Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Office sought: District 96 school board member
Previous political experience: none
Previous community involvement:
- Volunteer on Big Chill ice crew
- Appointed to District 96 School Board in September 2014
- District 96 IT Steering Committee
- District 96 teachers contract
Education: Western Illinois University, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
Occupation: Director at Lyric Opera
As a school board member, how would you approach the board-administrator relationship? What is your view of that relationship as it exists today?
The board-administrator relationship must be a close one, specifically between the superintendent and the board. Beyond the public meetings, board members should have regular contact with the superintendent for the purpose of assisting with ideas as well as checking-in on progress and performance. The board must provide positive and supportive advice throughout these meetings to enable a healthy and productive relationship. This relationship has improved over the last 6 months.
What is your view regarding the performance of the current school board? What should change, if anything?
The current board has been a productive one. Since the last election, the board has taken steps in the right direction, both fiscally and academically, that set them apart from the previous board. There is still a great deal of room for improvement. Consequently, the new board needs to set annual goals and lay down a successful path that makes those goals achievable. That, in fact is one of the key jobs of a board, to set goals for and challenge the administration.
What do you think of the district 1-to-1 laptop initiative? Should it be changed? If so, how?
The 1-to-1 laptop initiative is an important one to continue. It better prepares our students for the tech challenges of high school and beyond. What we can do to improve this program is to challenge the administration to better integrate appropriate curriculum and projects that more completely utilizes the capacity and potential that laptops provide.
D96 has amassed a large budget surplus since its successful referendum in 2004. Do you think that the district should continue to ask for the maximum annual levy it is allowed? Why or why not?
District 96 has strong financial health that most other districts do not have. That said, the tax levy question should be weighed each year in consideration of any new factors that may exist. The board has commissioned a facilities review including a fresh look at life-safety, accessibility and programmed maintenance. In addition, the board is in the midst of determining growth trends in the student population of the district so we may be prepared for future needs. These items alone may have a budget impact that needs to be quantified.
How could the district’s gifted and special education programs be improved or changed, or is change even necessary?
In both programs, District 96 needs to set the goal of being the best in the state. With our resources and our talent, there is no reason we can’t be. Accessibility is a concern at some of the buildings in our district. Inclusion must be improved throughout our district. Inclusion holds an immense benefit to all parties involved. Overall, we must create programs that challenge our kids at every level of ability.
What other issues do you believe will be important for the next school board to address?
I, along with Juliet Boyd, am in the midst of negotiating the next teacher’s contract. This is very important to our District. We need a contract that is fair to both the teachers and the district, but most importantly puts our kids first. I am excited about this process and I look forward to working with the teachers to create a document that is relevant to the needs and challenges facing our District.
Life-safety, accessibility and programmed maintenance, all under current review, will need attention in varying degrees. Population trends need to be quantified to determine if our facilities will meet near-term and long-term needs. IT infrastructure will be an on-going item requiring thoughtful planning and budgeting.