Phebe Balzer: Candidate profile
Name: Phebe Balzer
City: West Chicago
Office sought: D33 Board of Education
Family: Married, 2 daughters (19) and (16)
Education: Master of Science in Education
Civic involvement: Parent Teacher Organization member, volunteer weekly in Neighborhood Food Pantry (6 years), volunteer in various community programs through our church (kid's clubs, poverty alleviation, refugee support)
Previous elected offices held: Board of Education
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? April 2015
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
A key issue in our District is student achievement levels. Over the past 4 years I participated in the Strategic Planning Task Force and the Lehman Academic Leadership Council (LALC) to make changes that focus on holistic achievement and growth. The District has been proactive with several key efforts including evaluating and adopting new curriculum, expanding the Dual Language program, using more engaging teaching methods, adopting the community school model, adding more staff and administrator support, and making a concerted effort to lower absenteeism. I strongly support an evaluation and improvement plan with a scheduled cycle that is research-based and data-driven.
A second issue is the reality of our limited and less than adequate financial resources due to the state fiscal situation. I have supported and will continue to support budget decisions that balance fiscal responsibility with giving our students the best possible educational opportunities. (see below for further comments)
A final issue is building and maintaining trust between the School Board, the District 33 employees and the community. I will continue to expand our patterns of creating transparency by soliciting input from the various stakeholders to be part of committees and task forces when we create and evaluate programs.
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?
In my personal experience the school district has prepared my daughters phenomenally well for both high school and college. My daughters had the opportunity to be in the Dual Language program. It has enriched their academic, linguistic and social experience. They have excelled throughout their time in the District. I am fully aware that this is not necessarily the case for all. The reasons are complex. I see my role as a Board member to hold the school District accountable to working diligently and vigorously to meet its goal of providing for the needs of each student. We have a complex student body that includes a fairly large segment of second language learners, and others that come from under-resourced homes. I will continue to challenge the District to think and act carefully, meaningfully and intentionally about all the issues that contribute to the challenges.
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.
Although we are far from being adequately funded, in the last couple of years the state has taken on a bit more responsibility to provide funding for education in communities such as ours. This is certainly encouraging and hopeful. The increased funding is designated to be spent in ways where there is evident correlation to achievement and growth. I will keep the District accountable to researching best practices and spending the increased funding in ways that best serve OUR children's education with the goal of increased achievement results while remaining fiscally responsible. The property tax burden on our community is notably high. I feel this burden keenly with my community and am committed to keeping the tax increases to an absolute minimum and even decreasing it when possible. For example, the School Board and District is currently considering a tax abatement which would lower our property taxes. I am very favorable to this option especially since our careful management of funds in the past would allow us to reduce property taxes without sacrificing the quality education for our children.
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?
I believe the best posture to take is to stay focused on the common interests, goals and priorities of both the union groups and that of the community. The interests and goals of both groups need to work together in order to have a healthy and thriving community. I also assume the weight and responsibility to give the kids in our community the best possible educational experience we can give them. I believe this ultimately adds direct and indirect value to our community. It is the District's goal to compensate our employees fairly. Over the past 4 years I have worked with the Board to intentionally and strategically bring all our salaries and wages in line with market values. Living within our means and being fiscally responsible, however, is also an obligation. We have done so, and as a result we have been able to keep the District operating at a healthy level and have even expanded our support services to students. In addition, we have been able to make significant buildings and grounds improvements without going further into debt or requesting more from our tax base.
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?
In and of itself I don't believe this practice is fair or ethical. I think we ought to focus on fair and adequate salaries/wages for our administrators and teachers throughout their career.