Jim Strnad: Candidate profile
Name: Jim Strnad
City: Lisle, IL
Office sought: Community Unit School District 202 Board member
Family: Five Children, 8 grandchildren
Occupation: Retired small business owner
Education: B.A. Ohio University
Civic involvement: Worked with other Lisle School District residents to provide a voice for District 202 voters on tax issues via April 2019 referendum; I am a licensed substitute teacher DuPage County, member of the Village of Lisle Water Taskforce; ten years coaching Lisle Baseball with majority of years also as a Board member; twenty years coaching Panthers Youth Football while also a Board member; retired U.S. Naval Officer and member of the American Legion.
Facebook: Vote Jim for Lisle 202 School Board
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
There are two primary issues:
Adjust taxing levels to better reflect actual District needs while ensuring that Lisle students receive the best education that we can provide. While State law permits the voter to address an over burdensome tax situation via referendum, new leadership is required to better identify District needs and how to best fund them. A position on the School Board mandates being a judicious steward of taxpayer monies while seeking to ensure a quality education that other School Districts will admire and wish to emulate.
Revitalize the District-stagnated academic progress and solidify the ability to provide career planning for all Lisle students. As a School Board member, I would feel obligated to identify each ingredient to this end and actively engage our educators and administrators and monitor their status. We should always be striving to increase efficiency, consistency, and to make certain that all students are best prepared for future academic success or to have the knowledge needed to seek and secure rewarding career choices. Being a small school district presents its own challenges requiring constant review which may require unique revisions to how we operate. We must work with staff and administration to adjust to our challenges.
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?
While the Lisle graduation rate is high, there are many areas, whether they be academic or organizational as identified and reported by impartial sources like the DuPage Policy Journal and the Illinois Report Card, that need to be addressed. Schools are more than buildings and judicious leadership is required to salute the system positives and, more importantly, cull out those issues that demand attention and review. For example, why is the remediation percentage so high for Lisle graduates attending Illinois community colleges? Can we correct this by adjusting the curriculum, better counseling, increasing course goals and objectives, or all of the above?
There were promises made by previous Boards that were not achieved and other areas that were not examined. The Superintendent was tasked with advancing system academics, but failed to improve them and was not held accountable. School Board members are entrusted to be good stewards of the success of our schools and the taxpayer dollars. Uppermost in the mind of each Board member must be the continued pursuit of excellence at every level of education for every student.
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.
Previous School Boards were able to "bank" about $28 million in reserves by taxing beyond their needs. As verification, lawsuits were filed for over-taxation by a small group of business property owners for the years 2010 -- 2014 in DuPage County with the School Board approving a settlement for $775,000. The Court found that "The tax levy for OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE PURPOSES and the rate extended therefor, of $0.6433, are illegal and void." The Lisle CUSD 202 taxpayers, via Referendum, will now have an opportunity to address tax relief and even if successful, the District will still have more than enough funds to continue without having to seek any budgetary cuts. There will be no need to adjust student fees, activities, student services, academics, or staffing.
The member of a school board has two mandates: to be judicious stewards of the taxpayers' monies and provide the best leadership possible to develop goals and policies to support District excellence. To fulfill these mandates requires continual review of spending, be it programs, facilities, or staffing. We all agree about the importance of providing a positive student experience while receiving a quality education, but good leadership means being vigilant and willing to ask questions about needs and goals. I pledge good leadership.
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 do have both a daughter and a granddaughter that are teachers but neither is in the Lisle 202 School District. Additionally, I am licensed to substitute teach in DuPage County.
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?
School Board leadership requires that qualified, professional administrators and educators be hired and retained to implement well considered goals and curriculum. I would support our teachers' contracts be consistent with the neighboring, higher-performing schools. I would strive to ensure we provide an organized, positive atmosphere for our educators, one conducive to the learning experience for them and all our students.
Although our needs and demographics may be different than other surrounding districts, we must be aware of the competitive nature of securing educators that will provide continued excellence in our schools. It should be noted and taken into consideration that Lisle Unit District 202 is experiencing declining enrollment, has comparatively small class sizes, and currently spends in excess of $20k per pupil to educate students, one of the highest in the state.
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
This is a difficult question to address given the many variabilities, such as how the increase is calculated and its' purpose. Historically these stipends, severance pay, or service awards have been conferred to honor those employees who have stayed with the District for a long period of time and assigned on the basis of their age and years of service. There can be something said for maintaining consistency of quality educators, but performance should be of great consideration and each, I think, must be made on an individual basis.