Jessica Buttimer: Candidate profile
Name: Jessica Buttimer
City: Glen Ellyn
Office sought: School Board Member
Family: Spouse, Alan Buttimer; Daughters age 7 and 9
Occupation: Part-time Freelance User Research Consultant and Capital Campaign Coordinator for Prairie Food Co-op
Education: I earned a Bachelor of Behavioral Science, Communication, and Business from Millikin University and a Master of Human-Computer Interaction from DePaul University.
Civic involvement: PTA Council Executive Board Secretary; Lincoln Elementary PTA member, committee chair, and active volunteer; D41-411 community engagement platform on Facebook; District 41 Foundation Initiative; D41 Forward for Kids Referendum committee volunteer; former Prairie Food Co-op Board Member (startup for-profit); former GardenWorks Project Board Member (nonprofit).
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
Meeting the increasing and ever-changing needs of our students and the world they will inherit is our biggest challenge and greatest priority. I will honor the expertise of our talented educational leaders and exceptional teaching professionals. I will expect evidence-based practices supported by data on outcomes and feedback from students, staff, and parents. In addition, District 41 is facing a transition of leadership as we search for a new Superintendent. I will work with the current board to be involved in the selection and maintain continuity with our exemplary Long Range Plan. Finally, finances, facilities, and full-day kindergarten continue to be areas of focus. The repercussions of two consecutive years of not allowing our revenue to increase with inflation remain to be seen. As our student body is poised to grow with new Glen Ellyn housing developments, the needs for state-mandated preschool expand, and full-day kindergarten becomes the norm in surrounding communities, it is essential that the D41 BOE is forward thinking about additional facilities and work with the community to plan and prepare.
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?
I am very satisfied. Our daughters are learning to be successful global citizens. D41's focus on a growth mindset and programs including daily Spanish instruction (FLES), Dual Language, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) are preparing students for what lies ahead. At a recent BOE meeting, Glenbard West Principal Dr. Peter Monaghan complimented how well prepared D41 students are for their high school experience. That said, we can always do better and the professionals at D41 always rise to that challenge. While I am proud to celebrate our many successes, it's important to honor the challenges of families that feel efforts have fallen short and work collaboratively to resolve concerns. For example, I look forward to seeing the evolution of Special Education Services and our program of Inclusion and expanded differentiation. As a board member, I will learn from our educational leaders about emerging and proven strategies or programs in education. I feel it is important that we plan ahead for these advances, much in the same way that we project capital improvements for five years and beyond.
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? Be specific.
A budgetary challenge is the complexity of the tax levy, which isn't common sense and is often misunderstood. Our picturesque community lacks significant industry and Illinois tax structures place the burden on homeowners, so it's no wonder residents are concerned. State law restricts school revenue to incremental increases, dictated by inflation and property growth, which the board votes on annually via the levy. We know goods and compensation increases align with inflation and health benefits increase by 3-4 times inflation, so it's important to allow growth. We can all be proud of the incredible value D41 offers, as measured by multiple third-parties. Our per-student spending is below the average of all elementary districts in DuPage County. Yet, our results on the PARCC test put us in the top 5 percent of the state for performance, despite having 23 percent of our students qualifying for free/reduced lunch. Finally, finances, facilities, and full-day kindergarten continue to be areas of focus. The repercussions of 2017 and 2018 levy votes need to be evaluated. Preschool registrations are increasing and discussion about full-day kindergarten will continue. The D41 BOE should be forward thinking to address student needs and partner with our engaged community to plan together.
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?
No, my husband is an elementary school principal in a neighboring district and former special education coordinator and third-grade teacher in District 204.
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?
GEEA, the Glen Ellyn Education Association/teachers union, and AFSCME, the union for support staff, have a long history of excellent relations with the District 41 school board. Do you remember when a previous Board of Education negotiated extending the workday by 30 minutes? Or when a previous BOE negotiated with GEEA to remove the traditional step salary increases to align with CPI? In each situation, the BOE, D41 Administration and GEEA worked together respectfully and collaboratively to develop solutions for students and a more sustainable approach to teacher compensation that is fair and respectful of the taxpayers who support their local school community. I absolutely intend to carry on that tradition and work to repair relationships that have been strained the past four years.
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?
No, because it would not be fiscally sustainable nor is it allowed.