Gabriela Lucero Whipple: Candidate profile
Name: Gabriela Lucero Whipple
City: Hawthorn Woods
Office sought: Fremont District 79 school board member
Family: Married with three children. All three of my children currently attend Fremont schools. I have a son at Fremont Elementary School, a daughter at Fremont Intermediate School and another son at Fremont Middle School.
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom. Worked as a Quality Assurance Manager and Auditor at Abbott Laboratories for 13 years.
Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., University of California, San Diego- Certificate in Regulatory Affairs, Certified Project Management Professional (PMP)- Project Management Institute (2007-2012)
Civic involvement: Fremont school district board member and board secretary.
Previous elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? I was originally appointed to the board in 2014 and then elected in 2015.
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
• Student Safety and Security: It only takes one school threat to realize that student safety is a top priority. Since I have been on the board we have conducted two security audits. Based on the audit findings, the board has acted to implement improvements to our facilities that maximize safety at our schools. During the most recent security audit FSD79 received High-Security ratings. We need to continue to be on the forefront of school security and ensure that students and personnel in our schools are physically safe and prepared for emergencies.
• Fiscal Responsibility: During my time on the board we have made significant improvements to our facilities, implemented personal learning strategies and initiated the 1:1 technology program all while maintaining a balanced budget. Last month Fremont School District once again earned the Meritorious Budget Award. This is the seventh consecutive year that FSD79 received this recognition, being one of 150 districts nationally to receive this award from the Association of School Business Officials International.
• Community Engagement and Communication: Communication is key. Over the last several years the district has made significant improvements to its communication strategies. The district has updated the FSD79 website to ensure it is ADA compliant, it has increased its presence on multimedia platforms, and has improved its ability to share the FSD79 message with our surrounding community (not just FSD79 parents). However, in my opinion this is an area where there is always for improvement. As a board member, I have made myself available to community members to contact me about any topic they would like to discuss.
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?
My husband and I have lived in an FSD79 neighborhood for 14 years. Over the years, I have noticed that FSD79 graduates are successful academically and are socially well adjusted in any of the surrounding high schools (i.e. Stevenson, Mundelein or Carmel) they choose, and subsequently at the colleges they attend. The FSD Vision Statement is to provide " … an exemplary education focused on whole-child development" (the focus is not only on academics). I am proud of the passion the teachers and administrators in our district put everyday to provide Fremont kids with the skills and knowledge to live productive and meaningful lives. In the 2018 Illinois Report Card, FSD79 earned a "Commendable" rating for our schools. I would like the district, with board support, to strive for an "Exemplary" rating.
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.
The FSD79 budget is currently in balance. We don't know what new regulations or mandates will come from Springfield on any given year. However, presently there are no plans to cut any programs. One area of concern for our district has been funding for Prairie Crossing Charter School. A large chunk of the money that FSD79 gets from the state is diverted to Prairie Crossing Charter School (PCCS). This is a difficult situation for our district as well as for PCCS and is a financial concern that we continue to monitor as a board.
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 not employed by our school district, nor is anyone in my family.
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 was on the board when the 2017-2022 Teacher Contract was negotiated with the Fremont Education Association (FEA). The negotiations started early to ensure that we gave ourselves ample time in case any unexpected situation arose. The board has a good working relationship with the FEA. Fortunately the negotiations went well from early on and we were able to complete the contract without any major hurdles.
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?
As a board member I would not approve a substantial increase in an administrator's pay only to help boost the beneficiaries pension benefits. That is not in the district's best fiscal interest.