Kristine O'Sullivan: Candidate profile
Name: Kristine O'Sullivan
City: Mount Prospect
Office sought: School Board Member, District 57
Age: 41 (42 at the end of February)
Family: Married to Pat O'Sullivan; one daughter, a second-grade student in D57
Occupation: Event Communications Manager for ISACA, a global association for information and cyber security professionals in Schaumburg
Education: Graduated cum laude in 1999 from Carthage College in Kenosha, WI, with a BA in English
Civic involvement: Served post-college (one-year term) as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member (1999-2000), coordinating literacy programs for a rural New Hampshire school district. Frequent volunteer for local opportunities (such as sorting school supplies and food drive donations) at the Mount Prospect Village Hall. Professionally, volunteer at Association Forum, a Chicago-based association for association professionals; currently serve as chair of the Communications Shared Interest Group. Received a Forty Under 40 award from Association Forum in 2016.
Previous elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? No
Website: None, but I can be reached at KristineOsullivanD57@gmail.com
Twitter: None, but my Instagram is www.instagram.com/kristineford57
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
Securing much-needed funding through the March 2018 referendum was necessary, but its passing was a lifeline, not a lottery ticket. I was very much in favor of the referendum and am pleased that the budgets for critical maintenance needed in the buildings, as well as maintaining staffing levels and class sizes, are now funded at an appropriate level. I want to be involved in the stewardship of this funding and clearly communicate to the community the strategic decisions the school board is making for the future. The economic stability of District 57 is the most critical issue for the next decade, and community engagement in how this is achieved is very important. Parents and community members want to engage in the decision-making processes as the district navigates its short- and long-term strategies, and the district should provide timely communications: sharing the district's successes, asking for input, and providing opportunities to be engaged. Many community members cannot attend school board meetings but want to be involved and informed. There are many affordable ways to engage and educate on social media and using technology, and I would help support district staff in prioritizing and creating content to achieve these goals. 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? My professional background in community engagement and volunteer management would lend itself to piloting programs for students to engage with emerging technologies, skilled trades and career paths. I am passionate about preparing students for 21st century jobs, including cybersecurity and computer programming, and in emerging fields like green technology. Not all students will find their passions in science and technology, but all students -- especially children in K-8 grades -- should learn about how to remain safe online, how technology impacts every aspect of our lives, and what the future may hold as tech continually evolves and disrupts industries. Twenty-first century job preparation includes the skilled trades; Mount Prospect is fortunate to be near quality community colleges and vocational schools with which District 57 can form partnerships. Our district may serve children, but they are not too young to learn about industries and imagine their personal paths to success. Partnering with the local business community in engaging with District 57 students would empower the children to identify their strengths and would help ensure that the skill sets that industries require are integrated into students' educations.
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.
I do not currently support an additional referendum; District 57 had promised that the new funding would sustain the district for another decade, and the school board is obligated to be good stewards of this funding. Should projections indicate that the district was once again in an unstable and concerning position, a line-by-line budget assessment and cost-benefit analysis would be necessary; it is appropriate to review how cost-cutting measures may be taken and what vendor contracts can be renegotiated to assure that the district's finances are being appropriately invested and spent.
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?
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? District 57, post-referendum, is in a much more stable financial position, and can concentrate on appropriately funding staffing, programs and facilities. I look forward to working with the employees of the school district to ensure that we are attracting and retaining excellent teachers and staff while maintaining healthy reserves and planning appropriately for the future. Additionally, Illinois' new school funding formula is a step in the right direction and is another win for District 57 as we navigate short- and long-term investments and expenses.
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, I would not. I do not believe that this is a common practice; most administrators and teachers earn a modest pension post-retirement and do not collect Social Security. I believe that teachers and administrators are entitled to pensions that accurately reflect their years of service, their employee contributions, and the average salaries of their years of service.