Change Address

VOTE411 Voter Guide

Naperville Community School District 203 Board (Full 4 Year Term) {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

  • Shirley DeCorte (N)

  • Kristin W. Fitzgerald (N)

  • Charles Cush (N)

  • Donna E. Wandke (N)

  • Paul Leong (N)

Change Candidates

Biographical Information

Bio - Please describe your personal and professional background and offer examples of how you have been involved as a community contributor.

Why are you running for the Board of Education, and why NOW?

What do you see as the Board's role and responsibilities within the district? What are some qualities, qualifications and attributes to a successful board member?

Given the challenges the District has faced when working through sensitive topics like reassigning attendance boundaries to address capacity concerns and population shifts, how would you seek input to make informed decisions on sensitive community issues?

How might you suggest the District address the issues of under-performing schools? What considerations must be in place in order to properly evaluate an under-performing school? What factors do you believe to be of larger concern to an under-performing school? On a more macro scale, how might you suggest we reach and assist the academically challenged students district wide?

While District 203 receives a small amount of funding from the State of Illinois, there are many factors that may contribute to additional or new pressures to the budget in the coming years, i.e., pension reform, property tax freeze. What might you suggest to maintain a balanced budget? What repercussions/sacrifices do you see that have impact within the schools? What might you consider to be the most difficult change or changes that you would support in favor of keeping a balanced budget?

There has been much discussion about stress and pressure felt by students, especially at the high school level, to achieve high grades while also participating in sports/clubs, volunteering and working part time. What does the District do, or should it do, to address the mental and emotional health of our students while ensuring their collegiate qualifications and high academic standing?

With the state mandate of Common Core, PARCC Assessments, and Social Emotional requirements added to the District's need and desire to remain globally competitive, what programs do we currently have in place that you feel help create an advantage for our students? Are there programs for our students that may be a better fit for our community, if so- what do you suggest?

I am a mother of three wonderful adults, a grandmother of four even more wonderful grandchildren, a friend to a supportive social circle, and a busy professional woman who cares deeply about children's educational experiences. I have a BA Board of Governor's Degree from Northeastern Illinois University, 1976; an MA in Early Childhood Education from National College of Education, 1981; an MA in Administrative Leadership, Type 75 certificate from Northeastern Illinois University, 1996; and an ED.D in Education from National Louis University, 2004. Most of my career has been in education. I will be retiring from a job I've loved as the principal of an elementary public school in Sandwich, Illinois in June of 2017. I have taught college classes, ninth grade math, third grade, kindergarten, and preschool. I have worked in private and public education, as a teacher, curriculum director, reading tutor, ESL coordinator, Early Childhood Director, and administrator.
I've always believed strongly that I've been fortunate to have meaningful work that I enjoy and that I should give back to my community by volunteering. Over the years I've volunteered to lead scout activities, coach children's sport teams, taught Sunday School classes, served on educational organizations' boards of directors and helped with social service projects. I believe we all reap what we sow. With retirement coming up, I will have time to devote to the important work of the District 203 School Board, working to continue the excellence it is known for locally and nationwide.
As an educator, I have led and participated in many parent, school board, faculty, committee and municipal meetings. While I am seeking the voters' trust as an individual, if elected, I will become part of a team. I do not have an agenda, I do have a robust passion for excellence in education. I believe the two main areas of board responsibility are legislative and administrative. Legislative responsibilities include adopting and following policy. Effective boards adopt policies that give direction to the superintendent and staff, enabling them to manage the district. Boards seek appropriate input in the development of policy, and after adoption should hold the superintendent and staff accountable for its implementation. The importance of the administrative side of a school board includes responsibilities such as approving and monitoring the budget, approving and monitoring district contracts, and hiring and evaluating the superintendent and appropriate staff. Effective board members refrain from trying to perform management functions that are the responsibility of the superintendent and staff. As board members, it is our responsibility to ensure that the schools operate well; but it is not our responsibility to run them. Local school board membership is a public office and a public trust, and members must swear an oath to uphold laws pertaining to public education. In today’s complex society regarding public education, effective board members should participate in professional development activities and commit the time and energy necessary to be informed and effective leaders.
Community surveys and meetings to hear what people have to say are among the ways of getting some of the information. It's also valuable to get one-on-one opinions from those who simply do not respond to surveys or meetings. We should also be sure to seek the thoughts of people working on a daily basis with community members.
I would recommend giving consideration to the following questions: Are socio-economic considerations a factor and what measures or interventions are being used in similar socio- economic communities to achieve higher performance standards? Are parent outreach programs that help families support their children in place at those schools? Do the teachers in those schools have enough training to differentiate curriculum to meet the needs of all students? Are struggling students being identified early enough to begin interventions before they fall too far behind? Are smaller classes needed in some schools? Are Response to Intervention (RTI) measures in place and are they being delivered consistently? There are many measures that can be taken to help struggling schools and students, and finding what works for individual students is key to helping schools reach high levels of performance with every student fulfilling his or her potential. I believe early identification of academically challenged students is important. We must ensure that teachers are trained to recognize these needs and know how to provide differentiated curriculum to support challenged students. Putting interventions in place to support students such as RTI programs within the classroom can help children achieve at their potential. Having supports but keeping children as part of the community is a goal I support.
District #203 is very fortunate to have a projected fund balance by the end of FY ‘17. There are obviously sound funding and finance practices and methodologies in place. The preparation, adoption and action on the district’s budget is a yearly process involving the employees, administrators, the Board of Education, and input from the community. It does not happen overnight. Needs are determined at the building level and conveyed by administrators to the District’s Administrative Office and to the Board of Education. The District builds the budget based on the identified needs, revenue projections, and priorities of the Board. The spending of the district should be guided and prioritized by the goals and objectives of the Board; the types of programs being delivered; enrollment and staffing needs; requirements to maintain the district’s instructional centers; requirements imposed upon the district by the federal and state governments; and contractual agreements. Open and honest dialogue regarding the implementation and evaluation of current and/or future programs and services should be channeled through committee structure. At the moment I see no need for a tax increase or to cut programs or services currently offered to our stakeholders. While the State of Illinois has major financial obstacles to overcome, locally, District #203 is financially sound and in a position to continue to deliver a first class education to its students. At this time, I would need to gather more information to form an opinion on supporting possible changes.

