Pam Ahlmann: Candidate profile
Name: Pam Ahlmann
City: School Board Member, Lisle CUSD 202
Office sought: Member of the Board of Education, Lisle CUSD 202
Family: Husband, Ken, three children, Kendal, Kyle and Konnor, all of whom attended Lisle CUSD 202 schools K-12
Occupation: District Manager, SSA
Education: Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Sociology, University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse
Volunteer: Lisle CUSD 202 Board of Education 2004-Present; Lisle Band Parents Organization, Home & School Organization, Athletic Boosters Club, 1998-present; Lisle Educational Foundation Board, 2005-present; Lisle Intergovernmental Council, 2007-present; Lisle Community Reader; Partners for Parks Scarecrow Scramble 2006-present; Lisle Chamber 5k events; Friends Feeding Families, 2016 to present; Lisle Eyes to the Skies, yearly; DuPage County Barriers Taskforce; Will County Continuum of Care; PADS; Trinity Lutheran Church, former Sunday School teacher, Confirmation assistant, Blue Ribbon Committee
Previous elected offices held: Lisle CUSD Board of Education, 4/2005; 4/2009; 4/2013; 4/2017
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected?: Yes. Appointed in 2004; First elected in 4/2005
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
Completing the new Lisle Elementary School on time and on budget is critical. As a member of the Finance and New Elementary School Steering Committees, I participate in planning meetings, monitor building progress and budget and meet with the project managers and local Home Owners' Association to enhance communication and address concerns. The new school is scheduled to open in August 2019.
Maintaining fiscal stability and providing our learning community with the essential education, skills and experiences for future success, will be extremely challenging if a binding referendum passes to reduce the amount extended for educational purposes by nearly $2 million each year. It is imperative that we educate the community on school finances and performance, and the plan to maintain a balanced budget, so voters are accurately informed on the extremely negative impact the referendum will have on students, staff, services and the Lisle community.
It is important that we balance interests, continue to meet legislative requirements and ensure that assessments and growth measures support high-quality teaching and learning, in light of changes in curricula, assessments, unfunded mandates, public criticism and uncertainties in school funding. We have to stay focused and proactive in addressing the needs of all students.
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?
I am pleased that District 202 focuses on a rigorous and relevant curriculum, opportunities for student growth and improving academic achievement of all students, while ensuring a healthy, safe, nurturing and empowering learning community. While measured by State and local assessments, academic progress goes well beyond test scores. Lisle HS was named to the AP District Honor Roll for the 9th consecutive year; distinguished as one of the most challenging HS's by the Washington Post; ranked in the top 7 percent of HS's nationwide 6 consecutive years by U.S. News; and District 202 was ranked as a top 25 school district for the 3rd consecutive year by Niche. Lisle HS and Schiesher Elementary were both designated as 2018 Exemplary Schools, performing in the top 10 % of schools statewide. In striving for continuous improvement, we can never be fully satisfied that the programs in place today will prepare students for the future. Recently, the Board approved full day kindergarten, interventionists and curriculum positions, new K-5 and 6-8 math curricula, increased AP class offerings, 1:1 technology in grades 4-12, and added extra-curricular initiatives to support students. Ultimately, the success of our graduates attests to the success of our District programs.
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 April we face a binding referendum to reduce property taxes allocated for educational purposes by nearly $2 million for the 2018 tax levy year going forward. If passed, the referendum would result in the District having only 76 days in reserves, requiring significant cuts in services and staff. Drastic reductions forced by the referendum could impact all grade levels, including services in reading and math interventions, AP classes, world language, career and technical education, fine arts, PE, technology, administration, secretarial and clerical support, special education instructors, and paraprofessionals. Results will also impact upcoming contract negotiations. The District has been fiscally conservative and operated within a balanced budget for 15 consecutive years. There has only been one referendum to increase taxes in the past 40 years. Community members first expressed property tax concerns in 2017 and for the past 2 years, we have reviewed various tax scenarios and recently abated taxes related to outstanding bonds resulting in no increase in the average homeowner's tax bill. I do not support tax increases over what is legally allowed through the levy rate, and will continue to assess future financial options that represent the interests of the entire community.
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?
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?
Contract negotiations include concessions and compromise on both sides, in an attempt to reflect comparative value and worth. The average increases in salary expenses has been around 3.6% since 2007. This included a combination of a salary freeze for the majority of the staff for the 2010-2011 school year, a negotiated agreement that tied CPI into the formula and several staff retiring each year. As we address employee benefit costs, I would like to again consider a CPI formula as a reflection of the property tax revenue, for discussion in future negotiations. I hope to see our teacher salaries attract and retain quality teachers and encourage exceptional performance. This is especially true in light of the national teacher shortage, which is already impacting many other districts.
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 I would not. I believe it is something our superintendent would never consider, especially in light of the potential impact of pension reform on the District.