Saying good-bye to Public Service
I recently completed my four-year term as an elected school board member in Cary, IL. I was elected in 2005, and decided not to run for re-election. At the last full board meeting I attended, I gave the following "farewell" comments.
First, and foremost, thanks and appreciation to my wife, Dolores for her support and understanding for the past 4 years of least 166 evenings and 3 weekends away from home. And to my daughter, Anna, who took advantage of all that Cary 26 had to offer her in her four years as a student here, and who continues to amaze me as she continues to excel in her high school education.
Four years ago this board set about to create goals for itself and the district. These included the following:
- Enable District 26 students to be competitive in a global economy of ideas
- Develop and implement a District strategic financial plan based upon systematic needs assessment
- Continually improve the District’s positive learning and teaching environment to enhance stakeholder satisfaction
- Promote two-way communications and involvement among all District stakeholders
- Establish operational consistency and efficiently throughout the District
We were told that these were challenging goals that would easily take 5 years to implement, by then Superintendent Mike Smith. The full board was in agreement that these were goals that reflected the community’s new core beliefs, and direction provided in the 2005 election, and we were committed to these and to the administrative leaders who would help us in achieving these.
For the past four years, the Cary District 26 Board of Education has focused on these goals, with the understanding that what we do - in creating policy, reviewing administrative recommendations and approving expenditures – should be focused first and foremost on improving student achievement for all students in District 26. This has been, and continues to the primary focus of this board. And I am grateful for the ability to have participated in many positive, enriching, and break-through initiatives undertaken by this school district in the past 4 years.
Under the goal of “enabling D26 students to be competitive in a global economy of ideas” we have:
- Established D26 Learning Expectations – allowing parents to know what their children will learn each year for each subject area, and provide teachers a district-wide consistent set of expectations for instructional delivery.
- Created policy that requires pilot study of all new curriculum, to ensure that it fits within the needs of our students and teachers
- Created a Curriculum committee that provides board oversight in the direction of curriculum development and review
- Improved curriculum alignment and freshman-year placement with D155, for both Cary-Grove and Prairie Hill schools
- Established improved instructional delivery for our ELL students through a program initiated by our Superintendent when he was the principal at Briargate school
- Restored our Gifted program, utilizing parental involvement and creative and thoughtful scheduling at PH and CJH.
Under the goal of “operational consistency and efficiency” we have:
- Reduced our dependency on SEDOM services, through creative and improved programming and staffing for the special services delivery
- Lead the county in preparing for and rolling out Response-to-Intervention initiative for our special needs students. We have continued to improve our service to these children for the past 3 years, including the creation of an in-district autism program that is now drawing tuition students from surrounding districts.
- Improved in-service and continuing professional development for our certified staff, including drawing upon their expertise to provide challenging and engaging classroom experiences for our students
Under the goal of “Improving the positive learning and teaching environments” we have:
- Two successful negotiated contracts with our certified staff
- Provided an additional planning hour each day for classroom teachers
- Approved class size limits, and cost-effective support personnel when student population exceeds these limits
- Promoted and lead-by-example in classroom and building volunteers
Under the goal of “promoting two-way communication and involvement” we have:
- Opened up committee meetings to allow input from attendees into the discussion and debate
- Created an annual Curriculum hearing, allowing parents and other community members, a forum for constructive comments to improve our student’s educational opportunities
- Established communication standards to allow parents to understand district, school, classroom and student progress in easy-to-understand language – aligned with our Learning Expectations
- Continue to support Edline as a channel to communicate district, school, classroom and student news and achievement
Under the goal of “strategic financial operations plan” we have:
- Reduced certified staff by nearly 9% since 2007, reflecting a similar reduction in student enrollment
- Reduced certified staff retirement increase amount and eliminated district penalties for early retirement options
- Improved financial management though contracting with ADP for payroll services and timekeeping
- Improved transparency in bidding and contract awarding
- Established the first “no pay-to-play” financial policy in the state of IL
- Established benchmarks for fund balanced requirements
- Established the first balanced budget financial policy, six months before it became required by law
- Initiated zero-based budget planning for 2009-2010 fiscal year
This last goal has been the most challenging, as I have worked with three different business managers in my four years on the board. School financing, as I have come to understand it, is less about accounting and accountability, and more about positioning your needs to the state to grab a piece of the educational funding that may or may not be passed by the General Assembly. I challenge the new board to demand stronger business and financial education requirements for business and operations managers that the State certifies to work in public education. Public education needs more financial knowledge and expertise to ensure that the public’s money is being spent effectively and efficiently. I am proud of the effort that this board has done to demand transparent – and accountable – financial management practices.
I have truly enjoyed my four years on the Cary 26 school board. The time I have spent with teachers, administrators, support personnel, students and parents has been enriching and, well - educational. I have always been a supporter of public education, and the role it has had in shaping both my life and the history and future of America. It is a noble institution and should be proud of the many graduates who have gone on to shape the arts, business, education, sports, politics, and science and technology in America. I’m proud to have been a part of this here in Cary, IL.
And finally I am proud to have known and worked with the men and women who have served as school board members during the past four years. I want to thank each and every one of you here for what you have taught me – that being an effective board member is not about being heard, but being understood. You have challenged me to refine my ideas, to focus my arguments and to listen carefully to your critique and commendation. You have encouraged me in my leadership skills and have given me greater comprehension in public financing. Thank you for these gifts.
And to my 2005 running mates, Chris Jenner, Dave Ruelle and Craig Loew, I say: thanks for the memories and you have my full and unwavering support on April 7th.
Labels: cary, education, public service, school board