Positive caring relationship-building between educational staff and students helps our students to be mentally healthy. Good role models, open communication, active lives with choice among options for involvement in what interests them provide healthy emotional outlets. Parent education and support programs on emotional health can help reduce stress. Adults acting as role models while interacting with students at all ages is key to promoting healthy lifestyles. Supporting students with mental health issues means there must be caring adults with well-developed relationships with students, adults who can recognize illness and will take steps to support these students within the school (all of the education community) and out of school. Training of professional staff to recognise problems is essential. Helping students avoid stress and pressure has to be a part of the total education plan beginning in the primary grades by promoting healthy living, critical thinking skills, and responsible choice making. Again, having many options for students to become involved and active in experiences that interest them is important. It is critical to have activities that even introverts who do not seek out group activities will respond to. Starting at a young age to promote a “Healthy Living” attitude gives students a rationale for thinking for themselves and knowing the benefits of healthy living. These two articles give more information:

Naperville schools have so many programs at all levels that would create an advantage for any student, from the academically talented, special education services, to student leadership institute, that I know I am not aware of all the programs available for Naperville students. At this time I am not aware of programs that may be a better fit but I do wonder if it would be beneficial to have PE on a daily basis in the elementary grades? This is an area that I will definitely need to learn more about before making any suggestions.
I began my career as an education policy advisor to U.S. Representatives Harris W. Fawell and Judy Biggert in the U.S. Congress (1993-1999). This was a fantastic foundation in federal education policy. Both Members sat on the Education and Workforce Committee, giving me substantive responsibilities for all Committee legislation on education. As each represented the Naperville community, this also gave me a rich understanding of Naperville and District 203. Since my first daughter started kindergarten in District 203 in 2008, I have spent much time volunteering at my children’s schools, where I am still very involved as a parent volunteer. I am grateful for the ability to volunteer in the schools, working to engage families in supporting education at home. I am a passionate supporter of family engagement and have spent much time as the Co-Chair of the School Family Community Partnership, working to give parents educational tools such as math backpacks, and helping to make learning fun with events such as One Book One School. Last year I was part of a team of parents and administrators that wrote a grant to expand the SUCCESS program to elementary and junior high schools. SUCCESS was founded by African American parents at Naperville North High School to support families and students in closing the achievement gap. It has been a privilege to work with these families and students in support of this goal. It is my hope that SUCCESS will be effective in supporting families and students with learning tools at home as well as helping to build bridges to the broader family community at school. Both my work as a parent leader in the school and as a policy analyst has broadened my knowledge of education issues, state and federal funding and the challenges faced in our schools. I am grateful for this background as it enriches my decision making and understanding of issues before the Board.

When I ran for the Board in 2013, I pledged to dedicate myself to working for the success of all students. This is still my most important goal and one of the most important reasons I am seeking re-election. I believe the education of our kids is one of the most significant responsibilities we have as a community and we have more to do! Our overall success is strong, our district scores are almost double the state average and well exceeding our benchmark districts. However, our students still exhibit gaps in achievement, primarily students who are low-income who are also disproportionately minority. I want to see each of our kids achieve what they were born to do and I want to see our school district and our Board continue to think big and work to surmount whatever barriers stand in the way of student success. Looking at our state, we are likely to have reduced state funding in the future. Even without state action, Naperville receives only a limited amount of state and federal funds. Given that the cost to educate our students falls mainly on our local community, we must be cognizant of the burden of taxation and work to reduce costs and do things more efficiently whenever possible. Here too, I believe that the strong financial decision making of the Board is paramount to ensure that we have the resources we need for today and tomorrow. The Naperville community is second to none, partnering with our school district to work together on behalf of all kids. The Board is a partner to the community, both inside and outside of our schools. I remain committed to being a listening voice for the community, ensuring true partnership with the Board. I believe strongly that District 203 can surmount any future challenge we will face and I am hopeful to have a continued part in the leadership that ensures that we meet whatever comes before us.
The Board sets policy, expectations, direction and helps to lead and guide the District in decision making for academic goals, programming, facilities and financing. Together with our Superintendent, the Board functions as an evaluator of these areas as well, to ensure progress toward educational and fiscal goals. One of the most important roles of the Board of Education is the selection of an outstanding Superintendent to ensure that students meet and exceed the district’s academic goals. The Board is a chief advocate for students, ensuring that the success of every student is a paramount objective in the decision-making process. The Board is a representative and advocate of the community as well, staying in good communication with residents to ensure that information about decisions before the Board is readily available and Board Members are at the ready to listen to the views of the members of our community. The Board also stewards the resources of the district, working to ensure district efficiency so that funds spent achieve maximum benefits and understanding the burden of taxation on the community, working to lessen this when possible. A growing responsibility of the Board is also the duty to advocate for our schools with local, state and federal legislators. We are a part of the voice of the school district that helps communicate the impact of legislative proposals on students, teachers, the district and our whole community. I believe successful board members are visionary, able to see future goals and challenges and helping to lead and prepare to meet these challenges, whether they are academic or financial. Board members should be persistent in pursuit of goals, just like we encourage our students to be. As most studies in determination will attest, it is the ability to surmount obstacles which leads to achievement. I believe that board members are servant leaders, in search of consensus and committed to the work before them.

