Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.

Previous political experience: Member Board of Education Brookfield/LaGrange Park School District 95

Previous community involvement:

  • Den Leader Cub Scout Pack 90 Brookfield/LaGrange Park; Committee Member Boy Scout Troop 90 Brookfield/LaGrange Park;
  • Baseball Coach Brookfield Little League; Youth Basketball Coach North Riverside Recreation;
  • Youth Basketball Coach Saints Constantine and Helen Church;
  • Parent/Teacher Organization liaison to the Board of Education District 95;
  • Member of American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) philanthropic organization;
  • Member of PTO and Music Sponsors Riverside Brookfield HS; 2012 RBHS Booster’s Golf Outing Committee
  • Parent Committeeperson, Riverside/Brookfield HS Graduation Requirements Committee;
  • Officer; Citizens United for Riverside/Brookfield HS, Referendum Support Group;
  • Personally arranged and organized the only public forum for canidates 2011 Election for the RBHS Board of Education

Education: BA Liberal Arts Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL

RBHS has made cuts to its budget in recent years, which have increased class sizes and decreased the number of teachers. What effect have these cuts had on the educational product at the high school?

Consistent budget cuts every year for the last 7 years have not been able to address the needs or decrease the number of students scoring below standards on the PSAT taken by the Junior class for the last 10 years. The number fluctuates between 28-31% of students scoring below standards. The effect of the recent significant cuts in staff, programs and larger class sizes will not manifest itself for a 1-2 years possibly longer. Revenues, programs and staffing levels are unpredictable which makes planning difficult. Teachers and Administration adapt to shrinking resources. The top 25% of kids will succeed in larger class sizes. Our top 10% will always go on to selective Universities and be awarded very attractive scholarships because of the quality of teachers we have in the building along with the natural talents of these high performing students but will they outperform other top ranked students who had the benefit of smaller class sizes? We should be more concerned with the effect of budget cuts and larger class sizes on the average to low performing student population, the young adults that have a lower attention span, discipline issues and the kids that need more time to process the information. Will these teens be more successful with less one to one teacher time and decreasing intervention programs supervised by non qualified staff? Program cuts and cuts in staffing levels need to be revisited every year and need to keep up with the changing demands of the student population and unpredictable revenues. Consistency, monitored over a certain period of time will prove if changes are effective.

RBHS, despite its recent cuts, is still running a budget deficit. Do more cuts need to be made? Where?

More cuts would mean fewer interventions for our low performing students. Cuts in teacher positions and programs, larger class sizes, limited class options lacking schedule flexibility is detrimental to students. You could freeze or cut labor costs and operate at a balanced budget. However, the budget would have to remain the same level year after year. We can revisit all department budgets and trim as much as possible. Cuts provide year to year band-aid approaches to resolving a systemic financial constraint that deteriorates the quality of education provided by the institution and waste taxpayer money.

Is there a need for RBHS to seek a property tax referendum to increase revenues? Why or why not?

Difficult to determine with teacher contract pending and we are only $200,000 over on a $25M budget. Federal and State Aid is always unpredictable and decreasing every year however every year the Board votes to increase our property tax to raise revenues over the previous year through the levy process. The community is still faced with higher taxes every year, less services in our school, more cuts and higher fees. The State makes it difficult on affluent school districts that rely heavily on local property taxes and less on Federal and State aid. Springfield needs to fix the way education is funded in Illinois which ranks in the lower 10% of States for the percentage of income taxes that go to fund Education. Issuing working cash bonds and debt financing to support day to day operations is an option to a referendum; I believe the bonding option wastes tax payer’s money on interest payments. Debt financing is similar to borrowing money to pay for your groceries; you avoid it and only go into debt for assets that appreciate in value. Eventually, Districts will run out of their capacity to borrow money.

What would you like to see in the next teachers’ contract? What would you change, if anything?

In general , these agreements are viewed with a different ground breaking perspective by both parties since the economic crash of 2008-2010. With the Educational Reform Act and PERA, there are areas that we need to work collaboratively to resolve and define; Health care packages are becoming more creative and attractive to both Professional Educators and Districts. There are many areas that can be addressed collaboratively with our teachers to restructure the contract to reflect the Districts current fiscal constraints. Our teachers have come out publically with concessions which are a great start. We need to structure the agreement that is fiscally accountable to the taxpayers while providing a competitive package that attracts and retains highly qualified, accountable professionals and experienced classroom managers who design and drive our curriculum and advance our student performance.

Do you think the district should continue its pay-to-participate policy, or should that policy be changed? If so, how?

Pay to Participate has become necessary with the majority of school districts in Illinois. It offsets the cost but does not cover the entire expenditure for Coaches, Trainers, equipment, maintenance of facilities and club sponsors. Families that can’t afford the fee won’t participate and it will force young adults to choose one sport or the other club but not both. Student engagement statistics could decrease. This is the new reality that Illinois schools and property tax paying families will have to accept. Fundraising for Clubs and Sports is a related issue. As of the recent RBHS annual audit these Sports Teams and Clubs have solid cash balances.

Should athletic programs be cut?

The benefit of a robust Athletic program in the local high school has a positive impact on our community and our young adults that would justify the investment of tax dollars. Athletics is an important part of the high school experience. It brings together students with a wide variety of learning abilities including youth with learning disabilities to work in a team environment. The community, young, old and alumni come together socially for Athletic events. Athletics has a long list a life values and lessons that students can carry with them their entire life. They develop a sense of pride in their school and community through involvement. Participation requires minimum grade point average which challenges academically low performing athletes and provides a positive structured environment for athletes that have discipline issues. However, the institution has no obligation to offer Athletic programs. If the community decides not to support these programs the Board of Education is obligated to fulfill the core mission of the institution which is scholastic not athletic.

Do you think there should be a limit on the number of classes students can take in a given grading period? Should there be changes to the school’s graduation requirements? Why or why not?

There is a finite time during the day and at RB it includes 7 classes and 1 lunch period. If the community wishes to extend the day, increase the number of classes or extend the school year, we would need to spend money we don’t have. For school districts that limit students and can’t support 7 classes they have reduced their class offerings to 5 and are usually associated with financially unstable districts with a low performing disengaged student population. In my opinion, lowering the number of class periods will diminish the robust educational experience currently provided.

Graduation requirements are the standards that drive our programs and provide a standard intellectual foundation for our young adults. It’s the minimum requirement we expect from our youth to prepare them for higher education, vocational training, entering the work force and gives them the best chance to become productive citizens. The State of IL requires 16 credits for graduation and a ranks in the lower 15% compared to all other States. RBHS require 22 which ranks in the TOP 25% compared to all other States. Again, if we are competing on a global and national scale we need to set the bar high for all youth in our community and taxpayers get the most out of our dollars invested.

What other issues do you believe are important for the next school board to address?

  • Need to develop and implement a plan that addresses and resolves the construction concerns in the pool area and Field house.
  • Develop and implement a 5 year academic and financial strategic plan that is accountable to taxpayers and taxpaying families who send their children to RB
  • Provide the necessary resources that increase the academic performance of our low performing student population.
  • Attract and retain highly qualified Professional Educators who maintain high performance standards for ALL students.