GEL ELECTION PROFILE: Glen Ellyn School District 87 Questions 11-15

Question 11: What is your position on implementing late days instead of full snow days?

Luke Bear: I believe snow days are disruptive and cost money and thus would try and limit the number of snow days. I would therefore be open to ½ day snow days. However, I have not studied the underlying interests on this issue and thus would defer a detailed answer until I heard from the teachers, parents, students and administration.

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Donald Birns: Over the last ten years that I have had students in the district, I feel that the schools have done a good job of limiting the number of snow days the best they can. I think that the logistics of a sudden / unscheduled late day are more difficult and have the potential for problems than a full snow day. I might be mistaken but I only recall two or three times over the last ten years where the end of the school has been impacted and then it was only a day.

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Yadav Nathwani: It depends on the weather conditions at the time. It may make sense to implement late days as long as student safety is not sacrificed and the days are communicated to the entire school.

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Don Pydo: Although I think this question probably has more relevance at the grade school level—where I would tend to favor late days instead of full snow days—the logistics of doing so at the four Glenbards becomes a much more cumbersome process due to the complex transportation schedule associated with such a large district.

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John Snyder: The Board’s primary responsibility is policy. I would look to the Administration to determine the best solution to this issue from a cost, academic requirement and convenience perspective.

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F. Thomas Voltaggio: Unscheduled late days present formidable logistical challenges for a district the size of Glenbard. I do not feel that snow days have been a major disruption in the time I have served on the Board.

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Question 12: Currently, sport activities are an additional fee paid by parents. What are your thoughts on this? For what reasons should these fees be increased?

Luke Baer: The primary role of high schools is to assure students achieve their maximum academic potential. Budget restrictions should therefore impact first non academic activities.

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Donald Birns: At the high school level, organized sports are an activity that not all students can necessarily participate in. For this reason I fell that any additional costs associated with the sport should be borne by those participating.

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Yadav Nathwani: In my opinion, it does not make sense for the Board to subsidize the ticket costs for sporting events. The fees should be increased if there is a direct positive affect on those particular programs.

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Don Pydo: By listening to direct input from the community, and increasing sports activity fees several years ago, D87 was able to retain extracurricular programs in the aftermath of two failed referenda and resulting budget cuts. Although not a perfect solution, I would concur that it is preferable to “pay to play” than not play at all. I would only agree to raising fees as a last resort to activity cuts—and in consideration of harsh economic times for many students and their families, would like to see the board continue to explore possible fee reductions.

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John Snyder: Fees were increased in recent years to address revenue shortfall in prior years when the school was running a deficit. The Board has set an objective of lowering fees over time.

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F. Thomas Voltaggio: We have charged athletic fees for many years. In 2005, the Board raised these fees substantially to enable athletic programs to remain during those stressful financial times. We have since made a modest reduction. I am not opposed to some form of user fees for these activities, however, I would like to see the fee reduced from their current levels.

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Question 13: What is your position on class size? Are current District 87 guidelines compatible with your expectations? Do you think that current class size targets meet the needs of our students? Explain…

Luke Baer: District 87 average class size is 24.4 versus the state average of 19.6. I have been told by teachers that the District’s class size is pushing the envelope. I have no facts by which to challenge that assertion. If elected to the Board I would look at national data as well as international data on that issue.

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Donald Birns: It is my understanding that at the present time the average class size in District 87 is higher than the state average. This said I do feel as a parent that my children’s education has not been adversely affected by the size of the classroom. I do feel that the topic does need to be looked at and addressed as necessary.

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Yadav Nathwani: Based on my study on this issue the class size does not affect the students learning experience. I think a class size of 20-30 is appropriate. It is my understanding that the average classroom size is 23 students.

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Don Pydo: I am comfortable with Glenbard’s current class sizes, and feel that the targets are meeting the academic and curricular needs of our students.

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John Snyder: Class size should reflect the community desire for small classes, teaching best practice and the funds available to support the academic program. As a college adjunct professor, I am aware of the challenges of teaching a class that is either too big or too small for the assigned teaching format and available support facilities. The District’s running of 4 local high schools supports our current moderate class sizes, family desires for local schools - this is a good model for the future.