Board members should be committed to life-long learning, eager to research issues, and quick to listen to the perspectives of the community, teachers, students and administrators. I am grateful for the long tradition of expertise and leadership on the District 203 Board and I hope to be able to continue my service to the community in this way.
It is so important that the Board is a partner with the community. Part of this is understanding the thoughts and feelings of the different school communities, and knowing the issues at each of the schools. The Board’s Adopt a School program is a wonderful program that helps board members get to know each school, the unique community of parents, teachers, staff and students, and some of the different events that are special at each school. I have enjoyed each Adopt a School! I believe this program helps the Board to be aware of issues such as capacity when they are occurring. In discussing communication, it is important that it is ongoing, not waiting until issues arise, but staying in good communication all the time. Last year, the parents at Naper Elementary worked with District 203 to express their thoughts about potentially moving 5th grade students to Washington Junior High School. I think the forward thinking and problem solving communication employed during this discussion was a good model. I am also greatly supportive of our District’s Focus 203 series, which takes important topics such as social and emotional learning, or school start times, and helps to educate the community as well as provide a forum for their thoughts. Our district’s efforts in using this community forum process during the Future Focus 203 series to develop our future goals, was a great process to engage the community in building a vision for the future. Good communication at all times, helps to ensure that our community is an active part of setting the direction of the school district and that when issues arise, the school district, the Board and the community work together to find the most effective solutions.
When I ran for the Board of Education, I promised to focus my efforts on working for the achievement of all students and closing achievement gaps. All students should be successful in our schools. As a Board member, I have been a ceaseless advocate for this cause. Our district’s academic achievement is high; students who are at or above standards on state PARCC tests (65%) are almost double the state average (34%). However, academic success is not equal for all students. In our community, these gaps are greatest in students with economic disadvantages who are often disproportionately minority. These students are behind other students academically; in some schools, exhibiting achievement gaps of more than 50 percent. This disparity in achievement despite concerted and sustained efforts, highlights the continuing need for efforts to help all children succeed. Each of our schools is unique with differing students and needs. When looking at the progress of our schools, all students should be growing. Some schools begin with many students who are behind. In this case, growth must be accelerated so that these students can catch up to other students. Our schools are working very hard to differentiate so that each student is reached where they are and helped to grow. Professional Learning Communities (PLC) at each school help teachers utilize best practices and assist one another in ensuring that every student meets and exceeds the standards on which they will be assessed. Our district has also put a large focus on summer school, working to lift barriers such as transportation and supporting families with childcare options to ensure that all students can access this tremendous resource so that summer months are times of learning as well. I am a strong supporter of these techniques that have helped the students in our schools to grow and experience high achievement. However, even with these measures, the growth at some of our schools has not been enough to close achievement gaps and bring each student to the level of high achievement. I have advocated for setting goals, increasing resources, and greater community collaboration to ensure that all students succeed. Our state is in the process of setting goals for every student. One way for us to ensure that we meet these goals is to ensure that our growth meets specific targets that will get us to our end goal. For schools that are working to close significant gaps, I support increasing our resources to help teachers and students succeed. In some cases, that might mean smaller class sizes in primary grades, additional teacher coaches, and changing of practice. Each school will plan their work and work their plan to ensure that every student in our school district is successful. Last year I was part of a group who was awarded and is now working to implement a grant to establish parent led groups to support families whose children exhibit achievement gaps, to ensure support for these families in school and at home. I am proud of the work of this group in building community and support for all families in our school. More can be done to ensure that all families have the tools they need to support learning at home and fully participate in the school community. I have also advocated for broader community collaboration to assist all students. Students who are economically disadvantaged begin showing achievement gaps as early as age two. Waiting to address this until these students are in kindergarten puts the school in catch up mode. I am a strong advocate for community collaboration to ensure that all pre-school providers are educated about the benchmarks necessary for kindergarten readiness, and that we are working together to communicate to parents about how to help students grow and be ready for school.

Coordinated community collaboration can also be utilized to help meet the economic needs that low-income families are experiencing. Our community has so many service providers who assist families with these needs. For example, Loaves and Fishes partners with some of our schools to help provide additional nutrition for students. At my children’s school, I have worked to develop partnerships with local churches to ensure that students have enough nutrition over longer school breaks. Partnerships like these ensure that students have the resources they need so that they can come to school ready to learn. Though achievement gaps are a national disparity, I believe Naperville 203 has the commitment and resources to surmount the barriers to success for these students and show national leadership in addressing and closing achievement gaps. As a Board member, I will continue working to achieve progress toward this important goal.

