Andrew R. Manno: 2023 candidate for College of DuPage District 502 board


Town: Aurora

Age on Election Day: 32

Occupation: Attorney

Employer: Cray Huber Horstman Heil & VanAusdal LLC

Previous offices held: None


Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

A: I believe education is the foundation that allows a society to build and develop into a more fair, responsible, and productive society. The problems that face each prospective student are cost, access, and the need for that helping hand that is extended to say, "you belong."

I believe a trustee's role is to assist in finding solutions for these problems and to provide support for the full-time faculty, adjuncts, and administrators who are working with the students to guide them through their educational career. This starts with being accessible to the community in which one serves. Trustees must be available and accountable to those who elected them.

Most importantly, the students should always be the main focus for all board members. Education is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Each decision should be viewed through the lens of bettering the student experience and ensuring that each student is properly guided toward achieving their personal outcomes.

Q: In tough economic times, many students (and working professionals) turn to a community college for its educational value. How do you ensure that a person's financial sacrifice results in an educational benefit?

A: First, the student needs to have full transparency for the amount it will cost them to attend COD, from start to finish. This helps students plan out their financial and educational future.

Second, the moment a student registers at COD, they should be assigned a counselor that will help guide the student toward their stated end-goal by designing the most efficient path toward their success. The ability for an institution to provide clarity to students in times of great uncertainty and stress is meaningful.

Lastly, open lines of communication are essential to ensure both students and faculty have the resources they need to maximize the educational benefit. There must be a shared understanding that each student learns differently and has different life experiences that affect their learning outcomes. Education must be an individualized endeavor, which allows a connection to be formed between the institution and the students it serves.

Q: How would you describe the state of your college's finances? What issues will your district have to confront in coming years and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, what programs and expenses should be reduced or eliminated? On the income side, do you support any tax or fee increases?

A: COD is currently in a strong financial position and has been able to maintain a strong bond rating. However, the major issue facing COD is consistent decline in enrollment and retention. If this trend continues, this means less income for the college and would necessitate finding ways to offset this drop.

I do not support raising taxes or fees to combat this problem because this would do nothing but continue to drive away students, making the problem cyclical. Instead, the focus should be on the growth of the institution and making it more accessible to the community it serves. The doors of COD should always be open for any student who wishes to better themselves through education.

Q: What are three specific nonfinancial challenges your community college will have to face in the next four years and what are your thoughts about how each should be addressed?

A: First, COVID set new standards in how the world can function in multiple arenas. The use of remote technology changed the way many professions operate. COD needs to adjust accordingly so that students are prepared for the professions as they are today and into the future, not as they were pre-COVID.

Second, mental health is an issue that needs to continually be addressed not only in educational institutions but across our community. We need to place extra emphasis and resources into identifying and addressing the issue of mental health not only for our students but our teachers as well.

Third, as the population and demographics of the community COD serves changes, COD needs to adapt and continue to reflect the values and demographics of the community accordingly.

Each student should feel welcome into the classroom and receive exceptional education regardless of their socio-economic background.

Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.

A: I am currently a member of COD's audit committee and a partner at a law firm. In both capacities, I have worked alongside people of different backgrounds and personalities to reach a consensus and an understanding for the best way to move forward. My style in working with groups and attempting to reach any agreement is to first establish what the objective is for all parties involved and then to listen to all those involved so that I can understand where they are coming from and their viewpoint.

In my experience, the quickest way to failure in any policy setting is failing to comprehend the problem you set out to find a solution for and failing to ensure you have all the facts at-hand before making a decision. As an attorney, I am trained to think critically and examine complicated issues. I will bring this critical eye to the board and ensure the policies that are implemented at COD work for the students and the community it serves.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: A trustee sitting on the board of trustees needs to have a clear vision for COD and be able to critically analyze any issues brought to the board's attention. I have that vision and I have spent my entire career in a field built around critically analyzing complex issues.

I currently serve on the audit committee of COD where I am tasked with analyzing sensitive issues facing COD. This affords me a unique perspective into COD.

I come from a family of educators. My sister teaches early childhood special education. My cousin, aunt, and uncle are also educators. I understand the important role teachers play in every person's life. I believe to be an effective member of the board of trustees, you have to have a passion for education, and have an open mind to new ideas and perspectives.

I will be a trustee that has all shareholders in mind, not just a select few. Additionally, a board member needs to be student focused. At the end of the day, the student's success is all that matters.

Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?

A: Students who wish to pursue higher education are often faced with the uncertainty of knowing whether they will be financially capable of completing the goals they set out to achieve.

Students often find that after a semester or two into completing a certificate program or degree, the ability to complete the program has now been put out of reach due to fee increases, additional expenses associated with the program, or a change in their own financial circumstance.

COD should offer an alternative to the semester-by-semester tuition or per credit hour pricing and provide a "flat fee" option that allows students to lock in a price at a flat fee rate that accounts for the entirety of their pursuit of a stated program or degree.

This price would include all the classes required to complete the program or achieve the degree of their choice. This would provide financial certainty for the student and incentivize students to stay at COD.

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