POA: I will act on behalf of the residents I am elected to represent. That means pounding on the doors of our other elected officials and reminding them that their party votes to donate our tax dollars is not appreciated. As a community, we all must stand together and work to benefit each other. Senators Kotowski and Noland voted in direct opposition to the needs of our community. As a Board of Education member, I will speak loudly to remind those who propose to weaken the district. I also praise Senator Murphy for voting in line with the voice of the community.
There is a divide in equality of funding for schools. There is also a divide in accepting responsibility for one's own education. If Illinois school funding neglects truancy and dropout rates, and blindly invests in schools that children are not attending, it's throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are better solutions that must come with accountability.
UPDATE: Our Elected General Assembly members are not willing to accept less funding from the state than we are already receiving. Currently there is little support for the Funding Reform Act in our region.
Daily Herald Article, March 23rd, 2015 - Suburban winners, losers under new school funding proposal.
- Issue: PROPERTY TAXES.
Year after year, the taxes District 211 levies are significantly greater than expenditures, creating a huge excess of funds. The accumulated fund balance is far above the Board’s target of 33%. The actual was 70.7% as of June 30, 2014, which means the fund balance is $80 million higher than target. The lowest cash on hand during past 24 months was more than $150 million. It sits around making .2% interest instead of being in the hands of the community, many of whom are struggling to pay very high property tax bills.
POA: Cap the tax levy at the budget amount. Our current Board of Education and Administration has responded that the surplus is a result of late payments from the state and/or uncertainty in the pension system. This needs to change. The levy is not intended to raise funds for future capital expenses, debt service levy, uncertain state politics, or a zombie apocalypse.
Paying interest on bonds while sitting on fund balances beyond established Board policy is not responsible.
UPDATE: There are Finance Committee Meetings scheduled each month. These are Board Committee Meetings and open to the public.
(2015-09-17) UPDATE: Board voted (6-2) to adopt the 2015-2016 budget. Highlighted items: $900K in contingency funds are built into the 2015-16 budget on top of a $400K surplus. TENTATIVE BUDGET - Adopted BUDGET
(2015-12-10) UPDATE: Board voted (6-1) to adopt the 2015 Tax Levy. Adopted Levy
Not that the Levy by District 211 is increased 1% from 2014, with a single year debt service abatement of $2M. This results in a Levy amount with a zero differential from 2014.
This is a 8.5% increase in property taxes over the last 5 years.
- Issue: END OF CAREER SALARY BUMPS
POA: Work with teachers and staff through the established contract proceeding to eliminate the end of career salary increases that result in penalty payments to the state. This partnership must result in an equitable solution that keeps resident tax dollars within the school district.
D211 paid a $93,594.36 penalty to TRS in 2011-2012.
(2015-12-10) UPDATE: Unfortunately District 211 incurred penalties in 2015.
The following is taken from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Page 43.
Salary Increased Over 6% and Excess Sick Leave Public Act 94-0004 added two additional employer contributions to TRS.
If an employer grants salary increases over 6% and those salaries are used to calculate a retiree's final average salary, the employer makes a contribution to TRS. The contribution will cover the difference in actuarial cost of the benefit based on actual salary increases and the benefit based on salary increases of up to 6%.
For the year ended June 30, 2015, the District incurred $11,729 of TRS employer contributions due on salary increases in excess of 6%.
POA: Obviously our teachers are critical for the education of our students. Unfortunately, less than half the staff employed are considered High School Teachers (696) of the total staff (2,057). The Board of Education approves the salary and schedule without being part of the negotiations. This should be changed through Board policy. Having an elected member of the public representing the community should be a top priority. Working with Local 1211 to keep salary and benefits competitive and sustainable must be part of the solution. This is the whole purpose of having an elected Board of Education. A four-year education from District 211 averages out to be $88,080.
Our BOE needs to hold firm and follow the 94-0004.
There are difficult discussion that always occur when contracts are discussed. I'm prepared to be a voice in the room willing to speak up and bring balance to the table.
- Issue: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts
POA: Ring the bells and wake people up. It's crazy to think that a residents aren't more up in arms about this. A small group of elected officials decide that a part of town needs to improve. They then decide to make those improvements on the backs of the property owners. Elected officials need to be at the Joint Review Board (JRB). Sending the D211 Associate Superintendent for Business is not representing the people who took the effort to cast a vote.
So you have a municipality taking the money that you pay for schools and setting it aside to invest as they deem necessary. Does the school get less money? No. The school districts levy, or request, a certain amount of tax dollars each year and they will collect that amount whether there are TIFs or not. Some current 211 Board members have attempted to use the TIF district as an excuse for increasing the levy. That makes no sense.
While TIFs do not affect the school districts, they do affect you. If you live outside the TIF district, you now need to make up for the amount that the municipality is taking. So, for 23 years, property owners outside the TIF district need to make up for the levy revenue taken from inside the TIF district. Why is this important? This is important because it will shift the tax burden. You're paying high taxes for schools but these high tax dollars have just been diverted to bring in a warehouse development. Does that reflect your values as a taxpayer? You've elected your school Board member who is working to determine how much taxes to collect for education. At the same time you've elected a municipality official who is spending that amount of money on a different priority. Where is your representation in this process?
I will bridge this divide. When TIFs are being considered in District 211, I'll be at the public hearings vocally fighting to keep money where it's intended. We all share in the success of our community. Our tax bills are a accumulation of all the taxing districts working together. Funding pet projects for one district is not a path to success.