The greatest budget challenge our district faces is operating without assurance of state and federal funding. Since 2013, Illinois legislators have considered restructuring of state funds for education, proposals to freeze property taxes, legislation shifting the cost of pensions to school districts, and numerous state mandates. Federally, proposals to reduce Title I funds for Illinois were considered and postponed. The cumulative impact of these proposals, had they all been adopted would have dramatically reduced District 203’s funding. Even without such actions, the state and federal support for education pales in comparison to the cost to educate our students. Illinois funds education at one of the lowest levels of any state. Federal funding provides a fraction of the cost. District 203 is well prepared for the future with a balanced budget and a surplus to account for funding losses. However, actions from our state may put additional financial pressure on our school district. Whether these measures come to pass or not, we must always prioritize our spending to ensure that our budget reflects the initiatives most important to our students' continued growth and development. Budget expenditures must mirror the priority system set by our Board and community. During the past several years, we have prepared for potential budget shortfalls by working to do things more efficiently. I have supported these efforts, such as health plan design changes which reduced costs by $2 million and an overall review of non-personnel budgets in 2015 which resulted in budget reductions of $1.9 million. We must also recognize that the lack of federal and state funding leaves the burden of funding schools to our local communities. Thus, one of our most important challenges is to look at our tax levies responsibly, understanding that state actions may leave us with reduced funding, but also considering the burden of taxation on our community. I support our district’s plan to pay off bonds early, and to abate our debt service levy to provide relief to tax payers while still ensuring necessary resources in case of state actions. Future budgetary decisions should have a clear relationship to our priorities and the progress we are making toward reaching our academic goals while ensuring our financial stability. In this way, our decisions ensure the success of our schools and our community.

