Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs
  • Candidates
    • Edward Jepson, Jr.
    • Gina Sierra
    • Matthew Sinde
    • William Smithing
    • Ramona Towner

Board of Education candidates discuss goals

March 24, 2017

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To help inform the RB community about the upcoming school board elections, the Clarion reached out to all five board candidates. Each candidate was given a questionnaire with the same five questions, which are written below. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order. Minor proofreading changes were made.

Edward Jepson, Jr.

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What motivated you to run for a seat on the District 208 School Board?

I am a current Board Member and I have decided to run for re-election. I have children in District 208. I believe that the lessons taught in the last four years will make me an even better Board Member in the next four years.

 

What are your major goals as part of the School Board?

We need to continue to strive for academic excellence while maintaining fiscal responsibility. We need to ensure that we provide quality academic support to those students that have extra needs.

 

What is one major issue you want to change or deal with as a member of the School Board?

I would like to continue dealing with the Chromebook / one-to-one rollout to ensure the District and its students [are] getting the most from the investment. This means insisting that the Chromebooks continue to be used meaningfully and creatively in the curriculum and to the fullest extent possible.

 

What is your professional occupation and how will that experience help you serve as a Board of Education Member?

I am a Harvard Law School graduate and have practiced labor and employment law at the same large firm for 37 years. I believe my experience as a critical thinker and problem solver for clients, as well as my legal background, [has] enabled me to be an effective Board Member and will serve me well in the next four years.

 

How do you plan to deal with the pressure that comes with being a School Board Member?

I have largely dealt with this pressure by approaching issues in a thoughtful way and acting in what I believe is the best interest of the students, faculty, staff and community.

Gina Sierra

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What motivated you to run for a seat on the District #208 school board?

I’m running for the RB BOE because I very much believe in giving back to your community. I am passionate about education and volunteering my time in this manner allows me to both positively contribute to my community while participating in a field that I care about deeply. North Riverside has also historically been underrepresented on the RB BOE and I am hoping to change that with this election

 

What are your major goals as part of the school board?

One of my major goals would be to advocate for the district to undergo a formal strategic planning process with representation from all stakeholders (board members, administrators, teachers, parents, students, community members) to create future goals for the district in an effort to improve identify areas that need attention.

 

What is one major issue you want to change or deal with as a member of the school board?

While I believe RB does a good job providing a solid education for those students who are intrinsically motivated, my concern lies with students who are not eligible for AP classes or do not become involved in sports or activities. What is RB doing to help those students? According to the school website, the student engagement rate (students who are involved in at least 1 sport/activity) continues to hover in the low 60% range (2016-62%, 2015-65%, 2014-63%). What steps are the administration putting into place or can put into place to raise that number?

 

What is your professional occupation and how will that experience help you serve as a board of education member?

I am the Principal of Pennoyer School in Norridge School District 79. I have worked in the field of education for 23 years. I have worked as a classroom teacher, a reading specialist, an assistant principal, principal, PTA member, and board member. I will bring a unique perspective to the board both as an educator and as a resident from a community that has not been adequately represented on the board.

 

How do you plan to deal with the pressure that comes with being a school board member?

I feel as though I am well equipped to deal with the pressure of holding a seat on the board of education as I currently serve on the Komarek District 94 board.

Matthew Sinde

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What motivated you to run for a seat on the District #208 School Board?

[Four] years ago I ran for the school board because I was troubled by the lack of transparency and lack of management at the high school. The community did not trust the board or the high school administration. The high school needed to regain the trust of the community and be able to make the changes necessary to provide our students a sustainable education.

In the past [eight] years the School board has turned the school around by making the decisions that were needed to help address those issues from the hiring of a great administrative team to making decisions which have improved our financial status. We have implemented the 1 “1 to 1” program for our students and through the use of ECRA we can analyze what improvements we need to meet the individual needs of our students to succeed.

 

What are your major goals as part of the school board?

The main goal is to make sure that RB is providing a great education for our students. Our role is governance of the school through policies which helps support this goal. The Superintendent is responsible to report to the School Board of the work his Administrative team is doing for our student’s education.

Additionally, we must manage the finances of our school district to ensure the taxpayers of the District that their tax dollars are being spent to help make RB a great school. We do this by reviewing the budgets and spending throughout the school year. Our financial rating with the State is good which allowed RB to refinance the Construction Bonds at a lower rate.

 

What is the one major issue you want to change or deal with as a board member of the school board?

My next term I would like to focus on building a stronger relationship with our community college. There are students who will not go to a four year college but may want to pursue a trade or occupation. We have community colleges in the area that offer associate degrees and specializations in technical programs that can help secure a good job in under two years.

 

What is your professional occupation and how will that experience help you to serve as a board member?

I currently work with a retail sales team and help lead projects that will drive growth for our customers. This position requires me to work with other cross functional areas to help accomplish our goals. As a leader you must be able to assess what is … needed from each function and how to motivate them to meet the project goals. Each function has their own needs and the project leader must be able to motivate these groups to work together. This experience has provided me looking at all facts which will help me make an informed decision and the ability to work with diverse groups to accomplish goals.

