Brian Cerniglia: 2023 candidate for Arlington Heights Elementary School District 25
Town: Arlington Heights
Age on Election Day: 51
Occupation: Marketing manager
Previous offices held: School board member
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: Our district could benefit from my experience and tenure in the role. This will be my third term and while I believe it's important to allow others the opportunity to lead, this board has gone through significant turnover and turmoil over the past few years and we are currently working as a very functional and cohesive board and I'd like to see several things through leveraging my past experience and tenure. Specifically, our superintendent has announced her retirement, and we will be seeking a new leader for our district. Secondly, having successfully passed a referendum, we are facing our largest construction project to date, coupled with the implementation of full-time kindergarten. I feel these are pivotal times for our district and our board, and I believe continuity and stability and experience will be a huge asset to a relatively new board that is still rebuilding relationships, and functionality from the turmoils of the pandemic.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: Our role in setting and monitoring curriculum, is no different than it is in any other area. It is to provide guidance, direction, leadership, oversight and an ultimate consensus from a variety of perspectives, while taking into consideration the input from our community. Ultimately, our role is to rely on the experience and education of the staff that our superintendent hires and it is to hold them accountable to setting goals and objectives that are specific measurable, realistic, and attainable. We rely on quantitative and qualitative measurements and a combination of evaluation areas. When it comes to measuring the success of curriculum, we look at student achievement goals and performance. We look at test results from things like MAP, and we use more broad based metrics like the Illinois school report card.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: Our district has an incredible track record and a successful committee approach to measuring, evaluating and implementing curriculum. We collectively ensure that all D25 curriculum meets a range of stringent requirements that we have built as a collaborative team of teachers, staff, school, board, parents and community.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: Managing controversy for curriculum is no different than managing controversy during things like a pandemic. The role of a school board is to be a strategic visionary leader, and be able to successfully navigate through all forms of input both controversial and non. There are always going to be two sides to every major decision. It is incumbent upon the school board to be able to work through those times collaboratively and effectively and not be swayed by the loud minority or anyone's individual personal agenda. The focus for school board must always be on the students and what's best for them and we need to have the fortitude to be able to always focus on the common good.
Q: Concerns are growing regarding a new resurgence of the pandemic. If another massive outbreak of infectious disease occurs, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that will guide your decision making?
A: As the president of the school board throughout the pandemic, I saw ours and many boards, overstepping their bounds in this space. It is not the school board's role to create their own pandemic criteria for school closure, safety protocols and procedures, etc. Our role is to guide the district and to follow the direction provided by actual health experts from public health organizations, Center for Disease Control, and the Illinois Department of Health.
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: My role in my professional life, as well as school board member are very similar. I am in a leadership role at a large global Fortune 50 corporation with direct reports. I have professional experience working in and leading groups for over 30 years. The key to working successfully in a group is the same in the professional and school board sectors. Working collaboratively for a common goal is all about listening, open communication, compromise, negotiation, and treating each other with dignity and respect while ensuring inclusivity for everyone's input and opinions.
Q: As the district prepares to roll out full-day kindergarten, are there other programs the district should be pursuing in the future?
A: As we build and implement the full-time kindergarten program, we must ensure that these changes are woven into the very thread of the future school district that we constantly strive to achieve. Full-time kindergarten was part of our strategic plan that we put in place going back five or more years. This was not a quick decision that was just made ... it took much time to plan, design, fund and now implement full-time kindergarten. The fact that we now successfully achieved the financial means to do so is a testimony to how this board, district leadership and staff approach our role as the district leaders. Due to the recent passing of the referendum, full-time kindergarten is now top of mind for many in our community. However, full-time kindergarten has been a strategic vision and goal for this board that has been work in progress for many years.
Q: Amid construction of school building additions for full-day kindergarten and planned upgrades to the physical plant, are there other capital improvements the district should be preparing for, especially considering future enrollment changes?
A: In addition to the referendum that we just successfully passed, we've also worked collaboratively with our facilities leadership team, to build a comprehensive 5 and 10 year construction plan that is responsibly funded and well planned out to ensure that we have the financial and strategic resources to successfully implement full-time kindergarten as well as all maintenance and operational needs for all our buildings and facilities ... to support the current all long-term needs of our students, staff, and community.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I believe I am uniquely positioned as one of the few board members that has both personal and professional background and experience AND school board and school board leadership experience in conducting and implementing a successful superintendent search as well as overseeing a major construction project.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: Our board has spent considerable time in the past year, creating and implementing two very valuable tools that we plan to leverage and implement as we seek to replace our superintendent. Our strategic mission and our superintendent evaluation tool have both been recently revised with much input and direction from this current board. Our goals and objectives for the next one to four years are to use these as tools to first find another, high functioning, leader for our district and then to lead and guide the district with and toward our strategic plan.