. Building the mental and emotional health of all our students is an important priority and one that is shared by educators, staff, parents, administrators and the Board. The Board recently approved new curriculum to support students’ social and emotional well-being. I am excited about this curriculum which will help build students’ self-awareness and self-management skills and teach them to make good decisions. At recent community forums, parents were surveyed about how to best communicate social and emotional concepts so that they can help reinforce wellness and good habits at home. Learning how to balance academics, extra-curricular activities and general wellbeing is a challenge students will face in college as well as in life. This time in high school offers them an opportunity to try out different strategies for balancing their time in a supportive family environment, so that they can achieve the balance that will work for them in the long term. Partnering with parents is a vital part of achieving this goal. Our schools, school counselors, Home and School and the School Family Community Partnership sponsor educational forums and offer parents many resources to help their children make healthy choices, achieve balance, avoid addictions and access school and parent resources when they need help. In addition, schools, families and students are partnering with organizations such as Operation 360, REACH, Kids Matter, Parents Matter and many other community and county wide efforts to help students achieve emotional well-being. Each of these is an essential aspect in building and supporting emotionally healthy balanced students and I am grateful for the strong support of our entire community in working to assist our youth. It is this partnership that will help our students be successful.
District 203 has long been known for outstanding curriculum. I am so proud of our high-quality administrators, teachers and curriculum specialists who work as a team to develop and pilot the curriculum and ensure that it effectively functions to help students meet and exceed the standards that will be assessed by required state assessments, such as the PARCC tests. I believe the district’s current focus, implementing the rigorous new English, math and science curriculum to meet state standards, and establishing new social and emotional curriculum, has a proven track record with achievement by our students well above state averages and benchmark districts. Just one look at our high school course selections will confirm the rich offerings for students in so many subject areas. We are on the right track and I will continue to support the district’s actions in this regard. I am very excited our district is participating in two new programs that will help our students have a global advantage. These programs are the Illinois Seal of Biliteracy and the Illinois Global Scholars Certificate. The Illinois Seal of Biliteracy recognizes students for achieving proficiency in language and culture. Naperville 203 is a participant in this program, allowing our students to be recognized for achieving proficiency in a language other than English. Increased language proficiency is a natural outcome of the dual language program, offered by our district beginning in Kindergarten. However, all students who demonstrate language proficiency, whether they begin in elementary, junior high, high school or outside of school are eligible for the Seal of Biliteracy. The Illinois Global Scholars Certificate was recently created by the Illinois legislature. Comparative religions teacher Seth Brady, an award-winning Naperville Central teacher, was an early advocate for this program. With passage of this legislation into law, Illinois will now recognize global competency for students. Global scholars must demonstrate their competence in global affairs by participating in globally-focused courses, globally-focused service learning, global collaboration/dialogue and a capstone project. In our increasingly global world, I am excited to see the transformative learning for our students under this new program. These programs offer our students an opportunity to be internationally competitive by distinguishing themselves in unique areas of competency. Another area in which our district is engaged in transforming learning is our effort to provide students with true career readiness. The rapidly growing “job shadow” day hosted by local employers, engages students in shadowing local employers to gain knowledge about potential careers. The District’s Business Council for College and Career Readiness has also worked on the development of summer internships, an architecture contest with students and local architects, as well as a Student Leadership Institute with local business leaders. The Board recently approved a new incubator course to engage students in entrepreneurship. Like the entrepreneur class that preceded it, this class offers students an opportunity to create a business. Students will present about innovative ideas and gain actual funding to implement business plans. As was the case in the previous course, local business leaders will mentor our students. These programs aim to transform students’ understanding of careers and inspire them to their future career path. District 203 is constantly striving to help our students imagine new heights for themselves. I am pleased at these new programs, and think they will be a great benefit to students. However, the duty of innovation in coursework is a constant responsibility and I am open to new ideas that benefit our students as they appear on the horizon.  
I have over 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I am currently the Sr Director of Marketing for the Americas for the diabetes division at Medtronic. In this role, I am responsible for setting and implementing the marketing vision and strategy for Medtronic’s products and services portfolio in the U.S., Canada and Latin America to serve patients with Type 1 diabetes and intensively insulin dependent Type 2 diabetes patients. Prior to joining Medtronic, I worked for Baxter Healthcare in the I.V. Nutrition and Renal care businesses, and prior to that I worked for Johnson & Johnson, where I held multiple sales and marketing positions in their consumer product and medical device & diagnostics divisions. I have and MBA from the University of Michigan, and I also have an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Maryland. I am deeply committed to community and volunteerism. Over the years, I have served as a board member for the New Jersey Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), which helps abused and neglected children. I have also served as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Feed My Starving Children, and currently serve as a greeter at my church. In addition to these activities, I have volunteered my time with several organizations that are focused on education. I have served as a volunteer for the United Way's "Real Men Read Program", as a volunteer instructor for Junior Achievement, and have also spent time reading to children at several elementary schools. Within district 203, I have volunteered as a part of the Parent to Parent program at Jefferson Junior High School, participated in a search committee for the new principal at Washington, and currently serve as a member of the board of education for the district.
I am looking to retain my seat on the school board because I believe I can make a difference. I have a passion for helping others achieve their full potential. I believe that district 203 has a responsibility to provide a learning environment where every student has the opportunity to maximize their potential; and I want to continue to be a part of helping the district fulfill that responsibility. I have two young daughters that are students in the district, so I have a vested interest in making sure that 203 lives up to it's reputation. I also believe that my years of experience in the business world and track record of making sound decisions and developing creative solutions to challenges, would greatly benefit the school district. My goals will be to continue to help the district fulfill it’s mission and to drive increased focus in two areas: 1) Closing achievement gaps- ensuring that we are seeing growth in all student segments; and 2) Career and College readiness- Preparing kids with the skills they will need to succeed at the next stage in life, whether that be to attend college or to immediately enter the workforce.
According to the Illinois School Code, the official responsibilities of the school board include: maintaining records, employing teachers and a superintendent, directing what shall be taught and what textbooks are used, paying bills, and adopting a school calendar. In addition to these listed specific duties, I believe that the board has a responsibility to create an environment where every child has the opportunity to be successful. The success of our students and how well we are preparing them to compete in a global economy must be the yardstick by which we measure our success as a district, and should inform all the decisions made by the board. Given these responsibilities, I believe that a successful board member must be: Passionate about the serving the needs of the students and the community-There are many tough decisions that school board members must make. Only a candidate driven by a passion to serve the community will have the endurance necessary to carry out the duties and responsibilities of a board member. A strong collaborator- The board must work as a team. Collaboration is critical to ensure that we are leveraging the collective strengths and experiences that each board member brings to the table. Collaboration is also the ability to pull together multiple stakeholders in the community and weave different ideas, perspectives, and interests, into an optimal solution. Able to exercise sound judgment- The Board has many decisions to make surrounding the district’s finances to ensure that we are operating under a balanced budget An active listener- The board is in place to serve the community. This requires the desire and willingness to proactively seek feedback from the community we serve and to incorporate that feedback into the decision-making process. As a current board member, I have spent time reaching out to parents, teachers, and members of the community to understand needs, and will continue to support the districts efforts to gather feedback from all segments of the community, so that we can arrive at the best solutions. Able to ask good questions- Getting to the right solutions is often about asking the right questions. This requires an active curiosity, and a willingness to dig into an issue to understand the pros & cons of the potential alternatives. These are all attributes that I have demonstrated in my personal and professional life, and during my time as a board member.
I think the key word in the question is “seek”. To seek input is to be proactive about gathering that input. It means “to ask” but it also means to “go in search of” and “to try to discover”. We must be proactive about gathering community feedback on especially sensitive issues. It is not sufficient to send out surveys to everyone and hope we get a good response, we need to ensure that the surveyed sample is representative of the population, with members of all key stakeholder groups represented. Once we have identified and engaged the right set of stakeholders, we need to ask the right questions to understand how they frame the issue. Sometimes research can be used to help identify what questions we should even be asking as part of a survey. Next, we need to gather our feedback in a variety of ways: Surveys are helpful, and interviews and/or focus groups are also valuable. Once we have gathered the feedback, there must be transparency in sharing the results of the research and in the process by which the feedback generated is being used to inform the decisions. The current future focus process and the process of surveying the community that is already in place in district 203 is a good one. The big opportunity I see is for us to continue to cast a brad net to get as much feedback from as broad a range of students, parents, and community members as possible.
I don’t see this as underperforming schools as much as it is the achievement gaps within schools. As a district, we do well on all key metrics when you look at the average test scores and other performance indicators. A deeper look at the data, however, exposes some challenges in the performance of certain subgroups within the student population. I think this is a leading indicator of our effectiveness as a district, and that it warrants our attention. It is important because as the community becomes more ethnically and economically diverse, our overall scores as a district will begin to be impacted by the underperforming groups if we are unable to improve the scores in these sub-groups. One way that I have and will continue to work to solve this issue is by brining attention to it and challenging our administration to find ways to address it. Another way is to work within the community to drive increased involvement among the parents and families across all sub-segments of the population. Our schools operate best when we have involved parents across the board. Collaboration between school and home is a critical factor in determining student success. The more consistency we can drive between what our kids are learning in the classroom and having reinforced at home, the better. Early childhood education, social emotional learning, and more support for home and school associations and programs like watchdogs and other efforts that get parents engaged is going to become increasingly important, and I am committed to lending my support to help to build these efforts and pull in a range of support these efforts. Closing the achievement gap is important for our schools and our community, and it will take a combined effort from the schools, parents and the broader community to accomplish.
. The financial health of District 203 is very strong. Based on a recent report from the Chief Financial officer, the district expects balanced budgets over the next 5 years. Even with the potential uncertainty of the level of state funding or whether a tax freeze will be imposed, the district can absorb these challenges and maintain a balanced budget. The key going forward will be to make good choices in how we spend our resources, and seek opportunities to drive increased efficiency in our spending. One challenge we will need to address soon is the proposal being evaluated that would lead to changes in the structure of the school day in junior high and high school. While the data regarding student sleep patterns is compelling, implementing this change may have significant budget implications. The trade-offs would need to be weighed very carefully, and ultimately the ideal solution would be one that did not increase the net tax burden to the community.
Stats show that up to 1 in 5, or 20 % of students in the U.S. exhibit signs of a mental health disorder or addiction. As a district, it is critical that we work to build mentally healthy students as a part of delivering on our mission. The teenage years can be a challenging time; there are many pressures and potential sources of stress such as emotional stress, academic stress, social stress, and physical stress. The best way to deal with these stresses is to acknowledge that they exist and get in front of them before they become a bigger problem. We need to be proactive in making students aware of these stresses, help them identify the warning signs, and teach them how to manage their stress level in a healthy, productive way. One of those sources of stress is the pressure to maintain high levels of academic achievement. While it is important that we do not back off in maintaining a high level of academic excellence in district 203, there are things we can do help reduce the overall level of stress that our students may be experiencing whether it be caused by the rigors of the curriculum or from one of the many other sources. First, having social workers & counselors proactively speaking to students about these stresses is a critical component. We need to make sure that we have adequate staffing in these areas, and begin reaching out to students at the junior high level, to begin the process of helping them adjust to the increasing pressures they may face in high school and, importantly, let them know where they can go for help if they need it. I believe a second critical component is to educate parents about the warning signs of stress, and how to help their children work through these pressures. Sometimes, it is the parents themselves that are creating the stress, so it is important that the district raise awareness and provide tools to equip parents to work through these issues with their students. Providing forums where open dialog about these issues can happen between parents and students is an important role that the district can play in reducing this stress. Many of these efforts are in place today, but there is still room for improvement. As we educate students and parents on these issues It is especially important that these efforts help to remove the stigma around mental illness and addiction so that kids and parents feel comfortable getting the help that they need without fear of being shamed, which is a significant risk especially in the era of social media