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F. Thomas Voltaggio: I believe our current class sizes and guidelines reflect a compromise between the desire for smaller classes and the economic reality of paying for them. I believe the success of our students in their years at Glenbard and beyond validates the notion that their needs are met.

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Question 14: For what purposes do you think cash reserves should be used?

Luke Baer: My general view is that a balanced budget is critical and thus reserves should be used for short term, within a budget year, deficit spending.

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Donald Birns: It is necessary to establish and maintain a balanced budget and that cash reserves should only be used on a limited basis and it should be assumed that they will be replenished in the short term.

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Yadav Nathwani: Cash Reserves should be used to: 1 Pull the system thru tough economic times and 2 Exclusive emergency purposes. It is important for the school to build reserves and avoid wasteful spending in future budgets.

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Don Pydo: Cash reserves have not been an issue at D87 over the past few years; on the contrary, the district has struggled to emerge from multi-million-dollar deficits. If faced with such a “dilemma,” however, my inclination would be to keep a tight rein, and use reserves judiciously as a means of avoiding disruptive program cuts.

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John Snyder: To even out cash flow differences between revenues and expenditures in support of
program quality.

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F. Thomas Voltaggio: Cash reserves provide the cushion for the times when expenditures exceed revenues.

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Question 15: CPI for 2008 was 0.1% and it is expected that CPI will be again be quite low for 2009. This will greatly influence the budget for school years 2010-2011 and beyond. What strategies/changes should the Board/District employ to deal with expenditures outpacing revenues?

Luke Baer: Defer capital expenditures where feasible and look for ways to streamline compliance with special mandated programs.

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Donald Birns: According to the papers, I believe the board has already reduced the budget by 2 million dollars. If additional cuts are necessary they will need to defer capital expenditures as possible.

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Yadav Nathwani: The Board should look into consolidating or sharing the cost of items with other public/private institutions. Also, the Board should go thru existing programs and see if it makes sense to combine these programs. Doing this while keeping in mind the districts mission to provide first-rate education.

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Don Pydo: The drop in CPI, and its effect on school funding, is the most serious issue facing D87. Now is not too soon for the board to start preparing for revenue shortfalls that will occur in the 2010-11 school year. As businesses are routinely doing throughout the country, the board must tighten spending, and consider incremental reduction across all funds in order to minimize the impact on any one area of the budget. Slowing the rate of expense growth should offer D87 the best opportunity to manage through the rough waters that are looming ahead.

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John Snyder: Growth in D87 revenues is capped at the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or 5 % -whichever is lower. The CPI in recent years has been in the range of 3-4 %. However, due to the recent national economic slowdown, the CPI for 2008 was 0.1%. This will lead to a leveling off – not a decline in school revenue growth for the 2009-2010 year. It is uncertain what the CPI will be for 2009 as recent economic news may point to an economic rebound late in 2009. However, most likely, the CPI will be quite low for the year – leaving the District with a second consecutive year of very slow revenue growth. After, that, however, it is quite possible that the Federal stimulus package passed by Congress may lead to a rebirth of inflation and thus higher CPI numbers after 2010.

There is no financial crisis at D87. The District runs a $ 125 million budget and will end the 2008-2009 school year with a surplus. And, as mentioned above D87 maintains a 3.9 out of 4.0 Recognition rating with the State Department of Education.

Clearly however, the District faces a cost squeeze for the next couple of years. Major efforts to manage this should focus on the following – while maintaining the 7th period, the move from 21 to 23 credits and the advanced placement/AP
track.

*Consider delaying a $ 500,000 to $ 700,000 replacement of the “out of warranty” District telephone system if school wide safety is deemed to not be an issue.
*Reevaluate Energy Conservation capital expenditures which have been justified on a 10 year payback – 1-3 years is more common in private industry.
*Staffing must be reviewed to identify cost reduction opportunities through attrition.
*Review admin:pupil staffing levels

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F. Thomas Voltaggio: The drop in the CPI in 2008 to 0.1% impacts revenues for the 2010-2011 school year. In simple terms, the District will receive the same funding in that year as it will receive for the 2009-2010 school year. We will need to continue to manage our expenditures carefully as we have done over the past four years when the District converted a $24 million accumulated deficit into a $3 million surplus.

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