Tom Powers

Home: Brookfield

Age: 50

Profession: Architect

Community / Political experience: My experience with District 95 (Brookpark and S. E. Gross schools in LaGrange Park and Brookfield) over the last 8 years has provided an enormous amount of direct experience. While at District 95 I have participated in hiring two superintendents, two principals, two directors of special education, passing one referendum for the education fund, implementing a $10,000,000 renovation project and addition to our two schools and aligning and expanding the curriculum. During my tenure we also negotiated three teacher contracts including the current contract that is tied to the CPI (how districts receive their funding) and has a merit based goal system that challenges the teachers to innovate and rewards them for success. We achieved all of this while maintaining financial recognition from the State of Illinois. I believe this experience, coupled with my desire to continue to raise the bar in every area, will be an asset to the district and the board.

Other / Professional experience: As Managing Principal of IA Interior Architects I have direct experience in running a business, balancing budgets, managing staff and making tough decisions.  This experience is diverse.  Real life experience running a business day to day coupled with my professional experience in working with clients to deliver complicated and innovative projects nationwide will provide a diverse experience bank to draw from while addressing the issues and challenges that will be presented by the district.

Education:
Bachelor of Environmental Design
Bachelor of Architecture
Ball State University, Muncie, IN

List the top challenges facing this board and how you would address them:
Communication: I believe in RB. I also believe that every institution can benefit from fresh perspective and challenges to the status quo. Whether it’s the Illinois School Code, No Child Left Behind or collective bargaining, many items that drive the school are constricted by mandates, rules and laws. There needs to be a focus by the district to help the community understand the drivers behind decisions. There also needs to be a conscientious effort to remove any cloak of secrecy – whether perceived or real – and assure the community, the staff and the students that the sole goal of the board, the administration, and the staff is to provide a platform for the students to achieve greatness.

Financial Stability: The community decides to what extent they are willing to fund the schools.  A significant portion of a districts budget is prescriptive. When the community tells the school board and the district how much they are willing to fund, it is the school board’s role to determine how to apply those funds to the districts goals and mandates.  As a member of District 208’s board, I will work within the funds we have to continue to provide, to the extent possible, the quality educational experience we currently enjoy.  I will look at the items presented to the board through the following filters: Is it right for the students? Can we afford it? Is it best practice?

Timothy Walsh

Home: Riverside

Age: 52

Profession: Senior Counsel, Integrys Business Support, LLC.   I am an in-house corporate attorney and provide services principally to six regulated natural gas and electric utilities including Peoples Gas which serves Chicago.  I presently concentrate on environmental, real estate and corporate mattes including contract drafting and negotiating.

Community / Political experience:
Riverside Recreation, soccer coach 1994-2009, basketball coach 1995-2008 (most seasons)
Riverside Little League, 1995-04 (most summers)
Riverside Swim Club, swim team bullpen, 1997-2010
St. Mary’s Religious Education, Catechist, 1999-present
Riverside-Brookfield Otters, President, 2003-06

Other / Professional experience:
Chicago Youth Program, Tutor, 2007-10
I am an attorney and have worked for over 30 years for the same company.  My undergraduate degree is in accounting and during the first 6 years of my career I worked as an accountant.  Then I earned an MBA with a concentration in finance and worked in the finance area.  I worked in several other areas of the company including human resources where I was secretary of the negotiating committee during a period where we negotiated 3 union collective bargaining agreements.  I also supported the company’s efforts in its third step grievances and arbitrations. I then managed several areas in the company including purchasing, materials management and fleet operations where I supervised union and non-union employees.  In several of the areas I have been responsible for managing budgets and for employment decisions and development.   As an attorney, I have been an assistant secretary working with the company boards and have had responsibilities for compliance and ethics including drafting and interpreting codes of ethics and company polices.  I have significant experience in drafting, interpreting and negotiating contracts and have appeared in several regulatory forums that operate under laws and rules similar to those that RB and the School Board must follow.

Education:
BS Accounting, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1981
MBA, Concentration in Finance, DePaul University, 1985
JD, DePaul University College of Law, 1998

List the top challenges facing this board and how you would address them:
1. RB must maintain or improve its reputation as an outstanding high school.  Proper funding is necessary to meet the needs of educating our students.  The immediate ways to address the challenge is by supporting the referendum and helping educate the community on the significance of the need for its passage.
2. The Board must properly balance the interests of the partners addressed in the RB mission statement.  I would work hard to make sure that all the partners understand the give and take affecting each group that the Board necessarily weighs in accomplishing the RB Mission.  That does not just mean the taxpayers giving funds that the students, teachers and staff receive.  It requires the students to continue to give back to the community.  It also requires the students and their parents and guardians to understand that they must forego some of their wants.  It requires teachers to take steps like the offer they made concerning salary freezes in connection with approval by the voters of the tax referendum and considering how their benefits, salaries and future salary increases compare to other school districts and other industries.
3. The Board must communicate how and what decisions are made in as transparent a manner as possible.  I will make sure that I am fully informed and understand all matters that I vote on.  I would assure that the vetting and information is publicly available unless impractical or inappropriate, such as the recent vetting by the Board of the new superintendent, or items that are properly discussed in closed session as provided under the Freedom of Information Act, such as lawsuits and disciplinary matters.