Building mentally healthy students takes a proactive approach by the district to build awareness and partner with parents and the community to identify these issues and ensure students have access to the help they need.
I am a big supporter of the social emotional learning initiatives that we are currently implementing in our schools. I believe we can build upon these efforts to do even more. To be competitive in a world economy, our students will need to sharpen their ability to collaborate effectively with other individuals to develop solutions to problems. Another key skill is communication. Ironically, in a world of increasing technology, communication is becoming a lost art. We need to make sure that we are developing these critical skills. I think we need to dial up our efforts to partner with local businesses and organizations to provide experiences outside of the classroom to build key life skills such as collaboration, communication and leadership. We also need to encourage members of the business community to actively participate in the educational process by visiting the schools and exposing the students to real-world, practical applications of the concepts they learn in the classroom. I also believe that we can have a stronger emphasis on study skills for students. We need to teach students how to learn, not just pass information to them. Part of our mission is to develop self-directed learners. To achieve that portion of the mission, we need to equip students with the skills to absorb and retain knowledge.
Our family has lived in Naperville for more than twenty-three years. My husband, Norm Wandke, and I have three boys. All our sons have gone to District 203 schools since Kindergarten. Our oldest, Kevin, is currently a sophomore at the University of Illinois. Ryan is a senior and Alan is a freshman at Naperville Central High School. We enjoy traveling and are always looking for an outdoor adventure. I have a Master of Education with Concentration in Administration and Supervision from National-Louis University (1997) and Bachelor of Science double major in Mathematics and Athletic Training from Elmhurst College (1991). For 25 years, I have been serving students in our community. I taught mathematics for 8 years at Naperville North High School where I also served as Assistant Athletic Trainer. I currently lead the junior high ministry at Good Shepherd Church. My community involvement extends well beyond my employment as I chaired or participated on ten Home & School committees, served in scouting in numerous roles including Committee Chair, led students on multiple mission trips, tutored students in mathematics, coached students in soccer, chess and cross-country and was president of Hobson School Parent Board. I currently serve as an elected member of the District 203 School Board.
I have always had a passion for education. I am seeking re-election so that I can continue to assist the District to achieve the goals in the Focus 2020 Strategic Blueprint. In addition, I want to encourage differentiated learning for our students in order to close achievement gaps. As a school board member, I will utilize my expertise in education to be the liaison between the community, students and administration. Having an educational perspective on the board has helped to balance the business perspective of our current board members. Having lived in the district for 23 years, I bring a balance between community and the classroom to make sound decisions.
The roles and responsibilities of a school board member are in policy and can be summarized as being the liaison between the community and the school district, overseeing the superintendent, creating policy to guide the district in decisions and maintaining a positive financial position. Finding balance in every decision before the board means being able to look past your own views and take the perspective of the community and students. It is the board’s role to review the materials, ask questions and listen carefully, foster communication between all stakeholders and make sound decisions that promote the high level of education that our community has come to expect.

