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: none
Previous community involvement: none
Education: B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and minor in Spanish, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana – 1996; JD from Chicago Kent College of Law – 2000
What do you think of the district’s 1-to-1 laptop initiative? Should it be changed? If so, how?
I am in favor of bringing technology to the classroom and giving students learning opportunities that would give them an edge in the professional world. The laptop program costs an estimated $750,000 to $1,000,000 a year which includes the annual purchase cost, benefits and salaries of employees to administer the program and incidental costs affiliated with the program such as insurance. I would like to explore more cost effective ways to ensure the students of District 96 have access to technology in a way which prepares them for the future.
D96 has amassed a large surplus since its successful referendum in 2004. Do you think the District should ask for the maximum annual levy it is allowed? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. The District’s revenue has gone from $9,483,752 in 2004 to $24,427,496 in 2012, a 158% increase. In comparison, Oak Park District 97 has only had a 42.8% increase since 2004 and 32.8%. The sting to taxpayers is greater in Riverside because 89% of the revenue source is property taxes, whereas in Lagrange it is 77% and in Oak Park it is 67.7%. District 96 taxpayers are overtaxed and need to stop asking for the maximum annual tax levy, cut wasteful spending and seek alternative revenue sources.
How quickly, if at all, do you think the D96 administrative offices should move back into the district? Why?
I do not have an opinion on this issue at this time. I would like to hear from both sides of the matter before formulating an opinion. To date, I have not heard any discord from any member of the community regarding this matter.
How could the district’s gifted and special education programs be improved or changed, or are changes even necessary?
Both the Special Education and gifted programs are in desperate need of reform. Based on conversations I have had with parents with students who have I.E.P.’s, these are some recommendations I would recommend be made to the Special Education program:
- Principals, teachers, social workers and paraprofessionals need intensive training to educate them on common disabilities effecting children including but not limited to autism, dyslexia, aspergers syndrome, ADD and ADHD to recognize signs (for those without I.E.P.’s or diagnosis), better understand those students’ behavior and teach District staff how to better meet their needs;
- Create a transitional plan for all I.E.P. students at the end of the school year which either consists of a personal meeting with the former and new teachers and/or a brief written report;
- Inform every teacher (which includes all Special teachers) of students who have I.E.P.’s and to include them on training noted above;
- Hire more social workers to exclusively meet the needs of the students with I.E.P.’s.
- Create e-mail accounts for all paraprofessionals so that I.E.P. parents can communicate with them; and
- Assign one paraprofessional to the I.E.P. students during recess (as it is when I.E.P. students are most vulnerable).
Most importantly, District 96 leadership needs to improve its relationship with parents and students with special educational needs. It should be a cooperative relationship as opposed to an adversarial one and it is up to leadership to change the culture.
I think the most imminent change needed for the gifted program is to address the recently-exposed vulnerabilities of the tests given to determine which students can participate in the gifted program. The District needs to create written procedures of who administers the tests, when the testing is conducted, how the results are released to parents and students and when the results are released. The District also needs written procedures of the selection process for who can participate in the gifted program. The testing and selection process is secretive, inconsistent and extremely vulnerable to manipulation and abuse.
What are your thoughts on implementing a world language program at D96 elementary schools?
I think it is a great idea even if it would mean making it an after-school program. If the District is going to do a world language program, it would greatly behoove this District to implement a Spanish language program. Currently, there are 52 million individuals of his Hispanic descent in this country, 37 million which Spanish is their native language. I believe a Spanish language program would better prepare students for the changing demographics of our country. It would also give students an edge in the professional world because of the demand for those bilingual in Spanish and English in the professional world.
Do you think the district needs to hire additional administrative staff, such as a business manager? If so, where? If not, why not?
I am unsure at this time whether the District should hire a business manager. I would need to find out what this person’s duties would be, who (if anyone) is performing those functions currently, the cost and the justification in adding such a position. I would also want to find out whether other school districts (of similar size) have a business manager position.
I do believe the District should add a full-time grants manager position because last year only 1.8% of our revenues came from federal grants. The grants manager would exclusively research and apply for grants. I believe the person would be an excellent investment for the short and long-term financial future to District 96.
Do you favor a centralized kindergarten location? Why or why or not?
I would support such a program if it were to add back full-day kindergarten. My understanding of the proposed satellite program, however, was a remedy to the space-shortage issue and did not include all-day kindergarten as part of the proposal. I support bringing back all-day kindergarten and if centralizing it in one location would make this possible, I would support it.