District 107 candidates share views on running district
Updated: April 29, 2013 9:58AM
Like a business, there’s a return investment on students.
That’s the view of one of the Focus 4 The Future candidates for Pleasantdale Elementary District 107 Board.
“We need to take education back and refocus,” said Doug Gilman, who is running with Kim Barker, Kristin Violante and Greg Sengpiel for four positions on the board. “We’re doing OK, but we can do better.”
Also running are incumbent Mark Mirabile and first-time candidate Michael Hawbaker. They candidates met March 19 at a packed candidate forum.
Gilman said he’s accustomed to “driving efficiencies in capital improvement and investments,” and would see the School Board tasked with the same accountability.
He said as a taxing body, the district is in good shape, based on the rate it typically levies per $100 of equalized assessed valuation, but he cautioned school boards must have a vision of what’s coming down the road in financial forecasting, such as the challenge of pension reform that will inevitably creep into the financing equation.
Barker said her affinity for creating successful marketing strategies would serve her well. She stressed accountability and transparency for any board. She’s adamant about the need to obtain multiple bids for projects in demonstrating full responsibility for how tax dollars are spent.
A 10 percent teacher turnover rate in the district, she said, is counter-productive to optimize student performance, and would emphasize teacher retention.
“We have two choices: We can say we’re doing well, or we can look in the mirror and say we can do better,” she said.
Hawbaker cited past board disagreements over obscure details undermining swifter decision-making.
“I would work to open the lines of communication and be your voice so kids have full and maximum opportunities,” he said.
A positive board-school culture “starts at home. There is too much reliance on the schools — there are gaps to fill and parent must fill these gaps, be good advocates and teach empathy,” he said.
Mirabile said establishing a positive board culture starts with “dealing with adverse situations and opening lines of communication.”
While some candidates questioned the presence of a board attorney — at $800 a meeting — incumbent Mirabile sees the value. He stated that because “board meetings are held only once a month, the presence of an attorney means questions and issues can be resolved on the spot, rather than weeks later.”
Mirabile favors enhancements to all parts of the curriculum, including those for gifted students and students with special needs. He sees room for improvement in communication, particularly to parents about student performance on standardized tests.
Overall, Sengpiel sees the hallmark of a board member being “effective communication and teamwork.” He said communication, though, can produce a double-edge in that too much dissemination of information violates privacy. “Miscommunication needs to be controlled,” said Sengpiel, who has two children in the school district.
Violante said she has an affinity for providing quality programs for less in her full-time job, and could provide the same, if elected. She sees the district needing “enhancements, not major changes.”
Violante strives for transparency and increased communication between the board and public: A prototypical board member is one who’s “respectful, knowledgeable, asks questions and is accessible and accountable.”