I believe certain qualities and qualifications may enhance a potential board member’s chances of success. First and foremost, one must care about students and be passionate about providing the very best education for each and every one. Second, one must desire to understand and analyze the educational, financial, legal and other complex issues that come before the board. Third, one should be invested in our community and be willing to listen, communicate and collaborate with all stakeholders of the district. Fourth, one must realize that they are entrusted with spending money on behalf of every taxpayer and should do so with goals of fiscal efficiency and effectiveness. Fifth, one should have a long-term strategic view in order to steer our district in the direction of higher achievement through a culture of continuous improvement.
Communication is the key to any change as change is difficult for most people. But communication is a two-way process that begins with the following: providing the community with an understanding of the issues, listening to concerns and questions, researching that takes into consideration the culture and values of the community, and proposing solutions with more listening and opportunity for feedback along every step. Providing a proposal after research without feedback from the community puts up walls and breaks down communication as this is only one-way communication without the most important piece – listening. Focus 203 is a great step in the right direction by creating a community engagement opportunity to open lines of communications in a two-way process. Listening to the concerns of the community including the majority of people who do not have students within the district helps to strengthen our District as we begin to work toward goals together as a greater community. I appreciate feedback from the community through people speaking at board meetings, emails, phone calls and interactions at school and community events. In fact, I value this so much that I make a concerted effort to reach out and solicit input from members of our community on decisions before the board.
As a district, we are able to access data and can now identify achievement gaps within each of our schools. Although we are a district, each school is unique in its culture, achievement gaps and needs for students. In order to serve all students we will need to consider these differences and address them with unique resources depending on need. Just as we ensure a student with special needs is provided for, all of our students should be considered as individuals and provided with what they need. Students who are struggling will need support to catch up while students who are excelling will need to be continually challenged so that there is growth in all students. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are teams of teachers that meet to discuss best teaching practices and in particular, the individual needs of students. They consider data from each student in relation to the standards they are teaching. It is during this collaboration time that teachers determine how to best meet the needs of each of their students while considering what is working well in another class. Teachers are also utilizing new methods such as block interventions where students are given extra instructional time in a subject area that is most difficult for them. In addition, research shows that early intervention is imperative. Our early childhood center, Ann Reid, will be a focus in closing achievement gaps as well. Many of our schools are implementing new programs to increase parent involvement so we can strengthen the partnership between home and school in an effort to better support students. Reading and math specialists are supporting students in the classroom, which creates teacher student ratios that allow for more individualized learning. All of these recent implementations are the beginning of reaching and assisting all students. One reason I am seeking to be re-elected is to continue to follow through on the many other ideas that are in planning stages to support students and close achievement gaps.
The Illinois State Legislature is currently proposing changes that will affect every school district in the state. The largest may be school funding reform, pension reform, and a property tax freeze. District 203 has financial policies in place to cover expenses in the event of delays in state funding. It is the responsibility of the school board to balance school funding with consideration of the tax burden on our community. I am committed to finding that balance and will support abating (returning) the debt service tax to our community to reduce taxes. I will continue to consider how we can find this balance in the years to come as well. Our district has been analyzing financial projections while considering expenses with and without the property tax freeze. The board should continue to be financially responsible by representing our taxpayers and making the most of our education system. Programs and expenses should be continually reviewed by the school board and administration for relevance and cost effectiveness. In February, I am attending the Alliance Leadership Summit in Springfield, where I will learn more about these complex financial issues and discuss their effects upon our community with our legislators.
Along with my fellow board members, I voted to approved new curriculum for social and emotional learning for grades K-12 that will be implemented beginning in the fall of 2017. The learning standards for this curriculum includes goals in three areas: self-awareness and self-management skills, social-awareness and relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Teaching these standards, in addition to current health curriculum, will equip students to understand what it means to be mentally healthy. The statistics are concerning when one in five students show signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. We need to destigmatize the subject so that people feel free to talk about mental health disorders and the disease of addiction so they can seek the help they need. The school district employees a team of counselors, social workers and specialists that aid students’ success by providing services to ensure their academic and social-emotional health. However, educating the students is only a piece of the puzzle. The district and other community groups have also provided Mental Health First Aid certification for teachers, staff and community members. I have taken this training and can attest to the value in both adults and students being aware of warning signs, learning how to listen non-judgmentally and encouraging appropriate self-help and professional help. Equipping adults with skills so they can discuss mental health in a positive way can make all the difference.
One of the largest advantages is not a program but the fact that we are a Pre K – 12 District. A unit district provides teachers time for curriculum development that considers what is learned in each grade level and how we can eliminate overlap to allow time for more in-depth learning. Our schools also offer a varied curriculum, in which not only core subjects are taught, but also specialty classes to appeal and engage our student body in learning. We offer rigorous college-level AP classes. Further research could include considering programs such as the International Baccalaureate Program. This is a program that I was introduced to when I toured a college preparatory school in Chicago that explained the program and then gave a tour of their school to see some of the classes in action. Although similar to AP courses, the IB courses have a more global focus with a multi-cultural perspective. Our high schools offer fine-arts, music, business, technical, programming and other specialty courses to develop opportunities for students to explore their areas of potential interest. New courses are designed to meet the needs of our students and to offer them a variety of experiences. One example is a course that will begin next fall called INCubator. This course will enlist the expertise of our community and local businesses by having them share their skills in relation to entrepreneurship with our students. Student groups will then work on developing an idea from inception to pitch for support to begin their business. Our extensive special education services provide students with support through the age of twenty-one with our Connections program. This program has created innovative ways to engage our learners and help them learn skills to become self-sufficient.

