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How do you think your school district does at managing the property tax rate?
As a district, Seneca Grade School has done an extraordinary job as the financial steward to the taxpayers. Between the fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2018 the Board of Education, at the recommendation of the superintendent, has been able to decrease the taxpayer contribution to the district by 28.86%. Over the last ten years, Seneca Grade School has been able to generate over ninety percent (with the exception of FY10) of their revenue from local funding. This is in large part to the assessed value of the Exelon LaSalle Station property. Although the extremely low tax rate is lucrative to any property owner or potential property owner, one should also consider the other financial triumphs of the district including the 4.0 Financial Profile, 600 plus operating days of cash on hand, responsible amount of fund balances in instructional and operational areas, and having zero long term debt obligations. With this being said, the district has established a spending pedagogy that does not place any unwarranted taxes increases in the foreseeable future.
Rate the quality of education the district is providing.
In order to accurately assess the quality of education that the district is providing, one must assess how the district is impacting the whole child. The Illinois State Board of Education has identified both the North Campus and the South Campus as “Commendable” schools. Although the district is outperforming the state average, personally and professionally, I do not believe it is appropriate to affix a label of performance based on a fractional look at the results of a high stakes testing scenario (PARCC).In order to rate the true quality of the education that the district is providing, I believe that district leadership should inherit local control, moving away from state government control, to tell their story on the success and achievements that are seen in their classrooms on a daily basis. The ability to determine the quality of education provide can’t be quantified by an arbitrary number established by ISBE. The quality of education can truly be seen in the growth of each individual student from the first day of school to the last day of school. The true story of education quality will be seen in the unique, individual growth and development milestones established for each student.
What are your priorities for the next 4 years?
Without hesitation, my one and only priority as a board member are to make every and all decisions on what is in the best interest of the student. My goal in this position is to serve as an unwavering advocate for every student, regardless of any preconceived notion. As a member of the board, it is my sole intention to be the voice for those that are the most vulnerable in our school systems. In respect to soft priorities for the next four years, my main objective is to continue to support the academic, social and emotional, extra-curricular, and fine arts programs that have been developed by the current board of education, administration, and staff. I believe that my personal and professional experiences may provide a different outlook into various scenarios that may enhance current initiatives. It is also my goal to maintain the district’s recruitment, retention, and development of its’ current staff and future staff. The district staff has demonstrated their commitment to ongoing and continued education. As a board member, I believe it is vital to continue to provide those opportunities and pathways for staff. I have also come to understand the importance of a positive school climate, staff who feel appreciated, and the benefits of shared leadership in the decision-making process.
What do you see as the biggest issue facing your school district and how you would address it?
Over the next few years, there are a number of issues that will be facing the district. Some of those issues will be entrenched at the local level, while others may come from the State of Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education. At the local level, one of the main issues facing the district is the renegotiation of the assessed value of the LaSalle County Generating Station, which is slated to expire on December 31, 2019. Additionally, the district’s efforts to develop a long-term sustainability plan to address 2042 and 2043 license expiration of Unit 1 and Unit 2 Reactors at the generating station. At the state level, specifically, the introduction of House Bill 3053 (HB3053), which would allow the governor and general assembly to make recommendations on the number of school districts in the state, the optimal amount of enrollment for the district, and where reorganization and realignment of school districts would be beneficial in the state. Additionally, the Senate Education Committee, Senate Bill 1287 (SB1287), which requires a school board, upon passage of a referendum and signed a petition of 5% of voters to enter into an agreement to share services of a superintendent or other administrator. With Seneca Grade School being one of many elementary feeder districts into Seneca High School, this has the potential to be a foreseeable issue in the future.
What do you see as the school board member’s role?
The most important role of a school board member is to work diligently with the varying stakeholder groups in a collaborative manner to ensure that students are provided a rigorous, sustainable educational experience in a physically and emotionally safe environment. Additionally, the school board’s function is to provide oversight on the governance and operations of the district. That governance is developed by the School Board Policy, adopted based on the recommendation of the superintendent. The Board of Education employs one individual, that being the superintendent. The role of the board is not to micromanage day-to-day operations. Statutorily, the board of education is also responsible for fiduciary roles, including the passing of the annual budget, approval of the tax levy, acceptance of the Annual Financial Report, and collective bargaining agreements with the established associations.