our kids would lose out on even more benefits.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Th issues that are important to me as a candidate are issues that affect our children and our families in the district. More than anything i believe in being an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. My service on the school board is about representation for all children in the district and for the staff while making the best decisions for the district overall. Ensuring that all children are treated with equality is of great importance to me.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Always be true to myself.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I would go to college earlier in life.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
My favorite subject in school was English. It has helped me later in life because as an attorney and professor i need to speak clearly.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be honest, trustworthy, and stand by your word.