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: I am seeking re-election to D96 School Board after a 4 year term.
Previous community involvement: I am active member of the Hollywood School PTA and the community at Ascension Lutheran Church.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Master of Science of Teaching Mathematics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
What do you think of the district’s 1-to-1 laptop initiative? Should it be changed? If so, how?
Technology offers many great opportunities to impact instruction and student learning in powerful ways. But, putting this technology into the hands of students does not provide the catalyst needed to experience these changes in teaching and learning alone. Having the technology does make it easier for those changes to happen if teachers and students are primed and ready to do so. Some classrooms were primed and ready for these changes and as result the technology is being used in powerful ways. This is not true everywhere. I do not want teachers to simply try to figure out how to use a tool. I think the focus of the conversation needs to change. What do you want students to experience and think about and then how can technology support that goal. I think the examples and work will move from a product creation tool to a tool to access information, data, and collaboration. I also think technology can help teachers and students be more efficient and focused. Not simply more practice but better practice. I would like to see more thought being put into ways of helping students find what they need when they need it. I also think more thought needs to put into how students are managing these tools. If they do not need them everyday at home, have them leave them at school. Just seems like a lot to carry around if you do not need to.
D96 has amassed a large budget surplus since its successful referendum in 2004. Do you think the district should continue to ask for the maximum annual levy it is allowed? Why or why not?
This is not an easy question to answer but I guess the short answer is yes given the current constraints of tax levies and economic conditions. The surplus came from a well-timed referendum that was able to take advantage of the rapid increase in housing values. Those funds are being used for capital improvements and for improving the teaching and learning programs. Tax levies are not as cut and dry as they where prior to the tax cap. In the past a district levied what they thought they would need. If your expenses were going to increase by 10% the levy was increased by 10%. If the district enrollment is projected to increase by a percentage, the levy were requested to deal with that percentage of increase. In this tax cap environment you have to try to plan ahead a little. D96 has also been trying to be sure expenses stay under revenues over the long haul even as budgetary demands have increased due to rising enrollment. In the end, no matter what the district asks for, the levy is determined by the county and is based on CPI. During the past few years the actual levy increase was 0% or close to 0% even though expenses increased more than that. Districts that do not use this strategy end up going to referendum every 5 to 7 years.
How quickly, if at all, do you think the D96 administrative offices should move back into the district? Why?
My hope is soon. It sort of depends on enrollment. The current renovations projects have added capacity to the district. If enrollment holds or the increase slows down I can see bringing the district offices back in 2 years. Low class size is important to this community, so if that pressure exists, that need will take priority. I am confident the new superintendent will be more present in schools and in the community no matter the location of the district office.
How could the district’s gifted and special education programs be improved or changed, or are changed even necessary?
I think the first issue, and this is not only true for students in these programs, is improved communication and focused effort on setting clearer expectations. I think parents with students in these programs are confronted with these issues more readily because of the individualized nature of the programs. I think this is true for the parents of our bilingual population as well.
The regular classroom teachers need more training and support for how to accommodate student needs and design instructional experiences allow access by a broader group of students. All students deserve a rigorous and relevant learning experience no matter what their needs. These instructional strategies are good for all students not just those with identified needs.
The programs designed for our high achieving and gifted students are currently one size fits all. I would like to see an identification process that really targets a students’ needs and holds “us” accountable. The district has many opportunities to cultivate students talented in the arts, I would like to see a more opportunities for students that show interest and may be talented in the math, science, or engineering fields.
What are your thoughts on implementing a world language program at D96 elementary schools?
It is imperative that students learn another language and have a more global perspective. The research shows this is best learned when students are young. I look forward to a world language program in D96.
Do you think the district needs to hire additional administrative staff, such as a business manager? If so, where? If not, why not?
Yes, I do. The district has essentially grown by another school about 400+ students yet the administrative structure has actually gotten smaller. There are many tasks and much communication that is not happening in the way that it should. What administrative staff is added will be up to the new superintendent. I am sure the BOE will keep expenses in check but principals need to focus on being instructional leaders in their buildings.
Do you favor a centralized kindergarten location? Why or why not?
The short answer, I see the advantages and the current renovations have been done IF the district decides to do this. I have been serving on an administrative committee that has been working on this question and other related enrollment and space issues. With the current enrollment trends, full day kindergarten is not going to be an option within the current K-5 schools. There just is not enough space. Moving K in one place allows full day to come to the district sooner. It also stabilizes the class size and the number of sections of each grade level in grades 1-5. Right now most of the elementary schools have a varying number of sections of each grade level. For example, there may be two 2nd Grade classrooms but only one 1st Grade classroom. This means teachers are moving grade levels based on the number of students. As a result, it is common for new families to be displaced from their neighborhood schools because there is room for their 2nd grader but not their 1st grader. I am not sure the community is in favor of this move. There is a high desire to have full-day kindergarten but the community also values neighborhood schools. A K center would bring full day to the district sooner, give Ames, Central and Blythe the chance to be more responsive to enrollment variations in 1-5. It would also allow for some flexibility between Central and Hauser if space is needed for either program.
What other issues do you believe will be important for the next school board to address?
There is still much work to be to respond to the changes in the student population and added demands of a more diverse range of learners: sped, gifted, language, etc.
I think it is time to evaluate the program at Hauser. There are many questions:
- Is a 40 min. class period long enough to ensure students have opportunity to get their needs met, allow a teacher time to discuss a topic in depth and with enough rigor?
- Is there enough opportunity for all students to try out for sports teams? This is a chance to explore and try these things out.
- Are their enough opportunities for students talented in math and science to develop their gifts and interests? There is a high demand from parents for a rigorous program for all students, how does the district continue to develop and support the teaching staff in this endeavor?
The district has made some progress on communication, but I think there is more work to be done here.
This is the short list…