Crain's Article on TIF District impacts to School Districts - Collateral damage in Chicago's TIF argument: Schools
- Issue: Common Core Standards and Standards-Based Grading
POA: We need to work together with teachers, administration, and parents to solve this issue. Opting out seems to be the only option that is currently discussed. Schools are institutions of learning. Everyone agrees that student assessment is important. Measuring the progress that a student is making or not making is critical to developing a plan so that none of our students are left behind. We should have a curriculum committee open to the community to discuss solutions to this issue.
I think that Common Core Standards and Assessments were pushed onto the education system and lacks the participation and buy-in of our country. It's tainted and will most likely not recover. "Race to the the Top" did more harm than good. I think all the positive parts of the Common Core standards will most likely be lost as a whole new standard initiative will be required. This is my opinion based upon the information I've collected thus far.
Science Education on the Edge (Chris Ludwig) - Perspective
Research Professor of Education at New York University (Diane Ravitch) - Opposed to Common Core
School District Removes Standards Based Grading system - (Olivia Brochu) - News Article
Daily Herald Article - (Melissa Silverberg) - Some District 214 students boycotting PARCC tests
UPDATE: The federal government has replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. ---> Article from the Atlantic.
UPDATE: Illinois has moved away from the ACT and to the SAT. ---> ABC NEWS
Issue: Prepare our Students for STEM Careers
POA: Create enough Science and Math classes to meet the demands of the students. From the D211 Annual Report's Curriculum Summary, the number of enrolled students per the number of classes taught are as follow:
Applied Technology = 14.5 Enrolled/Class
Art = 26.7 Enrolled/Class
Business Education = 36.1 Enrolled/Class
English = 25.4 Enrolled/Class
Family & Consumer Sciences = 19.6 Enrolled/Class
Health = 39.7 Enrolled/Class
Mathematics = 38.4 Enrolled/Class
Music = 87.3 Enrolled/Class
Physical Education = 40.4 Enrolled/Class
Science = 49.8 Enrolled/Class
Social Studies = 26.0 Enrolled/Class
World Language = 55.2 Enrolled/Class
Shouldn't Math and Science be closer to 26 students per class? Similar to English and Social Studies?
- Issue: Results aren't aligned with our efforts.
POA: Focus. District 211 should focus on key areas that are critical for every resident. Diluting education with options that distract rather than enhance has to be discussed. Bringing everyone to the table to re-focus on critical educational milestones and reasonable measurements of student progress is a great place to start. The goal that we need to set should result in an excellence that matches the hard work of our School District.
- Issue: Board Meetings Not Recorded
POA: Get this done. This is a vital bridge to build and logic says it should not be difficult to accomplish. When the issue was last raised in October 2011, the Board failed to prioritize transparency and make this happen. Recording meetings is commonplace and inexpensive in many other school districts and municipalities, including District 15 and the Village of Palatine. It should be no different in District 211. The Board room is state-of-the art. It is highly unusual this is not already being done.
We've put iPads into the hands of every student but we can't record Board meetings? With the numerous awards presented throughout the year to students, it only makes sense to allow grandparents, friends, and others to witness the accolades earned through the use of modern technology. And, it only makes sense for stakeholders to witness their elected representatives in action (or not), to see if the issues are being discussed and given thoughtful consideration from all viewpoints before proceeding to a vote. The ability to attend meetings in person should not determine access.
Herald Article on Recording Meetings ---> http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20111028/news/710289905/
2011 Discussion regarding Recorded Meetings ---> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0jvMJs2Zy4
District 15 Videos of BoE ---> http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/Board_of_Education_Group/Board_of_Education_Meeting_Dat/2014-15
(2015-08-13) UPDATE: The board discussed and directed the administration to include BOE recording as a part of Community Engagement and Strategic Plan.
(2015-11-12) UPDATE: The board voted (6-1) to engage Unicom Arc to proceed with developing a Community Outreach for the basis of a strategic plan. Community Engagement and Strategic Plan This process will include two BOE members Mucia Burke and Anna Klimkowitz.
- (2015-12-7) Issue: DISTRICT 211 and OCR
District 211 Board of Education (BOE) and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) engaged in discussion regarding the complaint of a Transgender student, referred to as Student A. Two special meetings were held regarding a proposed agreement. The first meeting was held on Wed. December 2nd, 2015. The D211 BOE voted (6-1) to enter into closed session and returned with a vote (5-2) to accept the RESOLUTION.
On Friday December 4th, 2015 the OCR made comments that did not align with the agreed understanding of the resolution. The BOE called another special meeting for Monday December 7th, 2015 to consider rescinding the resolution. The BOE voted (6-1) to go into closed session and returned upholding the resolution.
I support transparency. I believe that the public should know exactly how and why each elected individual is voting the way that they vote.
(2016-05-05) Update: Families file suit.
- Issue: Board of Education Apathy
POA: Improve the Board of Education through the use of standing and ad hoc committees. The Board currently is reactionary. The agenda is presented and the Board responds. Structured committees need to be established to allow more discussions within the community for all the stakeholders. Recording the efforts and recommendations of the committees will allow for a transparent process and collaboration before a critical vote is required. By the time an issue reaches the Board, the opportunity for an optimized solution has typically passed. Currently, the Board has standing committees for Superintendent's Administrative Council, Curriculum Committee, Principal's Executive Committee, and Principal's Cabinet. These committees have been in place since 1997. It is long overdue for the Board to re-evaluate and determine the need for committees that work on behalf of all stakeholders.
Our current Board members are voting without discussion or participation in many areas that have a direct impact on teachers, students, and taxpayers. There should be a better forum for the critical discussions that impact everyone. I believe that forum is a committee meeting and not a YES / NO vote on the consent agenda.
UPDATE: We have one open Board Committee that began in May 2015. Progress is being made.
Issues as they develop.