GEL ELECTION PROFILE: Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board - Questions and Responses 6 - 10

Question 6: What set of skills and experience would you bring to the process?

Terra Costa Howard: As an attorney, I serve as a guardian ad litem for children, elderly and disabled adults. My role is to provide the court with a recommendation of what is in the individual’s best interest. The role of a board member is to balance educational decisions for the children with the community’s tax dollars.

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Drew Ellis: In addition to the experience I gained attending our schools I have extensive experience in finance and contract negotiations. Further, as a local banker with 25 years of community banking experience I would draw on the numerous parallels between both of these highly regulated institutions charged to serve the community, Public Education and Community Banking. Both are in the intangible people business. Some of the similarities include multi year budgets, Strategic plans that are tried back to both Vision and Mission statements, employee action plan with an emphasis on continuing education and development and active community minded boards.

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Jack Kahler: As an industrial engineer, I have over twenty years’ experience improving operations efficiency and facilities utilization. I’ve led large, complex projects in a wide variety of public and private sector industries and managed teams of over 50 people spanning six countries.

Having owned a business for over eight years, I have hands-on experience in planning and budgeting, client service, human resources and personnel management, information technology, accounting and finance.

I have some experience with curriculum planning and deployment. I led the development of our firm’s professional education curriculum, through which over 400 people will receive Lean Six Sigma certifications by the end of this summer. I’m gaining experience utilizing newer technologies in education as we adapt this curriculum for web-based distance learning. I’ve also developed several client-specific training courses.

I have an Industrial Engineering degree from Northeastern University and an MBA with concentrations in Operations and Marketing from Boston University. I’ve earned several certifications in various operations topics. I’ve authored several papers and occasionally lecture at the University of Wisconsin, DePaul and Louisiana State University.

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Dan Smith: As an engineer for the past 13 years, I am trained to understand and solve problems in a team environment. As a program manager, I am charged with managing people and projects. As a parent I know children need a quality education to learn and grow.

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Question 7: Do you have experience in the areas of budgeting, business and finance?

Terra Costa Howard: My experience in these areas is from the four years I have served on the board.

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Drew Ellis: Yes as stated above

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Jack Kahler: I have over 20 years of engineering and business management experience. As a business owner for the last 8 years, I have direct responsibility for planning and managing our company’s operating budget.

My budgeting experience is fairly extensive. Over the last twenty years I’ve developed and managed numerous budgets of up to $60 million per year.

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Dan Smith: As a project manager, I have been tasked with managing capital and expense budgets in excess of $2 million. As a part of managing the launch of a product from concept to production, I have created the budget and managed the project to it.

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Question 8: Have you ever been involved with contract or union negotiations?

Terra Costa Howard: In 2006, I participated as a board representative during the AFSCME negotiation. I am again participating as a board representative for the 2009 AFSCME negotiation. Our AFSCME union is compromised of our support staff i.e., classroom aides, janitorial staff, office staff and building maintenance staff.

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Drew Ellis: I have been involved in contract negotiations as stated above but I have not had direct union negotiation experience. I welcome that opportunity and look forward to applying my analytical and contract experience to that effort when it arises.

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Jack Kahler: Though I am not an attorney, I’ve been writing and negotiating service and labor contracts for several years. I have never negotiated with a labor union, but I have analyzed and drafted changes to union contracts.

In managing and improving our client’s operations, I am often responsible for direct supervision, shift and overtime labor scheduling, and definition of contractual changes. I am presently working with members of the United Auto Workers and various craft unions at two large clients in the United States and Canada. In the past I’ve also worked with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the Teamsters, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, and some other labor groups.

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Dan Smith: I have not negotiated contracts in my present employment. However, as a manager with direct reports, I have worked with my employees to develop specific annual goals that are directly tied into the broader goals of my company. I would view this as similar to developing specific goals in a contract for the superintendent as they relate to the broader goals of the district.

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Question 9: Do you have any ideas for making the work of the Board of Education more accessible/visible to the community?

Terra Costa Howard: In the past four years we have greatly increased our communication with our community. Our website contains board agendas as well as supporting materials. Board meeting highlights are distributed through back pack mail as well as E-News blasts to our community.

The district has hosted numerous community forums on various topics in the past four years. For example, our visioning process included a large number of community members. It provided an opportunity for them to gain insight in to our schools as well as the board and administration to hear another community perspective.

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Drew Ellis: I would respectfully suggest further community outreach and encourage that all are heard and that we consider ideas and suggestions brought before the Board. As long as everyone gets a chance to speak there piece, the Board would have a greater possibility of increased buy-in of district issues. If the community is not aware of the districts stellar Illinois School Report Card of, 91.3% of the districts student have met or exceeded state standards, then community buy-in becomes more difficult. I would suggest that the audio recording of the board meetings be available in a more user friendly format. The current format does not allow you to fast forward or review sections of the meetings.

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Jack Kahler: Individual Board Members can choose to be more or less accessible to the public, but I think it’s important that each member makes a personal effort to stay current with his or her constituents. As a group, the Board must abide y a transparent decision-making process. The Board might also sponsor some outreach to elicit community opinion, and host web meetings and/or biannual public receptions to invite casual dialog with the public.

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Dan Smith: I would like to explore making the negotiations the board has with the teachers union more visible to the public. Since the final contract is available to the public, why not make the whole process visible?

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Question 10: What are your thoughts on the current number of District 41 institute days that in turn have reduced the number of five-day weeks of instruction during the school year?

Terra Costa Howard: The school calendar has been challenging over the years. The balance in providing a continuous school week with the need for staff professional development is one we work toward each year. The current contract provides for days for staff to learn, collaborate and then bring those skills in to the classroom. I believe the calendar the board will be adopting on March 16 addresses both these concerns. The calendar was developed with all stakeholders working together to find a solution.

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Drew Ellis: As a resident of District-41 without children in the district I am not completely aware of the SIP day issues and how they affect the day to day schedules of families in the District but I do feel strongly that there should be more continuity with educational time. I look back at my schooling at Forest Glen and Hadley Jr. High, and I cannot remember having so many days off. I cannot imagine that the work load has increased all that much and I believe our enrollment back then was much greater than today. We should also try to assure the best use of time for the teachers on the days that they are paid for teaching. Both the Board and the administration would agree that we need to do a better job with the school calendar and SIP days next year.

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Jack Kahler: As a parent, I’m very concerned about this. For all of the time spent discussing quality of education, it’s confusing that the Board has allowed so many disruptions to the classroom schedule. I believe that they not only hurt our kids, but they are incredibly inconvenient to the families who are left to juggle work schedules and day care.

Since we didn't make AYP last year, it seems clear to me that we need all the 5 day class weeks we can get. During the school year, classes should be in session Monday through Friday unless there's a holiday. We don't disrupt that schedule, we work around it. If year-round businesses can incorporate planning and professional development meetings without interrupting customer commitments, then our school district can manage the same thing.

The current situation is unacceptable and the Board of Education is responsible for the school calendar, and so it’s the Board’s responsibility to correct this problem in the future.

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Dan Smith: As a board member I would work on making this a measurable goal of the school calendar process. This impacts families and their vacation and dependent care planning as well as the students and the ability of the teachers to maintain inertia during the school week.

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