Susan Booton: Candidate profile
Name: Susan Booton
Office sought: Member of CUSD 200 Board of Education
Family: Husband, Keith, and two sons, ages 12 and 10
Occupation: Project Manager
Education: Bachelor's degree in Business/Entrepreneurship from Indiana University
CUSD 200 Citizens Advisory Committee member: 2015 - Present
Whittier Elementary INCubator Mentor: 2018 - Present
Whittier PTA Committee Chair: 2013 - Present
Whittier PTA Co-President: 2013 - 2014
Edison PTA member: 2017 - Present
Friends of the Schools: 2013 - 2017
Jefferson ECC PTA Committee Chair: 2010-2012
Previous elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? No
* What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
I feel strongly that District 200 should continue to focus on updating and improving our facilities across the district. The current Board developed a good plan in the aftermath of the 2017 referendum failure, but we may face some obstacles in fully funding the Sherman Dergis formula over the coming years. As a Board member, I would continue the momentum of addressing our building needs in a way that provides our students and staff with what they need to succeed as well as addresses the financial concerns of our community.
In addition, roughly 75% of our community does not have kids in district schools. I would like to see our schools engage more with that population and utilize an untapped resource in our community. I feel a big part of the disconnect between our facility and staffing needs and our community's understanding of those needs is that they have no reason to be in our schools. As a Board member, I would like to find creative ways to get those community members involved in our schools, such as INCubator mentors and inviting a group of community members to school plays, concerts, and sporting events free of charge.
* 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?
With 10 years in district schools and seven more to go, I feel that my kids have been more than adequately prepared as they have progressed through our district. I have no doubt that the interventions my oldest son received starting at 3 years old at Jefferson ECC changed the trajectory of his life academically. Now in middle school, I see how well his teachers are preparing him for the rigors of high school and beyond.
As our culture and work environments continue to change at lightning speed, we need to keep a strong focus on preparing our students for the real world. This includes a continually updated focus on social emotional learning that provides students with an assortment of programs that improve their mental health and self confidence. In addition, we need to help our kids navigate the digital world with digital literacy discussions beginning at an early age in our classrooms so that our students can have a healthy and balanced relationship with technology. I would also like to see an emphasis on civics and government so that kids understand from a young age that their vote matters and can make a difference.
* 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 believe the biggest issue will be fully funding the Sherman Dergis formula to complete the necessary maintenance work on our facilities across the district. The district identified $83.6 million in capital needs as part of the 2017 referendum. The referendum failed, but those needs still exist. After the summer of 2019, the district will have completed approximately $14.5 million in work related to those capital needs, mostly from using fund balance. We will need to continue to find around $6.5 million in the yearly budget to fully fund our building maintenance plan. While the district still has some fund balance to work with, it will not fully cover all needs in the coming years. If cuts were needed, I would work collaboratively with my fellow Board members to make cuts that would have the least impact on student learning and staff. On the income side, after working on the 2013 and 2017 referendums, I clearly understand that this community does not want a solution that would cause a tax increase anytime soon. However, if all other options were exhausted, I would not rule out a carefully-targeted bond issuance at the appropriate time to improve our schools.
* 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 currently nor have I ever been employed by a school district. I have no family members employed by District 200.
* 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?
Our teachers and staff are District 200's greatest asset. As a Board member, my goal would be to continue a very civil, open, and respectful relationship with all of our teachers and staff across the district at all times. This creates a place for meaningful discussion and constructive compromise from both the Board and our teaching staff at any point in time, but especially in times of contract negotiation. In fact, the latest contract replaced the traditional salary step schedule with an innovative salary schedule that provides for salary increases based on CPI, with a floor and ceiling percentage increase, as well as professional development. These new ways of working together can only be done when we strive to keep strong relationships with our teaching staff and it also contributes to our high teacher retention rate. For this reason, I would not see a time, nor would I want a time, when a "posture" is needed from the Board towards our teachers and staff. In my view, the Board is in place to support our teachers and staff as much as possible and that is how I plan to approach my position on the Board overall.
* 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?
I would not support a substantial increase in pay to help boost pension benefits to a superintendent or administrator. While any employee of the district should be entitled to a fair salary throughout their career, that salary should not have a dramatic shift at the end to unfairly boost a post-employment benefit. I do not support this practice in any way.