Our high school students will have the options of earning a Seal of Biliteracy or a Global Scholar Certification on their diploma indicating their desire to take an active role in becoming more globally aware. Beyond the classroom, our students benefit from a vast array of extra-curricular clubs and sports that enable them to follow their interests and engage in a high level of competition. Opportunities for internships through our Business Partners will extend our education in the classroom to experiences in the work environment.
I was born in Chicago, and attended public schools and college in Chicago. I have been a resident of District 203 for more than 15 years and my wife and I have a boy and a girl attending public schools in the district. My professional experience includes accounting/finance for both the federal government and Fortune 100, in addition to varied IT positions, in addition to being in my own business. My volunteer involvement includes being Pack Chairman of my son’s scout troop, Manager of my son’s Naperville Park District Little League Baseball team, Fundraising Coordinator for my daughter’s figure skating group, in addition to teaching at Ray Chinese School.
The reason that I am running for a position on the Board is to bring some new ideas to the Board and to broaden the two- way communication channel between the Board and the community, to improve educational opportunities for our students. I am running NOW because I have accumulated some meaningful experience from having my kids in the system (my son will be in high school this year), and many people in my community have asked me to step up. Seeing the contributions of other parents and residents, has inspired me to try to do more. Lastly, I would like to bring to bear some financial expertise to support the fiduciary role of the board, apply my cutting edge IT knowledge to guide the direction of technology deployment, all with the goal of improving education for our students and protecting the outstanding reputation of District 203 schools.
The primary duty of the Board is to hire and evaluate the District Superintendent, (Dan Bridges) who is the highest authority in the School District. This evaluation gives the Board the responsibility to judge the progress (level), and direction (trend) of the educational efforts of the public schools. As a board member, I would work to be the voice of my community regarding the decisions of the board, as well as informing my community about how the Board’s decisions might affect them. The ability to communicate effectively will be paramount. I will need to listen to both my community and the other board members to build a consensus moving forward. After Board decisions are made, I will need to inform the community about the changes and the reasons why, to gather the support needed to succeed from the community. Bigger buy-in, leads to broader effort, and greater chance of success.
It will be difficult to achieve a broad consensus regarding divisive issues. I like the surveys that District 203 uses, but I would want more feedback regarding the exact numbers that result from such surveys. When people feel like their voices are being heard, they can often be more receptive to change. I would also use the twice a year Parent/Teacher conferences to distribute information directly to parents regarding important issues, and to collect feedback (just a printed handout to avoid wasting scarce parent/teacher talking time). E-mails are a good resource, as well as the 203 backpack; though it is hard to make people read everything and respond. We could collect feedback when fees are collected, when immunizations info is verified, etc.
As a Board member, I would make it my goal to help the underperforming schools do better, by helping individual students to do better. I would use standardized testing to assess schools/students, because that is the data that we collect and have available. Of larger concern might be the socio-economic resource constraints that often are often observed for such schools/students; though I don’t think that it is within the Boards purview to fix socio-economic equity issues. I believe that early education can be very effective. I would like to do more early assessment to detect students that need more help earlier so that the schools can inform the parents earlier and take appropriate action earlier. Waiting until 3rd grade, with some placement not occurring until 4th grade is not soon enough for me. A longer school day could help, and I am big fan of the full day kindergarten as a start. The Chinese community provides afternoon and weekend supplemental learning opportunities for their students. The parents volunteer and do much of the teaching to keep the costs low. A pilot program along these lines might prove effective to assist many students district wide, using existing facilities. I would also encourage the parents to do more teaching at home (leveraging the partnership with parents). When a teacher identifies a challenged student, there could be catch-up curriculum materials provided to the parent to work with their student.
As a Board member, I can’t levy taxes or repeal laws. The Board can inform the community and parents about proposed taxes and legislation that might affect the schools to inspire them to choose wisely in the voting booth and to contact their representatives, but that is about it. If budgets are reduced for ANY reason, my goal would be to do as much or more with less money. If budgets are increased, I would try to do more with more money. My first stop would be to look for ways to use technology and automation to improve efficiency where possible. My understanding is that the US spends the second most on education, but achieves about 16th on testing for reading, science, and mathematics. This suggests to me that other countries are achieving more, while spending less money on education. I see Chrome books mostly being used for web surfing and document creation. I would look for text book cost reduction. I would look to pilot various applications to make teachers more efficient and effective. I would look for faster feedback and better statistics using automation. Much like the adaptive testing used in Performance Series, teach the material, push out exercises, see who can do them and let them move on to something more challenging; those that haven’t mastered those exercises will require more instruction. More feedback to parents earlier to leverage their help from home (example: Steve/Sally needs stronger mastery of multiplication tables as indicated by today’s computer moderated exercise. More exercises and homework are e-mailed to the parents and students automatically. These exercises are graded by the application and results are delivered to the teacher for evaluation to determine if further action is required). Wash, rinse, repeat. Better, faster, cheaper.
This hits home with me as I recently submitted my son’s freshman high school course selections and the courses look very demanding in and of themselves, without regard to extra-curricular activities. Here is where the parents will be relying on the mental health training and in-classroom experience of the professional educators to assist them in monitoring the stress level of the student. If grades are suffering, the load may be too much for the student. If the student is not getting enough sleep due to classwork or extra-curricular demands, I hope that the teachers can spot it and communicate to the parents as early as possible to deliver treatment, counseling, time management training, reduced workload, adjusted schedule, etc. Thus, it is critical to ensure that the front line teachers have appropriate training to spot the early warning signs of mental/emotional health problems so they can be proactive about getting those students the help they need.
What I like about 203 programs is that they are so diverse, that they can help a student find their passion at a young age and acquire applicable job skills that can give them the edge in both college and in their careers. As such, I would advocate more material that covers what real people do in their actual jobs so that students can evaluate earlier what they might enjoy doing or find challenging or rewarding. I have seen testing that measures knowledge/skills and correlates that against likes/dislikes to project what careers you might be good at with respect to your personal interests. Exposing students to more of this type of information could get them on the fast track to applying to their dream colleges and dream jobs. In that same motion, you could provide statistics on job growth in that area, average starting salaries, lifetime earnings potential, quality of life, longevity, etc. to better inform their decision process. logo


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