School Board Candidate Profile: James Landahl

James Landahl is one of six candidates vying for three school board positions.  The election will be held in April.

Courtesy of James Landahl

James Landahl is one of six candidates vying for three school board positions. The election will be held in April.

James Landahl, School Board Candidate

Tell Clarion about your background, focusing on information that might be relevant to voters.

I have been a resident of Brookfield for 20 years and married to Elaine for 21 years.  We decided to buy a home and raise a family here because it was affordable and the qualities of the schools were improving. We sent our children to Brook Park School Elementary, SE Gross Middle School and Riverside Brookfield HS. We are excited about sending our third child to RB this fall.  Employed in the Logistics and Distribution industry I need to collaborate with a variety of people from around the nation and the world to develop strategic plans.  The skills necessary to survive in my industry is the ability to communicate effectively which includes listening and consider a wide range of divergent opinions.  You need to compromise and be decisive.  If there are failures within the process you need to address them immediately and provide corrective action.

I have been fortunate to be a member of the Board of Education in District 95 Brookfield/LaGrange Park.  The District has had profound changes that include a landmark groundbreaking teacher contract that reflects the economic times we live in today. Due to the collaborative nature of the Board, Administrators and dedicated Professional Educators have experienced an increase in student performance where more children are better prepared for High School. My role as Board member has given me the opportunity to meet with many parents, Board Members, and Legislators from around the State to discuss the issues of student performance, Administration and Teacher accountability, Educational Reform Act, Employee pension reform, Technology integration into the curriculum and Common Core Educational Standards. We have addressed the ineffective way the State of Illinois collects and distributes funds for Education and local fiscal accountability. This includes what is and is not appropriate to support a high achieving school. Knowledge in these areas will allow me to be an effective and collaborative representative as we set the course for the future of Riverside Brookfield High school.

What made you decide to run for RB school board?

I have met with many community members from around District 208 who have expressed their concerns and compliments.   I feel I can represent families who want to ensure RB maintains a high standard for student performance, provide opportunities for all students, and maintain a safe and healthy learning and working environment. We want to attract and retain highly qualified Professional Educators and Administrators who design the curriculum and drive student performance; who are effective classroom managers, accountable to students and parents, and during the day are responsible for the welfare and safety of our young adults. We want to make sure we are not over spending but conversely avoid underfunding our local school and negatively impacting student performance and property values. The skills I have developed in my profession and the experience with District 95 l can be an effective and collaborative representative

What is one attribute that you have that sets you apart from the other candidates?  Why?

Passion. I believe in public education and its ability to provide a positive, productive environment for our young adults. I believe in its mission to provide a standard intellectual foundation for our youth. All students have the ability and desire to learn, have a unique interest and want to be successful; however, it requires quality personnel and a system that works in their favor so students can identify and nurture their potential and develop their interests.

What do you see as the single greatest challenge facing RB right now?  How would you like to see the Board address that challenge?

Fiscal constraints that limit our ability to provide the necessary resources to maintain RB’s high standards and competitive advantage. The next Board will need to develop and implement a 5 year academic and fiscal strategic plan so families who live in our community and families that want to buy a home in our community understand the priorities and direction of the local high school.

RB has undergone many changes over the last several years in order to lower expenses, including the shrinking of its teaching staff, an overall increase in class size, and the elimination of several clubs.  What changes, if any, do you see RB making or needing to make in the next few years?  Why?

In education data drives decisions. The results of the recent changes may not manifest itself for a year or two possibly longer. However, administrators and the community have access to information and data from neighboring school districts that have experienced similar financial constraints to determine the impact budget cuts have on the effectiveness of schools. A decrease in teaching staff limits class offerings and impacts schedule flexibility.  There is national debate whether larger class sizes effect student performance. At RB the top 25% of student population may not be effected by larger class sizes and your top 10% of student performers will always be awarded attractive scholarships and go on to the top Universities in the Nation. In the long term will they outperform the top 25% of students that had the benefit of smaller class sizes? I am more concerned the effect of larger class sizes will have on the average to low performing student population. Students that need more time to process information, ask more questions in class, or have short attention spans. What impact does larger class sizes have on actual teaching time?  Less teaching time means wasting tax dollars.  Decrease in teaching positions mean less intervention programs and specific guided study programs supervised by unqualified staff.  Fewer adults in the building mean less supervision to insure a safe environment. These are issues that the next Board will need to discuss and come to a compromise so the District can be fiscally accountable to the community and still provide a productive high achieving environment.

Is there anything else you would like the RB community to know about you as a person and as a nominee?

I have enjoyed being part of community activities.  It gives us a chance to meet our neighbors, develop lifelong relationships and raise our families together; I get involved to be part of the solution and make a difference in a young person’s life.  As a nominee I look forward to the election process, meeting with people in the community and discussing the challenges public education is faced with today. I will work hard, listen, look for commonality, compromise and do everything I can to represent the interests of the community with the best of intentions.