Academic excellence, governance and accountability

Riverside District 96 is at a crossroad. The district has slipped substantially in academic rankings. In addition, the district is late in its implementation of the Common Core. To compound these problems, there was discord between the board, administration and teachers. 

This became a distraction to the work and focus of the district, namely, the children and education. This is why I am a candidate for the board in this election. I have a vested interest in the success of the district because I have two young children.

What can we do to fix District 96? First, we should professionalize the board. In our district we are fortunate to have highly educated and experienced professionals. A professional board will not get mired in drama; it will focus on governance.

I was appointed to the board in September of 2014. My training and experience as an attorney and business owner have been very useful to my work on board. The board’s work involves contracts, statutes, regulations, management issues and employment matters. These are things I deal with daily in my professional life. 

Second, a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that is fair to all parties will be instrumental in restoring good relations between the board/administration and the teachers. 

In addition, the board must hold the administration accountable for implementing the CBA, something it has failed to do with the current agreement. Rich Regan and I are part of the board’s CBA negotiating team. 

My experience with contracts has been a huge asset during this process. Rich Regan, who oversees four bargaining units for the Lyric Opera, has been an invaluable member of the team. The negotiations commence this month. This is important work that we wish to finish. 

Third, it is important to balance the needs of the district against the burden on taxpayers. Taxpayers showed confidence in the District in 2004 when they voted in the referendum. That confidence must be rewarded by providing taxpayers with a sound investment, namely, excellent schools. This will guarantee good property values. 

In addition, the need that existed in 2004, when the district had negative cash reserves, no longer exists today. The district has accrued healthy reserves. The focus should shift to maintaining that reserve, not accruing additional reserves. 

The board should consider programs to provide relief to taxpayers like the rebate program currently under consideration. I would also like to explore a program to offer seniors tax relief for volunteering in the district. 

Finally, the district must achieve academic excellence. It must learn from high achieving districts. It should implement early education programs for all children and full-day kindergarten. It should refine the new curriculum and continue professional development for the teachers. 

My vision is that through implementation of these ideas we are able to restore the district to its rightful place as one of the best school districts in the state.

Juliet Boyd is a candidate for the Riverside School District 96 Board of Education.

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