Name: Tom Vaclavek
Office sought: School District 155 Board
Education: BS Media Arts – Univ. of Arizona 1996, JD – Chicago Kent College of Law 2000
Elected offices held: None
Social Media: http://www.facebook.com/TomVaclavekforD155/
1. What is your largest priority for District 155 if elected?
My top priority is to make sure every student in District 155 has the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential. My second biggest priority to be a good financial steward of the public’s tax dollars. There is no getting around that we have a property tax issue in McHenry County which is exacerbated by the state’s fiscal mismanagement. I pay property taxes on my home and business, so I share in this frustration, but I also strongly believe that great schools and fiscal responsibility do not have to be mutually exclusive. This District and our community have a lot to be proud of, but we face some challenges and I believe my years as a small business owner give me the skills needed to make a difference in the community I call home.
2. What changes should District 155 make in the future?
Education is changing. The needs of the market are changing as well. It is critical that D155 continue to provide workforce development opportunities for our students. Partnering with community stakeholders will provide those opportunities and will allow our community to remain relevant, healthy and attractive to families and businesses alike.
3. What are your thoughts on how District 155 has adjusted to enrollment changes?
It would appear the district has adjusted to enrollment changes by decreasing teaching staff in accordance with declining enrollment. The district also has one of the lower costs per student ratios for schools providing similar levels of excellent education so that is something we should be proud of. My time as an attorney and owning my own business has taught me that you must continue to evolve in order to succeed. But we also must remember that these are kids; not widgets. We cannot and should not over-correct and the board is tasked with making policy decisions that will last long after any of us are gone. If we can do more, I will certainly be open to that and will approach all opportunities with an independent measure like I do for my business and clients.
4. What direction do you believe that District 155 should head in the future with its property tax levy if enrollment projections hold?
The board needs to make sure it is doing everything it can to not over-burden the tax-payers while continuing to provide the education this community expects and deserves. Keeping a flat levy and/or decreasing the tax burden on the community is something we need to strive for. Continuing to innovate is important but so is making sure that we do so in a way that continues to allow our students to be prepared to succeed in whatever they choose to do when they graduate. I believe we can do that and still do everything we can to lower the burden placed on the taxpayers.
5. Do you believe that District 155 should consider closing one of its high school buildings in the future?
This is not an issue that should be taken lightly. Without more analysis, it is hard to say how the district should allocate its resources. I believe that we need to be fiscally responsible, but we need to be committed to looking at the short- and long-term consequences a decision of this magnitude would have on our students, the level of education the District provides and most importantly the community as a whole. It would be irresponsible for me to say one way or another without looking at more data.
6. How do you feel District 155 handled its recent teacher contract negotiation process? How do you feel about the resulting contract?
Since I was not a member of the board during the recent teacher contract negotiations, I do not feel that I am qualified to speak to the process. I understand that many in the community feel that government, as a whole, is not transparent. The board must continue, and build upon, its efforts to be more transparent so that the community has a sense of confidence that the direction of the board and the district is known to all. However, I was at the board meeting when the contract was passed and noted that the majority of the board felt it was fair and reasonable. It appears that the contract is within the normal range for teachers in the area as well. We must remember that great schools do not come without great educators, so we need to be sure that our teachers are being paid in line with what other teachers in the area are receiving so that they continue to produce results for our students.
7. How do you feel that District 155 has handled the disciplinary cases of teachers Matt Fralick, Rick Lima and Justin Hubly?
As an attorney, I understand that personnel matters are handled by the district confidentially. Determinations of wrong-doing are often met with difficulties based on due process requirements and privacy laws. I am confident that those responsible for the Human Resource oversight are doing their best on behalf of the students, the school and their employees. Since I am not involved in those discussions or privy to the details, I feel any further comment would be inappropriate.