Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Office sought: School Board Member (4 year term)
Previous political experience: None
Previous community involvement: District 96 Technology Steering Committee
- MBA concentrated in Management Information Systems and Economics, DePaul University
- Bachelor’s in Finance from West Virginia University
Occupation: Technical Project Manager
As a school board member, how would you approach the board-administrator relationship? What is your view of that relationship as it exists presently?
The board-administrator relationship should be cordial and professional, collaborative and participatory. As the representatives of the community, the board serves the role of oversight and employer of the administration. As the employee, the administration serves the role of managing the schools, school staff and academics. The administration manages the execution of the board’s vision. The board evaluates this execution, holds the administration accountable through specific, measurable outcomes.
At present, the board/administration relationship is improving. Under previous boards and administrations, a lack of accountability developed which led to poor results for students and less than optimal value for taxpayers. There is an increasing trend of evaluation and accountability that while painful at times, should lead to better results for students and taxpayers in the long run.
What is your view regarding the performance of the current school board? What should change, if anything?
We are coming off of a time of instability as two board members resigned before their terms were up. There were periods of disagreement among some board members. Since this time, the current board, including Juliet Boyd and Rich Regan, two new board members appointed to fill these vacancies, appear to be working in a more unified and productive fashion. The board is working together with tangible progress being made across many fronts. I would like to continue and contribute to this partnership which is a big part of why I agreed to run on a slate of four candidates.
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 initiative is a valuable program for students to help them become comfortable working with technology and enhance their school work. The initiative provides a tool for “flip the school” opportunities, a reference point for finding information and a common platform for writing reports and practicing math.
That said, MacBooks are expensive to buy and maintain. They are not presently utilized to their full capacity by the District. There are pilot programs in the works to evaluate the future use of Google Chromebooks as well as Apple IPads. Pending the results of this program, other school districts have made good use of both platforms. A better cost to benefit ratio could be obtained with either of these much less expensive computers. It might be possible that Apple IPad could be put to good use by younger students to get them familiar and comfortable with technology while Chromebooks could be put to use by older students when they start writing reports and participate in programs that require more interaction with teachers and other students.
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 district has both, asked for the maximum levy this year, while the previous year, the levy was flat. What comes next depends upon the needs of the district. The tax rebate mechanism discussion currently being researched is very exciting. Student needs should drive revenue collection. After these needs are met and contingencies for possible participation in pension payments are adopted and other unknowns are planned for, what is left over can and should be returned to the taxpayers. At a minimum, a two year moratorium on new levies should be enacted.
How could the district’s gifted and special education programs be improved or changed, or are changes even necessary?
In terms of programs for gifted children, the district has taken some recent steps to offer some new science and technology clubs in computer programming and robotics which are great steps. Other clubs and classes such as these should be encouraged.
For special education, the dramatic increase in tuition paid to outside schools reveals the need to hire special education professionals who can satisfy the needs of the community locally. This should provide better outcomes for children, more convenience for parents and lower costs to the district.
Innovative programs and teachers who take initiative on new concepts should be identified and embraced. A truly effective curriculum should challenge students at all levels of ability.
What other issues do you believe will be important for the next school board to address?
An issue for District 96 not yet mentioned is the need to improve instruction and educational results for the children of the district. Although District 96 has many immensely talented and dedicated professionals, the results in educational outcomes have fallen in comparison to other school districts in the state. No school from District 96 appears in the top 25 according to a ranking by Reboot Illinois. Families in the district need to have schools where their children can meet their potential while taxpayers in the district need to believe the community is receiving the best value for their tax dollars. There is room for improvement on both counts in District 96.
Another issue before the district is the great need to improve both the physical and technical infrastructure in place at district 96 facilities. With the use of older building such as those in the district, the need to keep up repairs is great. The appearance of recent problems with the roofing at Blythe Park and potential landscaping issues with the parking lot at Central Elementary and Hauser Jr. High show there is more work to be done. Also, the technical infrastructure throughout the district is antiquated in design and capacity. The hardware, software and practices are in need of a serious overhaul in order to keep pace with the latest technologies necessary for both educational efforts and administrative functions.
Finally, with the current teacher’s contract expiring soon, the need for a new agreement to encompass a true partnership between the educators and administration of District 96 is tantamount. A smooth and agreeable process for all involved is needed for learning to continue unaffected while the structure of a new deal is put in place to improve educational results for students going forward.