- Website: www.top3for230.com
- E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 708-751-7925
- Address: Orland Park
- Family: Michael, 49, husband of 28 years; John, 21, son, University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana; Stephanie, 19, daughter, MVCC; Michael Jr., 16, son, junior Carl Sandburg High School; Sean, 15, son, freshman, Carl Sandburg High School
- Education: Robert Morris College; Immaculate Heart of Mary High School
- Occupation: Corporate Trainer/HR Associate
- Political party affiliation, if any: Very Independent
- Previous elected offices: School Board member in CHSD 230 since 2003
- Applicable experience qualifying you for the position: School board member 2003 – Present; School board secretary 2005 – Present; Chairperson for Student Services Committee 2007 – Present; Education Committee Member 2003-2005; Vice Chair 2005-2007; Policy Committee 2001 - 2005
What is the primary reason you are running for this office?
I am running for school board because I would like to see that all children in D230 receive the outstanding education that my two older children have received. I feel we have begun some great initiatives for students and I would like to make sure that they get off the ground and get rolling.
What will be your single most important priority if you get elected?
We need to communicate to our community how important student growth is while they are with us for the short four years of their high school career. The ACT/PSAE test scores are important as they “measure a district”, but more importantly is how each student is progressing academically. Not every child is going to score a 25 on the ACT, but if a child came to us with an 11 on the Explore test and gets an 18/19 on the ACT, they we are doing our job educating the student. Student growth is so important.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
I have been on the D230 school board since 2003. I have been chairperson of the Student Services committee for the past four years and also the board secretary for the past six years. I have two children in the district and two that graduated. I am an active parent. I will work for the community.
What is the greatest challenge facing the school district, and how do you intend to work to overcome the issue?
The State of Illinois is in a financial mess. They do not fund our schools properly and now they want us to consolidate. This is very unfair to the districts that have been very conservative and watchful with our taxpayer’s money. We need to do what we can to keep our school’s governing board local.
District 230 has maintained a balanced budget for the last six years. This past year the budget was balanced in part with Tax Anticipation Warrants, which involve taking loans with interest from other entities, in the event the county was late on its payments. Is this a sound fiscal strategy, and would you endorse it in the future? If not, what would be a better plan to maintain a balanced budget?
We did add in Tax Anticipation Warrants in case the state was late with sending the district that was owed to them. However, we did not need to use them. I do believe it was better to use the tax anticipation loans because would have been a short term loan and the interest rates are low at this point in time. I would hate to see us have to cut a program or take something away from our students as we awaited our tax payment from the state.
How can the school district continue to manage with the recent decline in state funding?
We do not rely heavily on state funding. Most of our funding comes right from our community – the property tax payers. For the past several years, we have been fiscally responsible without cutting programs for our students. We have been proactive and not waited until something completely broke. We budget for our capital expenses each year. We not only look what needs to be completed now, but what needs to be done in the near (5-7 years) future. We ask the administration & principals which project they feel are the most crucial. All of our expenditures go through our Building & Finance Committee. On this committee, we have nine community members. If the committee doesn’t feel it needs to be completed or the expense is too high, we will ask the administration to come back with a more reasonable bid or look for other ways to save money.
We have spent our money wisely and will continue to do so. We do not have lavish dinners or spend the night downtown at our annual school board conference. If fact, about 18 months ago, the Southtown reported that I was the most frugal board member of any school district in the south suburbs.
As the spectrum of special needs grows, what can the school district do to keep up with the ever-changing and demanding needs of special needs students, especially those with autism?
We have a responsibility as a school district to educate all children, even if they have special needs. We must give each child FAPE (fair appropriate public education). Fair has been defined as not giving everyone the same things, but giving them what they need. We must make sure our teachers are “highly qualified” to teach special education. With IDEA, special education teachers no longer specialize in a specific disability any more, but are cross categorical. I believe that inclusion is so important for most students, but some students are better off in a small self-contained classroom that can meet their specific needs. We have two great programs for some of our special ed students that are housed inside our schools. The ULTIMA programs at Andrew and Stagg and the Multi-Needs program at Sandburg. I do not feel right just singling out autism. Autism is just one of many disabilities. Our students have specific learning disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing, multiple disabilities, blindness, OHI (other health impairment), emotional disturbance, speech or language impairment, etc. We need to keep up with every disability’s ever-changing needs, not just those with autism.
Were the artificial turf fields installed at District 230 schools last summer a necessary expense?
I would not say the fields were “necessary”, but they were a smart decision that we made. Last spring, we were told that IHSA will be bringing on boys and girls lacrosse in the spring of 2011. That would mean that the stadium would be used in the fall by boys football, boys soccer, and band. In the spring that same stadium would be used by girls soccer and boys and girls lacrosse. Unfortunately, due to tight economic times, some schools have pulled out of their agreement to offer lacrosse this year. The stadium is also used for graduations, Relay for Life, and the community sports programs. I know that at Sandburg, the Pioneer and the Knight football programs have used the fields along with the Orland Park Soccer Club. Andrew and Stagg have also opened their fields to the community. These are community fields. Just one day last week, the girls lacrosse was using the stadium at 9:30 pm at Sandburg.
Do you believe the State of Illinois should consolidate school districts to save money? Is District 230 the right size for such a measure?
I was at the Town Hall Meeting on Monday evening at Tinley Central Junior High to hear what residents were saying. There was a special meeting before hand for board presidents and superintendents. During that meeting, the lobbyist from IASB told them that they were looking to consolidate districts to about 35,000 residents per district. At this time, we have almost double that amount of residents in D230. Does the state feel that we need to consolidate? Personally, I think that this would not be beneficial to all of our taxpayers. We have been very careful on the way we spend our money. This includes the salaries we pay our staff. Our superintendent will not be the highest paid retired superintendent in the State of Illinois. Our former superintendent, Patrick McMahon, is a high paid superintendent. I was not on the board when he was hired. I was also the only board member that voted “NO” on his increase back in 2006. We negotiated with our certified staff last year at this time. It was a contract that was most beneficial to the staff and to our tax payers. Our staff fully understood the financial economy. If we combine with other districts, salaries most likely would go up. We would lose local control of our tax dollars. We need to keep our tax dollars in OUR community and not reward other districts for poor spending.
Do teachers' unions help or hurt school finances and the education students receive? What does it take to reach an agreement that is acceptable to the unions while reasonable for the district’s finances?
I don’t feel that our certified staff union has hurt our schools at all. Our staff is the largest asset we have in the district. We need to make sure we can attract and retain highly qualified teachers in our district. At our most recent contract negotiations, our teachers did not come in and “demand” large increases. They know what is going on in the world of finances. We have an excellent relationship with our union. We were able to have a three year agreement with a very conservative, but fiscally responsible increase for our certified staff.
Is there concern that asking for a lowered 1-percent levy increase instead of the 3.2-percent increase the district was eligible before will hurt district down the road? Since a district can only ask for what it got the year before plus a certain amount, are you worried about future levies being based on a figure $2 million lower than it could have been in a move that saved the average homeowner about $30?
We asked for 1% to cover the increase that our certified staff received this year. We need to be fiscally responsible to our tax payers in this economic time. We do have reserves that we have saved for a rainy day. The rainy day has come. I cannot see asking our residents for more in property taxes when we have money “in reserves”. In these times, we need to be good stewards of our tax payer money.