Since I will be unable to attend the “meet and greet” sponsored by the teachers’ union on March 20th because of a family obligation, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself and share my thoughts and reasons for running for the Board of Education.
For the past 41 years, I have been involved in public education. I began my career as a business education teacher in the fall of 1969 in the Bunker Hill school system. I subsequently went on to become high school guidance counselor and principal, spending a total of 30 years in the district. In 1999, I was given the opportunity to become principal of Gillespie High School. I left the position after 5 years to assume the superintendency of the Lebanon Community Unit School District 9. I retired in June of 2010. I believe my background and experience will offer some depth to the board.
Although each district has its unique characteristics, the issues facing their respective Boards of Education are very similar. They must deal with students and staff, parents, test scores, monetary problems caused by dwindling resources at the local and state level, legal issues, transportation, food service, athletics, as well as problems specific to their districts. Board members have a responsibility to deal with these issues from an informed, objective and rational perspective. For the most part, the information used to reach these decisions come from the superintendent who provides the board members with his recommendation backed up by his rationale for the recommendation. However, it is also the member’s responsibility to go beyond the mere dissemination of information and research the issue, not to just accept things at face value, but to look below the surface and to question the recommendation when it is necessary. They are elected to represent the taxpayers who elected them. It is their duty and responsibility to exercise due diligence when it comes to making decisions that affect the district.
There must be accountability at all levels. Board members are ultimately accountable to the people who elected them. They can be voted out when they fail in the public’s opinion. They in turn should expect and demand the same level of accountability from the administration. There is no excuse for mediocrity in education. We owe it to our students to give them a quality of education with dedicated professionals at the helm. The board doesn’t have the luxury of voting our staff who fail to adequately perform, but they can and should send the message through administrators who are responsible for evaluating their performance. It may be difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible to remove staff members who fail to deliver the services for which they were hired. Unfortunately, tenure laws have allowed under performing staff members to cruise along until they decide to retire. But tenure laws cannot protect these teachers when administrator’s evaluations properly reflect their performance and necessary steps are taken to remediate them or dismiss them.
An educated, fiscally responsible board that is receptive and accountable to the needs of the communities they represent is our best hope of having a district that will deal with all issues facing it in the most informed, efficient manner. In order to achieve this, I would encourage ALL board members to take advantage of workshops offered by the Illinois Association of School Boards. The law requires our teacher and administrators to keep current by annually attending professional development workshops and/or classes. Why should any less be expected of the people responsible for running a million-dollar business? Blindly playing follow the leader can find you at the bottom of the cliff.
Our physical plant has been vastly improved. A new building is in the works. It is now time to address our curriculum. The Illinois State Board of Education has once again changed the rules. The Learning Standards are out and a new mandate is being implemented. We need to be exploring ways to address the never-ending problem of test scores. I think it is time to reevaluate our priorities and to consider allocating some of our resources to hire a curriculum director. In December, the board decided to withdraw from Region III Special Education Cooperative in what they claimed was a move to save money. The money that was supposedly saved could be used to create this position. Money was spent to create a new administrative position, with the explanation that they wanted to start mentoring administrators so that the “revolving door” that was predominant years ago wouldn’t happen again. If so, why wasn’t this implemented then, when the district was in a state of flux, rather than when it is stable? The administrators who have been hired under this umbrella all have roots in the community. I think that if you asked any one of them if they had an intention of leaving the district, you would quickly discover that they are all happy where they are and have no intention of leaving. The money being spent on this mentoring program could go on for as long as three years. Once the funds for the construction of the new building are gone, where will the money come from to fund this initiative? Why not use those funds to pay for some of the programs and personnel that were cut last year? Or it could be used to relieve the parents of the burden of providing funds for certain sports. Is this the best way to serve the needs of our students? Is this fiscal responsibility? You can decide on April 5th when you cast your ballot.
Much has been done but there still remains a lot to be accomplished. I now have the time and experience to give back to the community. My family has benefited from the education we received in the Gillespie and Benld school systems. We have all been successful, productive members of society. I want the same for all of the students of Community Unit School District 7. I would like to use my experience to help make our district the best that it can be. I encourage you to vote and I ask for your support on April 5th.