Tony DeMonte: Candidate profile
Name: Tony DeMonte
City: Gages Lake
Office sought: Warren Township High School District 121 Board member
Family: Married with 4 kids
Occupation: Administrator for Technology, Information, and Safety at Wilmette Public School District 39
Previous elected offices held: School Board Member for Woodland School District 50
Incumbent: No If yes, when were first elected?
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
Issues facing WTHS 121 are maintaining a productive relationship with the teachers union, implementing environmentally sustainable practices in a careful manner and continuing fiscally responsible practices during a time when there are large capital projects needed. Of late, the teachers have been working in good faith without a contract. Not only do we want keep great teachers, but we also want to attract them. This can be done by showing the community that the teachers union and the Board of Education have a respectful and productive relationship that works together by completing contract negotiations in a timely manner. The District is currently looking at a large scale solar panel project. Projects like solar panels need to be carefully considered for reasons like environmental
impact and financial rate on return. If the rate of return is many years in the future, there is a concern that we commit to something where technologies can change before savings are realized. One way of being fiscally responsible is the manner in which we
handle debt. There was a large restructuring of millions in bonds at the same time this past fall. This can impact the taxpayer if not issued thoughtfully. Depending on when they mature, this could mean less flexibility if money needs to be accessed at a later
date. Although money is needed today, we may need flexibility tomorrow so bonding should never be maxed and should be spread over time.
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?
Having a current Freshman at WTHS 121, I have been happy with the education he has received this year. His teachers make themselves available. The parent boot camp nights have provided us with the needed context to help support him. Our story is not uncommon in our
circle. Other community members have too been happy with the quality of education received. From my perspective, I have every reason to believe that on this trajectory, he will be well prepared for college. Once elected, I will look hard at the metadata for
graduation rate and other indicators to make sure WTHS 121 is preparing all students, like mine, for a future in college or careers. This is the fundamental mission of a high school which can get lost in extracurricular and social activities. Every student
deserves to be prepared for their next chapter in life.
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.
In the next four years, it will be important to pay attention to the new Evidence Based Funding formula. WTHS 121 need to be sure that we're meeting our Adequacy Target to the best extent possible. This will ensure that we receive the maximum amount of money from the
State. Raising taxes through a referendum would be a last resort only if we've exhausted all other possibilities and if cutting substantially hurts the quality of education our children receive. We should monitor new programming carefully. New programming
should be added as cost neutral. If we needed to cut, it would be best served during a program review process. Key questions should be asked such as if that program is instructional or a supportive service, how many students or staff are impacted and how much
money does it take to run the program. From that process with various stakeholders, programs should be ranked and adjusted to live within our means.
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?
I am currently employed as an administrator by a public school district in Cook County, Wilmette Public School District 39. No other direct family members are employed in public schools.
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?
The Board should be reflective of the community it serves. In times of economic hardships, it is fair to ask the district to live within its means. That being said, the local public school districts are a sense of pride for the community. They provide hope and opportunity
for kids. They also impact home values and whether or not people want to move into the neighborhood. There is a direct correlation between strong schools and great communities. WTHS 121 must remain a respected institution. A quality education from Warren Township
High School 121 does not come from bricks and mortar. It comes from quality staff who make a difference in the lives of kids. Good pay and benefits do attract a better candidate. This is a reality that must be acknowledged.
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. Typically the Superintendent or other administrator pay is already elevated due to increased level of purview and responsibility. Since retirement is based off a percentage of the salary, the yearly amount to those employees is already going to be higher than the majority
of the staff. Increasing it further only contributes to the problem of artificially high retirements and not having enough money in the retirement pool to adequately pay all hard working employees who have given their careers to public service.