 

How do you plan to deal with pressure that comes with being a school board member?

In my [eight] years on the board I have faced pressure on several issues. As a board member you must look at your main goal to make RB a great school which provides our students with a great education. The pressure will never affect me as long as the decision I make meets that goal.

William Smithing

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What motivated you to run for a seat on the District #208 school board?

As a Hollywood neighbor and father of three boys ([one] a current RBHS student and [two] future RBHS students) I was concerned about the projected parking lot and removal of the Tennis facilities at RBHS. The board rejected the communities’ ideas and suggestions on how to improve the plan to fit both the needs of the district and the neighborhood. When the City of Brookfield denied their permit request for this plan, [instead] of better negotiations and bargaining skills, the Board made the decision to sue their own village, asking tax paying citizens to fit the bill of litigation for both the district and the Village. This was the major motivating factor to joining the District #208 board. You have choices in life. I chose to get a clip board, get the needed signatures, and get involved.

 

What are your major goals as part of the school board?

I have three goals:

i. Live within our means, run a balanced budget. We are projected to have almost a 2 million dollar deficit by 2021. The board will need to look to the future for financial stability and prepare for needed growth

ii. We have an ever increasing student population in our feeder districts (96, 95, & 94). RBHS student to teacher ratio in 2011 was 20:1, last year it was 24:1, and currently we are projecting close to 26:1 ratio for next year. Though I have not seen a quantitative decrease in student scores I believe we need to develop a plan to take this disturbing trend in the other direction. I would like to note the IL state average is [a] 21:1 [student to teacher] ratio.

iii. I believe the [board’s] focus should be on the strategic planning for the district, determining the mission, vision and long range strategy. What the board decides today will determine how the district will be competitive and beneficial over the next 10, 20 to 30 years.

 

What is one major issue you want to change or deal with as a member of the school board?

I would like to develop and put in place a long range strategic plan for District 208. This plan would research the current state of reality in the context of the mission and vision, as well as stakeholder values and priorities for the districts future. External trends and government regulations would all be considered when developing strategic goals, objectives, and specific actions and timelines for implementation.

Almost 40% of our students go to 2 year community/trade school or join the work force after graduation. I would like us to evaluate the means that we are preparing these students for a productive career [choice]. There are many great opportunities available in skilled labor and trades as well as advanced manufacturing sectors which I feel should be given wider exposure. These fields provide good middle class jobs without significant student loan debt. We need to explore and explain these opportunities with Chicagoland businesses in an effort to give all of our students the greatest number of employment options into the future.

 

What is your professional occupation and how will that experience help you serve as a board of education member?

Manager Facility Design & Construction for United Airlines. My experiences in profit operations, both private restaurant and resorts, and now with the addition of United Airlines has provided me with a proven track record in project management, profit and loss management, and long range planning. These will be skills I would bring to the board.

 

How do you plan to deal with the pressure that comes with being a school board member?

I plan to listen to the community, educators, Students, and professionals. I am not going to know all the answers. With uncertainty comes pressures to make the correct decisions. How we deal with these stressful situations will define us as board members and decision makers. We (the board) will be faced with unprecedented changes and uncertainty both nationally and state wide as it pertains to our continued education and finances. There is no way to know how these entities will affect our local economy or district. I do know that together as a community focused on the best educational and emotional experience for our children and their children, today and into the future, we will do the right thing to ensure they succeed in whatever venture they choose.

Ramona Towner

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What motivated you to run for a seat on the District #208 school board?

I was motivated to run for school board for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I believe in community service. I want to stay involved with the community that I love so much. I would also like to support the district as it moves forward with its 1:1 program (1 mobile device for each student). Being a professional educator in a current 1:1 district gives me a unique perspective on curriculum, data driven instruction, and technology integration that other board members do not have.

 

What are your major goals as part of the school board?

One goal is to keep the 1:1 program moving forward by supporting a culture of collaboration, creativity and career readiness. I will also ensure that spending practices are aligned with district goals and objectives.

 

What are your major goals as part of the school board?

I would like to explore possible course options for students who may not be planning to go to college.

 

What is one major issue you want to change or deal with as a member of the school board?

I have been a professional educator for 26 years. I work in a district that has been 100% 1:1 for [five] years. In my current job as an instructional coach I help teachers integrate best practices to improve teaching and learning in their classroom. I have presented at local, state, regional and national conference on the subjects of coaching and technology integration over the past [three] years. I’m also an integral part of my district’s professional development team, planning and delivering teacher PD for the past [six] years.

 

How do you plan to deal with the pressure that comes with being a school board member?

Being a board member is not a singular effort. It is important to debate and collaborate with fellow board members. Getting to know them and working with them will be an important part of the on-boarding process. I look forward to having an opportunity to be part of the team. I am able to balance my personal and professional lives by reading, knitting, exercising, meditating, and spending time with family and friends.

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