Ted Estes: Candidate profile
Name: Ted Estes
City: Glen Ellyn
Office sought: District 41 School Board Member
Family: Married, with two children in high school
Occupation: Software developer
Education: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University; Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Civic involvement: District 41 Facilities Task Force 2014-2015; BSA Scouts Glen Ellyn Troop 41, Assistant Scoutmaster and Merit Badge Counselor, 2015-present; Glenbard West Association of Music Parents, 2016-present; Glenbard West STEM Club "Project I" presenter, 2018 & 2019; Technology Center of DuPage, Advisory Committee for Computer Information Systems, 2015-present
Previous elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected?
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
First, we must hire a superintendent. Given the short timeline involved, this will be a challenge. I have asked to be involved in all phases of the superintendent search process. Next up is school funding. We must balance the desire to minimize taxes in the short term with the fiscal health of the district in the long term. I believe that whether you have children in D41 or not, you want successful schools to preserve home values. I'd strive for the "sweet spot" in school funding, without large surpluses or deficits, with responsible planning to meet technology requirements and for desirable programs such as full-day kindergarten. We need to drive to consensus about the appropriate funding to keep our schools adaptable to 21st century requirements. But to reach consensus, we must improve our board dynamics -- how members work with each other, how the board works with the administration and the public, and how it incorporates expertise into decision-making. I'm an analytical person, driven to understanding financials, but am also an experienced team-builder, and am interested in promoting better teamwork and restoring civility to our board so that we make decisions in a productive manner and in collaboration with the community.
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?
District 41 does a great job in preparing students for high school, and the principal of Glenbard West frequently presents data that show how well prepared the District 41 students are for the rigors of high school. My own sons attended District 41 from kindergarten through 8th grade, and are well-rounded and thriving in Glenbard West's challenging programs. We can and should be always trying to do better, and I would particularly like to see us progress even further in the areas of special education support and inclusion, foreign language programming, adapting to changes in technology, and teaching skills rather than subjects. Education is a different business than it was when I was a kid. Well over half of our students are projected to be working in careers that don't exist today. We need to continue and improve our focus on making our educational programs adaptable to vastly changing college and career requirements, so that we are preparing this generation to succeed, as District 41 has been doing so well for so long.
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.
Budgetary issues are among the most pressing issues currently facing D41, and include: what level of funding do we require for maintaining our fiscal health and strong bond rating?; how do we address our needs for Early Childhood programs?; how or can we afford full-day kindergarten to remain competitive with neighboring districts? I talk with friends and neighbors in D41, both with and without children in D41 schools, and I believe that the community wants our schools to remain strong and competitive, as a matter of civic pride and as a practical matter of supporting home values. Our district's cost/student ratio is below the median in our region and compares favorably to many neighboring districts, and we have fewer opportunities for "low hanging fruit". First, we need to maintain fair compensation for teachers and staff. Then, we are going to have to be rigorous and creative about examining overhead. Finally, we need to have productive discussions between board members and with the administration and the residents, to determine the funding levels that the community will support.
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?
Teachers and staff are the backbone of any school district, and D41 has excellent ones. The district has always enjoyed good working relationships with both GEEA and AFSCME who represent our teachers and staff, and I plan to foster those good relationships which benefit all parties. We should continue to benchmark to other districts to ensure our compensation is competitive and comparable. After that, I see no benefit to causing our teachers to have a diminishing standard of living by demanding large concessions or refusing cost-of-living increases. There are better places to look for reduced costs.
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 wouldn't support a substantial increase in pay to boost pension benefits. The superintendent job is a difficult job but it is also fairly compensated. Their pension benefits should be based on that fair compensation and not be further inflated.