Denise Pearl: Candidate profile
Name: Denise Pearl
City: Park Ridge
Office sought: D64 School Board Member, 4-year Term
Family: Husband of 18 years, son who attends Maine South High School, and two daughters who attend Emerson Middle School
Occupation: Online Instructor, Bradley University (Peoria, IL) and Maryville University (St. Louis, MO)
Education: Doctor of Philosophy - Higher Education Administration from Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO
Master of Arts - School Counseling & Bachelor of Science - Mathematics (Received Illinois certification to teach grades 6-12), both from Bradley University, Peoria, IL
Civic involvement: · Emerson Middle School PTO President, District 64 Band and Orchestra Parent Association Vice President, District 207's Citizen Advisory Board, Citizens for Maine 207 Bond Referendum (Member and PTO/A Liaison), YearUp Mentor, & Chicago Scholars Mentor
Previous elected offices held: N/A
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected?
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
Using community input from the recently completed survey to develop a profile for the new superintendent of the district, some of the challenges reported by the community include fostering better communication strategies; clarifying the role of the school board; and establishing trust with the community and with the special education program, in particular. In all of these areas, I believe that improved communication strategies from the board would address these concerns. I have been attending school board meetings not just for District 64 but for other area districts to gather ideas of practices for the D64 School Board that might work to improve communication such as having a district community advisory board, running the school board meetings more efficiently, and posting board briefs with the purpose of synthesizing the minutes of the school board meeting.
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?
There are ways in which District 64 is excelling in preparing the students for the future and areas that need some improvement. One of the areas of excellence includes the Second Step Social Emotional Learning Curriculum; two aspects integrated into that curriculum include listening and getting along with others. Secondly, the newly adopted science curriculum prepares students for the future since it encourages laboratories and investigations, promoting problem-solving and critical thinking. One of the areas for improvement involves integrating sustainability into the science curriculum. Also, in the spirit of improvement, our partner district, District 207, is being recognized for innovation. I would also like to see District 64 to adopt more innovative strategies and practices.
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.
District 64 has been effectively led financially by the current Chief School Business Officer, employing zero-based budgeting and having sufficient funds in reserve. In the district, student growth is rising over the next few years, according to recently presented demographer study. This may require additional classrooms in some of the schools. Related, full-time kindergarten should be explored by the district and, if this would be approved, more classroom space, educators, and professional development for full-time kindergarten teachers would be needed to effectively orchestrate this program. Another issue that might affect our district financially is the shortage of teachers and administrators in Illinois and nationally. On the income side, the board must thoughtfully consider the tax levy amount, taking into account what is happening in the district and in Illinois, which is capped by law and guided by inflation.
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?
The only school district I was employed by was District 150 in Peoria, Illinois when I taught high school mathematics 25 years ago. My children are not employed yet since they are all students in District 207 or District 64. Related, my partner has never been employed by a school district.
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?
In any decision, school board members must reflect on what is best for the students. This premise must also set the context for contract negotiation. In any sort of negotiation process, there is a give-and-take from all the parties involved. Currently, healthcare costs are rising along with related insurance costs, so this external issue may affect a contract negotiation within the school district. As several community members who have endorsed me expressed, I am an exceptional listener. I listen to all perspectives in a situation with the goal of deciphering the best solution for all parties involved. I certainly would apply these skills to contract negotiation if elected to serve as a board member for the district.
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?
For any administrator, whether nearing retirement or not, compensation must be based on job performance. One of the board's primary duties is to evaluate the superintendent. That evaluation would then provide the data to support if a compensation increase was warranted for that individual. The process of the board evaluating the superintendent is a critical component of the board's role and, ultimately, to the success of the district.