CARY – Technology, better communication and maintaining balanced budgets are the concerns of the eight people on the April ballot for the District 26 school board.
Incumbents Floyd Myers and Julie Jette are joined by Jennifer Crick, Bradley Slavik, Bruce Ritter, Scott Epstein, Josh Howell and Christopher Christensen, as they vie for the four available board seats.
Howell and Christensen were members of the district’s strategic plan steering committee that helped plot the district’s mission and vision statements. They also serve as members of the district’s Community Engagement Committee. Both said they are concerned about fiscal responsibility and the need for a well-rounded education.
Christensen said board members need to improve their communication.
“If my time on the steering committee has taught me anything, it is that over the last two to three years, I think the board should have had more functions where we brought the different stakeholders of the community together,” Christensen said.
Howell said the district needs to prepare students by addressing technology needs.
“We should continue to address needed upgrades and repairs to aging buildings and the district’s technology needs,” Howell said.
Epstein has regularly attended District 26 board and committee meetings, and also is a member of the Community Engagement Committee.
He said his top two priorities would be to repair the relationship between the school board and teachers’ union and prepare for the upcoming negotiations because that contract expires next year. The district also needs to communicate better, Epstein said.
Epstein said he disagreed with the district’s purchase of SMART board bundles.
“I felt that money should have been spent on updating the district’s outdated hardware instead, especially since the PTOs had raised enough money to help update two of the school’s computer labs,” Epstein said.
Crick, also a member of the Community Engagement Committee, works as a developmental therapist and has been a first- and second-grade teacher.
She said she wants to continue reducing class size in the district and continue reintroducing specials in the district. She added the district needs to clearly state reasons behind each decision.
“One of my main goals would be to ensure the accuracy of the supporting details behind each decision, and to make sure each stakeholder in the district has access to information regarding and understanding of key decisions,” Crick said. “There needs to be clearly laid out action plans and accountability with said action plans. These are areas in which our district has been lacking for a long time now.”
Myers in recent meetings has been critical of the district’s technology plan. He said he wanted a comprehensive technology plan before spending large amounts of money on equipment upgrades.
“The introduction and expansion of technology into the D26 district must be planned and controlled,” Myers wrote in a candidate questionnaire to the Northwest Herald. “The possible actions from that plan must be put into priority order based on the current status of the district’s technology, the benefits of an action ... and, most importantly, the availability of funding based on the five-year financial plan.”
Jette is completing her first term on the board, a time when the district has made cuts and passed a referendum in order to avoid a state takeover. She also is proud of the district’s recent adoption of new language arts textbooks to bring common materials across the district.
Jette said she believes there are ways to structure personnel and benefits to allow the district to stretch tax dollars.
“We need to think outside the box because simply bringing back PE, music and art is not enough,” Jette said. “I would like to see emphasis placed on gifted education, band and foreign languages, as well as the continuing effort to lower class sizes.”
Slavik is a self-employed computer consultant.
He said he wants to increase the variety of classes students have, such as adding foreign language. Slavik said the board was unable to influence the administration from making cuts, other than the deep staffing cuts that occurred a few years ago.
He said there might have been other things to consider, such as determining if there are too many administrators, or if there is waste elsewhere.
“I want District 26 to be proud of the citizens it nurtures, and the students to not say that the school district (board, faculty, administration) let them down,” Slavik wrote in a candidate questionnaire to the Northwest Herald.
Ritter, 39, is a manager of vendor management for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. His family moved to the area four years ago from Barrington because of the schools, he said.
He has one child in second grade, and two in kindergarden.
He said he wants to bring a sense of “discipline to decision making” that takes place. Ritter said there needs to be hard figures of how much a purchase will cost before it’s approved, he said.
“It’s putting certain expectations on the administration, and holding [administrators] to them,” Ritter said.
He said there needs to be more open and honesty in the district. He acknowledged art and music are slated to come back next year, but with a deficit projected in 2017, he questioned whether those programs are sustainable.
“I’m happy something is coming back, but it’s a qualified happiness,” Ritter said.