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

Political experience:

  • D96 Board of Education President (2011-present)
  • D96 Board of Education Member (2009-present)
  • D96 Policy Committee Chair (2011- )
  • D96 QUEST/Gifted Board Representative (2013- )
  • D96 Finance Committee member (2009-2011)

Community involvement:

  • 08/09 Central School PTO President
  • 07/08 Central School 1st Vice President
  • People Care Volunteer
  • Riverside Recreation Soccer, Basketball and Baseball Coach
  • Director, Diane and Melissa Meindl Foundation benefiting the RBHS Performing Arts

What do you think of the district’s 1 to 1 laptop initiative? Should it be changed? If so, how?

The 1 to 1 laptop program has been in place for 4 years and the first 8th grade class will graduate in June, 2013. The Education committee needs to continue their evaluation of the program using data driven research to determine how the program will continue to evolve. Our children are digital natives and we need to foster an environment where the staff and students take ownership of the technology tools to become critical consumers of digital literacy.

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?

The district is at an all time high enrollment of 1614 in 2013 vs. 1182 in the 2003-04 school year making it difficult to think about reducing the levy amount in the short term. Reducing the levy request could occur when district enrollment stabilizes or declines and the 10 year fiscal projection shows sufficient funding for the D96 programs with reduced levies. The board’s goal is no referendum in the next 10 years.

How quickly, if at all, do you think the D96 administrative offices should move back into the district? Why?

Yesterday if it were possible.., with the record high enrollments and LJ Hauser alone at a 17% increase, it is difficult to project when the enrollments will decrease in order to give us the room to return the administrative offices to campus. The 2013 capital improvement projects include building out the Blythe Park “garden level” in order to utilize that space. Conversations have included moving the Special Education offices to Blythe Park and the Administrative offices to the Hauser/Central campus if Blythe Park remains a one section school which will be determined with another year of enrollment data. From a cost and visibility perspective moving the District office to campus sooner is better than later.

How could the district’s gifted and special education programs be improved or changed, or is change even necessary?

The curriculum review cycle dictates all programs need to be reviewed every 5 years to determine relevance and rigor. Through discussions with several community members, the board requested a QUEST/Gifted and Special Education program review to begin this school year. We authorized a survey and have formed 2 administrative committees comprised of two chairs, 5 teachers, 2 parents with 2 alternates, 2 administrators, and two board members. I have committed my time to the QUEST/Gifted program review. The committee will meet once a month with the goal of implementation training during the 2015-16 school year.

What are your thoughts on implementing a world language program at D96 elementary schools?

Two programmatic concepts, global connections and world language, came out of the International Baccalaureate study group and afterwards a world language study group investigated the concept. Their conclusions were brought to the board and a World Language Implementation Administrative committee was formed this school year to work through the implementation details. I look forward to updates during Education committee meetings with the goal of implementation training during the 2015-16 school year.

Do you think the district needs to hire additional administrative staff, such as a business manager? If so, where? If not, why not?

During the Superintendent interview process; our board agreed our new Superintendent’s strength is in Curriculum and Instruction and where we want her to focus her efforts. Dr. Sharma-Lewis has been directed to implement a revised administrative organizational structure and present it to the board in March, 2013. The board has discussed various options and looks forward to discussing various options with Dr. Sharma-Lewis.

Do you favor a centralized kindergarten location? Why or Why not?

Ideally all kindergartens would stay in each of the 4 elementary schools. Our community and the school board values neighborhood schools. The centralized kindergarten concept is one option that has been discussed if enrollment numbers continue to climb. I believe we need at least one more year of enrollment data before we drill down on how to solve this potential challenge and no decisions will be made without significant public input.

What other issues do you believe will be important for the next school board to discuss?

  • Transition our new Superintendent and Central School Principal into our school district and introduce them to our vision and community values.
  • Pension reform, PERA (teacher) evaluations and impending Common Core Standards.
  • Focus on differential learning with our changing demographics while striving for academic rigor and high standards.
  • Refine the 1 to 1 laptop program based on our 5 year history and new best practices.
  • Strengthen the bond between the school district and its stakeholders.

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