Why are we running for the Bremen High School District 228 Board of Education?

We have passionate confidence in our school system, its fine curriculum, its extra-curricular program, and its professional staff to do what we know it does best: Provide our youth with an excellent education and with outstanding opportunities for personal growth and development as they become young adults. Our fine system needs support from its Board of Education, including attainable goals, consistent policy, positive public relations, reasonable oversight, responsible funding, and forward-looking planning — all for the benefit of its students, parents, taxpayers, property owners, and communities. We have, during our tenure on the board, demonstrated the experience, integrity, independence, focus and drive to contribute to this on-going process, and our efforts have paid off in tangible ways that our stakeholders can see; and we are willing to dedicate our time and energy to continue keeping our schools on the cutting edge of best practice in education, solvent in their fiscal management, and positive in their image and outlook in our community.

How do we view Bremen High School District 228?

Our school district is a community of diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, religions and socio-economic backgrounds, all focused with common purpose on the education, growth, success and well-being of its youth. As such, it has developed and maintained a fine educational program suited both to its local needs and committed to the preparation of its students to meet their future needs, and in the last four years made remarkable strides in educational innovation, cutting edge technology, service to the individual needs of its students. Faced with the disproportionate financial burden on local homeowners and a tax base with little commercial and industrial property, the challenge of meeting the district’s goals with the resources it has is often frustrating; but the Board of Education, the Superintendent, and his experienced team of administrative leaders, as well as the entire staff of dedicated professionals have met the challenge with determination and creativity, mindful of our mutual and collective responsibility to both students and taxpayers.

How does Bremen High School District 228 serve as a common denominator in our diverse communities?

The school district itself is a marvelous synthesis or melting-pot of ALL of our communities, each one contributing the best of its talent, creativity, experience and cultural flavor to the “stew” that, in cross-section, gives every student, no matter what school he attends, a cosmopolitan world view and real-time experience in dealing with and benefiting from cultural diversity. That multi-dimensional “school community” is an educational “gene-pool” that is far superior in teaching problem-solving and learning understanding than a school system isolated from the complexities of the real world.

What do we perceive to be the district’s major strengths and weaknesses?

The district’s greatest strength lies in the partnership of its stakeholders. Their mutual commitment to education is evident in the determination of parents, the enthusiasm of students, the dedication of teachers, the professionalism of administrators, and the willingness of taxpayers to be shareholders in a school system of which all can be justly proud. They, together with the board, have forged a partnership in which differences may be evident, approaches often vary, and strategies sometimes clash; but the ultimate goal remains the same: Providing our students with the very best education possible as that which they can and should expect from all of us working together. The district’s greatest weakness lies in the antiquated method of financing education in Illinois and the industry-poor tax base upon which we have to rely for 62% of our funding. The cost of education falls disproportionately upon the local homeowner; and the state is at or near the bottom of the forty-nine others in its funding of this essential service. The challenge for the district stakeholders, and for us as members of the Board of Education in particular, lies in meeting our goals while remaining fiscally responsible and financially solvent, namely, of providing the best for the least. This requires that we apply for every grant and seek every dollar to which we are entitled, and it often requires creative financing on the district’s part and the responsible utilization of legitimate options in securing viable funding to supplement revenue from property taxes. And this we have consistently done for the benefit of our constituents.

What particular strengths and experience do we bring to the board?

Between the four of us, we have decades of career experience in public education, in the law, in government, in community service, and in public finance. We all have served on the Board of Education of District 228, some of us more than one term, and know the district well. Some of us currently serve as directors and officers of local, state and even national not-for profit entities and corporations. We understand school law and school finance, work at problem-solving with a collaborative approach, and have the integrity and ethics that build trust, establish confidence, defuse animosity and divisiveness, and foster mutual cooperation. The cohesiveness of the present board and its singleminded, most often unanimous, consensus on all issues from teaching and learning, to finance, to personnel, to capital improvement, to policy, and to projecting a positive image to the community is testimony to how well and how efficiently we work together. We are also communicators whose goal it is always to be upfront in all our dealings and honest with our constituents.

What do we envision our highest priority to be?

Besides our overriding priority of serving the district’s students, we are focused, in the interest of ALL district stakeholders, on exercising the wisest stewardship of taxpayer dollars, on providing our students the very best education possible, and on demonstrating the highest standards of personal integrity, responsibility, fairness, honesty and decency as public servants. Unless our constituents feel that they can trust us, that we are telling them the truth, and that we are not undermining our own progress by fighting among ourselves, our best efforts will always be suspect, and our sincerity will always be questioned. Nothing really gets accomplished in such an environment.

What do we perceive to be the proper relationship of a school board member to the superintendent, fellow board members, staff and students?

The chief responsibility of the board is to hire a professionally competent, “savvy,” hardworking and focused superintendent, whose vision, skill and determination to lead our district are evident, not just in talk but in action. Since 2007, we have that chief administrator in the person of Dr. Bill Kendall, who is completely professional, unquestionably capable, thoroughly trustworthy, scrupulously ethical, and a consistent example of integrity and high standards. The superintendent must be permitted to administer the district according to the board’s vision, policy and directives without unnecessary interference. Board members should function with mutual respect as a cohesive group to set policy, provide funding, and work with the superintendent without micro-managing the schools. Dealing with the staff and students is the job of professional administrators. We as board members are to demonstrate keen interest, due diligence, and proper concern for all stakeholders; but hands-on interference is always ill-advised and is generally counter-productive.

What do we see as the single most important challenge facing our schools?

We need to be just as efficient as possible in educating our youth, so that scarce money is not wasted. The challenge is simple, though not always achievable: To provide the best for the least. It takes a lot of hard work to take on and meet such a challenge, and the results are sometimes mixed. But that’s the challenge we face every single day, board members, administrators, and staff. The age-old dilemma of trying to finance champagne tastes on a beer budget isn’t really the problem. We’re not looking for “frills” and unnecessary gadgetry; yet, we have to scrutinize every expenditure to make sure that it contributes to the education, safety and well-being of the district’s most precious asset, its kids! At the same time, we dare not cut necessary spending at their expense. That’s simply not an option.

Do we subscribe to and follow to the best of our ability the Code of Conduct for school board members adopted and published by the Illinois Association of School Boards?

Yes, without reservation. And, as to campaign support, we are not funded by any political action committee, nor are we affiliated at present with any such organization. Nevertheless we will accept the good-faith endorsement of district-based committees and organizations, provided that there is no stated or implied quid pro quo for such endorsement. We have no private agendas and have no axes to grind. And, although we are happy to run for re-election as a group, we are independent and objective individuals and are in no one’s “hip pocket.”

We are grateful for your having taken the time to read through our position statements, and