Laura Hruska

Home: Brookfield

Age: 48

Profession: Manager, Examinations at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.  I oversee the development of professional self-assessment examination for orthopedic surgeons and orthopedic residents.  In addition, I perform the examination scoring and score reports for examinees and programs.  I am also engage in professional development of our test item writers and educational research.

Community / Political experience: I was an elected school board member for District 2008 during the years 2004-2008.  I have volunteered since 1999 with the DesPlaines Valley Restoration Group doing prairie restoration. I have served in the AWANA programs for approximatley 17 years and currently I am the AWANA Cubbie Director at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL.  I co-teach a 4th and 5th grade Sunday School class and I direct and teach an early pre-school program at Silver Birch Ranch for two weeks every summer during family camp.  

I am passionate about educational research.  Prior to coming to the Academy I worked at the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education and in the Department of Medical Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  I had opportunity to be involved in many projects and in particular the development of robust continuing medical educational programs.  Evaluation is another strong interest of mine which i spend much time developing at the Academy as well as at the University of Illinois.

Education: I have two bachelor degrees; one from Moody Bible Institute where my major was in Jewish Studied and a second one from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Psychology with a mathematics minor.  I completed my Masters Degree in Education with emphasis on evaluation and research.   I completed my PhD course work in Educational Psychology but currently am not in graduate school. I am fully engaged with new developments at the Academy and some educational research projects.

List the top challenges facing this board and how you would address them: The top challenges will be the financial situation of the school and the sustained educational programming.   The financial situation is a result of a system that has been broken long ago and the desire to completely address the issues has been ignored.  I believe that this is the time to do the hard work and begin to look at the “entitlements” AKA “stipends” and benefits.  This will be very difficult because there are many good people on both side; however, the reality is that many home owners are in a position where they can no longer afford the property taxes and there is no more money.  Taxes and cost of living have increased while the homeowners’ salaries are staying constant at best.   Secondly, we will have to look at educational opportunities for an increasingly diverse population.

John D. Keen

Home: Brookfield

Age: 50

Profession:
Diagnostic Radiologist at Stroger Cook County Hospital
Health Economist

Community / Political experience: Coaching youth basketball and baseball

Other / Professional experience: My research interests are cost-effectiveness and informed decision-making in screening mammography. Stroger Cook County is a teaching hospital.

Education:
AB/BS Stanford University
MBA University of California
MD University of Illinois

List the top challenges facing this board and how you would address them: The board needs to bend the cost curve to align expenses with revenues.  This requires cost-effective spending, even if the referendum passes.  A combination of increased fees and across the board program cuts are required if the referendum fails.  If it passes, the board has to keep future salary increases reasonable.

The board needs to help the new superintendent adopt to RB.

The board needs to communicate better with the taxpayers and parents.  This can be easily accomplished through the website.  Complete budget transparency is required.

Garry Gryczan

Home: Riverside

Age: 51

Profession: Currently a Financial Process Improvement Consultant

Over 20 years of professional experience managing business financial performance in COO and CFO roles.  I have been instrumental in improving organizations’ profitability through strict expense management and setting and leading strategic goals.

Community / Political experience: Currently serving as Chairman of the Riverside Economic Development Commission and have been active in coaching baseball, basketball and soccer. Served two years as Treasurer of Central School’s PTA.

Other / Professional experience: I currently serve on the Board of Directors of a company in clinical microbiology industry.  As a Board member, I provide assistance to the President and senior management in strategic visioning and planning.

Education:
BBA Loyola University of Chicago
MBA University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

List the top challenges facing this board and how you would address them: Our community faces some economically challenging conditions, and the community is faced with a difficult decision to make on the tax referendum.  Whether this referendum passes, my goals if elected to the board will be as follows:

Benchmarking financial results.  I will continue the open flow of information that was started with this current board by adding a financial benchmark.  In addition to the financial statements on the website, we need to provide a quick and easy to read scorecard on our financial performance against other school districts.

Retain the best teachers.  The Board, administration, teachers and students must agree on a common goal to make RB the greatest high school.  As such, I wiil fight for a teacher’s contract that will allow the administration to retain the best teachers.

Fiscal Responsibility.  As an experienced CFO of several organizations, including those were we managed expenditures based on week to week cash flows, I will only approve budgets that are balanced and do not exhaust fund balances.  I will challenge the administration to look at different ways to save money, including working with other school districts to share costs.

