Chris Crabtree: Candidate profile
Name: Chris Crabtree
Office sought: Community Unit School District 200 School Board Member
Family: I've been married to my husband, Todd for 30 years, and we have two daughters, Emma, a sophomore at Taylor University and Sophia, a senior at Wheaton North.
Occupation: Curriculum Consultant
Education: Bachelor of Science, Illinois State University, 1986 Fashion Merchandising and Design. Master of Arts in Teaching, from National Louis University, 1995
Civic involvement: Former PTA Vice President and President Pleasant Hill School, Former PTA Vice President and President Monroe PTA, Former District 200 PTA Council Vice President and President, Former Girl Scout Leader, New 200 Foundation Grant Review Committee, former Board of Education Secretary and current Board Vice President
Previous elected offices held: Community Unit School District 200 Board Member
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? 2015
* What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
Student learning: I serve on our board committees that address teaching, student learning and social/emotional health. Even though we are rated 8th in the state by Niche, a challenge we face is preparing students for careers that don't yet exist. I have spent more than 25 years in the education world. We need to expose our students to a variety of tools to foster academic success, in addition to addressing the social and emotional aspects of their daily lives. Strong communication skills are imperative as students move on to their next stage of life.
Facilities: Most of our facilities are aging and some are in need of significant repairs. I believe our focus should be to prioritize our needs and to address those that are most pressing over the next few years using annual operating expenses and fund balance versus a referendum.
Teachers: While our district has been known as a destination district for new teachers, the nation is on the cusp of a teacher shortage, therefore we need to actively recruit new teachers. I would like to see a plan to recruit from within by offering internships to our high school seniors to encourage teaching as a career choice.
* 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?
Personally, I'm very satisfied with the rigorous academics, expansive co-curricular opportunities, and strong connections that my daughters experienced. That being said, we can always strive to be better. Expanding blended learning opportunities will allow for more differentiation and personalization and dual credit courses could offer rigorous opportunities other than AP courses. Incubator classes and clubs bring entrepreneurship experiences and newer technology, along with green screens allow for innovative communication opportunities for students in elementary, middle, and high school.
At the younger grades, we continue to find ways to challenge, engage, and support the diverse needs of our students. Math coaches allow for targeted small group instruction. We are piloting a push-in model in two schools with higher English Learner populations to better support students and need to give that some time to evaluate.
I would like to see us grow our student enrollment at Technology Center of DuPage. This consortium allows the opportunity for our students to learn occupational skills in many fields-- including welding, fire safety, and culinary arts-- and in some cases allows them to earn credits toward post-secondary programs. Finding opportunities to bring more STEM experiences into our middle schools may grow greater interest in TCD.
* 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 still agree with my comments in 2015: the community needs to be part of discussions on what they want and value in their schools. In November, our community overwhelmingly showed support for building a new early childhood center.
At the board table we need to continue to have comprehensive discussions on any additions, reductions, or eliminations of programming. Last year, when we looked at the idea of adding lacrosse as an IHSA sanctioned sport, parents and students engaged in dialogue with us, as we worked out how we could make it happen. Exploring topics such as all-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes and later high school start times require discussions on weighing benefits and costs, especially at a time when our buildings are in need of significant capital expenditures.
This summer we are prioritizing approximately $8 million of work to be completed by using fund balance and allocating any new revenue sources toward our facilities. At this time, pending no catastrophic funding changes, I think we need to try and manage expenses through our annual operating budget without adding to our debt service. I do, however, welcome the opportunity to explore alternative funding sources whenever possible.
* 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?
While I am not currently employed from the district, nor did I retire from it , I did teach at Whittier Elementary for 11 years, from 1993-2004. For the past year and a half, my high school daughter has been working at the after school program a few days a week at Whittier Elementary and will be leaving when she heads off to college this summer.
* 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'm still aligned with my 2015 comments: for contract negotiations to be productive, there needs to be a sense of trust with all groups. This should not be a standoff where people posture for positions. Unlike other taxing bodies, we have more fixed revenue sources; therefore, negotiations need to be fair and consider the needs of our students, our staff and our infrastructure, while being fiscally responsible for our taxpayers. Continual communication of priorities in non-negotiation years is important. For example, with our last teacher contract, the traditional salary schedule was ending, and that meant finding a new way to address compensation. A team of administrators and teachers worked together for over two years before negotiations began, researching ways to move off the traditional salary schedule. Also, we need to look at the market and ask ourselves where we stand with our benchmark and surrounding districts. A year ago, our administrators took a pay freeze. It's not realistic to always expect concessions from our employees. Retention of quality staff is important. It takes time and resources when we have turnover, so we need to keep that in mind as well. Ongoing communication helps to prioritize needs and recognize limitations.
* 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 my tenure on the board, this has not been a practice we have used. I do not support a substantial increase to help boost pension benefits. This practice was eliminated in our teacher contracts as well, by a previous board. It engenders distrust of the community and creates even more of a burden on an already strapped pension system.