School boards are unique institutions that allow the voice of the local community to be heard in the decision-making of our child’s education and schools.  Unfortunately, I believe that this voice has not been heard.  Until the most recent board, I believe that the board was lock stepped with the administration and the voice of the taxpayer was not heard.  Whether the referendum passes or not, we can achieve our goal of making this school great by having the community, administration and teachers work equally together for the betterment of our students.

Louis Surprenant

Home: North Riverside

Age: 52

Profession: I have been a masonry and general contractor for 28 years

Community / political experience: I have been a member of the north riverside zoning board for the past 7 years.  I have been a youth baseball coach for 10 years.

Other / professional experience: I was a police officer in Hodgkins, Illinois 

Education: Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in history and art from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois

List the top challenges facing this board and how you would address them: The top challenge facing this board will be the school budget. We, as a board, will have to sit down with all concerned parties and figure out exactly where we stand right now and what it is going to take to go forward from this point. We will sit down with the school business manager and make the decisions that will keep the school going in the best possible direction.  With today’s economy, tough decisions have to be made.  Public schools receive the majority of funding from taxes which are based on property value.  We have seen our property values decline while seeing our taxes increase.  People are appealing their tax bills and on top of this we have a record number of houses in foreclosure because people have lost their jobs.  So now we are faced with lower tax revenues, lower funding from the state, and very little federal funding.

On the flipside, we have one of the best schools in the state, if not in the country.  Rb has a fantastic teaching staff and has just finished a phenomenal renovation.  The referendum for this project was passed when our economy was at one of it’s highest levels ever.  Now we are at a point where we need the best possible decisions regarding being able to maintain the current academic level and even making it better.  We need to find ways to keep the great teachers we have and to look into possible cost cutting measures like using e-books instead of buying new books which we desperately need but cannot afford.

The people in this community need to realize that our schools are a microcosm of our community and that we get out of it just what we put into it. There is nothing more important than maintaining our community through our educational system.

I do not have all the answers but what I do bring to the board is the ability to gather all of the pertinent information and make decisions based on this information.  I will make decisions based on the collective and not on the individual.  No one person or group will sway me.  Decisions will be made for the betterment of the school and therefore the community.  I do not believe that anyone can stay in business for 28 years, as I have, without being able to make good decisions.

Lenora Giurini

Home: North Riverside

Age: 46

Profession: Assistant Vice President, for a risk management company.

Community / Political experience: I am a 22 year resident of North Riverside. Like so many of our residents, I want to be part of a strong, successful, thriving community. 

While I am new to public service, I have been actively  involved in fundraising for the American Cancer Society.  I have also done volunteer work for the Make A Wish Foundation.

Other / Professional experience: As an Assistant Vice President in my company, I oversee a department with a staff of 30+ people.  I am responsible for ensuring that my department runs as productively, effectively and as efficiently as possible.  Personnel, project management, decision making, expense management and strategic planning are all areas for which I am responsible.  I work with many different people at all levels within the company and externally.

Education: I have a Bachelor degree in Liberal Arts from DePaul University.

List the top challenges facing this board and how you would address them: Balancing the fiscal budget is the most pressing issue for RB.  It will determine the future direction of the school.  The budget will impact all facets of the school: operations, staff, curriculum, extracurricular activities, and most importantly, the community as a whole.  The current budget will fall short of meeting the projected expenses.  To address this deficit, the current board is asking the taxpayers to accept a permanent property tax increase. A tax increase is a difficult thing to ask of the community, especially when we are facing a struggling economy.  Without the tax increase, the school may be forced to make cuts in staff, classes and special programs offered to all students. 

Addressing this issue starts with fiscal responsibility. Whether or not the referendum passes, the school board needs to be open and transparent in how our taxpayers’ money is spent.  As a school board member, I need to be critical and objective in the decisions the board and I make.  We need to find innovative and practical ways to operate a successful school within our means. This may involve challenging and re-evaluating current processes and policies.

Communication with the entire community is also a challenge that should be addressed.  Communicating effectively is essential to RB’s success.  With open communication to all taxpayers, the decisions of the school board are more likely to be supported throughout the community.  I will be an advocate for promoting RB’s agenda to the entire community.  I will also serve as a representative for all residents, especially those, who like myself, do not have children at RB.

I will also encourage the entire community, not just the parents of RB students, to get involved.  Every taxpayer needs to take an interest in the school’s success. What affects RB, affects all taxpayers. The two go hand in hand.

Whatever challenges RB faces, as a school board member, I will bring what is desperately needed – a new perspective, an objective party, a strong individual that isn’t afraid to make tough decisions.  I strongly believe that we should do all that is possible to provide young adults with the opportunity to become productive, independent, self sufficient members of society.

Candidates

  • Tom Powers
  • Timothy P. Walsh
  • Laura Hruska
  • John D. Keen
  • Garry Gryczan
  • Louis L. Surprenant
  • Lenora Giurini