Eight candidates will vie for four open Kaneland School Board trustee seats on the April 7 Consolidated Election ballot.
Jerry Elliott is one of four non-incumbent candidates seeking a seat on the Kaneland School Board on the April 7 Consolidated Election ballot.
Elliott believes his business experience provides insight into school business transactions and financial transparency to serve the public’s investment into the education system while seeking the highest delivery quality for Kaneland children.
Elliott served as factory superintendent for Caterpillar Inc. in Aurora from 1966 until 2000, and as vice president for Cascade Manufacturing Co. in Yorkville from 2001 to 2004. Since 2008, Elliott has served as Sugar Grove Water Authority Board trustee and treasurer, with duties including all financial transactions, budget, levy and financial reports.
“I will bring sharp questions, innovative ideas, and fresh energy to (the Kaneland) board, with new eyes and an opportunity to share my perspective with my fellow board members,” Elliott said. “I will follow established routines, board policies, state laws and effective protocols in the establishment of lasting change. I want to be the most possible advocate for our community’s education vision and values while, as a board, acting together with dignity, fairness and teamwork.”
Elliott said he would like to offer his services as trustee to represent the needs and desires of the community for educational excellence at Kaneland School District while establishing a financial balance that offers district property owners tax containment.
“I have the available time and energy to provide my service as the need may dictate,” Elliott said. “I will blend my priorities, as well as the priorities of people I am serving, into the communications I offer my fellow board members. We as a unified board can cohesively establish common policies serving our legislative, administrative and judicial areas of responsibility for the Kaneland School District.”
Elliott’s priorities as a prospective School Board trustee include tax containment; limiting manpower spending increases to no more than CPI; ensuring open bidding of contracts; and refunding of existing bond debt to lower the interest rate.
Elliott also believes Kaneland’s K-5 grade test scores need significant improvement and wants to increase instruction minutes for Individual Education Plan execution and stronger programs, as well as homework for writing skills.
Elliott’s final priority is to develop an effective school board.
“(I want to) participate in professional development and commit the time and energy necessary to be informed and effective leaders,” Elliott said. “(I want to) be understanding of Kaneland’s vision, goals and policies pertaining to the educational environment in our community, with knowledge of the aspirations and expectations of students, parents and taxpayers.”
Elliott said he intends to be aware of his position as a team member of this board, and will do his best to help fellow board members inclusive of him to function as a whole unified assembly representing the Kaneland School District.
Ryan Kerry is one of four non-incumbent candidates in pursuit of a seat on the Kaneland School Board this spring.
He said he sees board trustees as a group that works with the administration to set long-term goals and plans, both financially and academically.
“I have served on the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) for the last year and a half, and I think that the board could do a better job of managing the financial aspects of the district,” Kerry said. “Also, the board does not seem to function well as a group. These reasons have led me to run for the board.”
Kerry believes his education and experience make him a good candidate for trustee.
“I have worked in the business field for most of my career and understand how important financial management is to an organization,” he said. “I have also served on two different statewide boards that have given me experience working on a board.”
Kerry’s priorities as a prospective trustee include: reducing the district’s expenses by refinancing the 2008 bond issue; increasing district test scores by working with administration to set higher goals for the district; publically bidding all contracts over $15,000.
“I plan to work with the other board members and the administration to meet these goals,” Kerry said. “It’s the board working together that will improve the district.”
Peter Lopatin was appointed to the role of Kaneland School Board trustee in 2013.
Two years later, he’s one of eight candidates vying for four open seats on the School Board.
In addition to his current role as a member of the Kaneland School Board, Lopatin said he has had the privilege of serving on the boards of a clinic for the uninsured (as president, treasurer, member), Sugar Grove Friends of the Library, and most recently on the Kaneland Arts Initiative, where he currently serves as treasurer.
Lopatin said school board members have a responsibility to serve as an advocate for the community interest, and that is to ensure that the district administration is thoughtful in its recommendations regarding the education of youth, efficient in its use of resources and transparent in its actions.
“As a school board member, it is critical that a balance be maintained among these interests, and that the district superintendent be able to provide real leadership in all these areas,” Lopatin said.
Lopatin said he applied for a vacancy on the Kaneland School Board in 2013 because he believed that the board needed to become more effective, more strategic and more thoughtful in its deliberations—and that his skills and passions would bring those abilities to the district.
“I have demonstrated my ability to quickly master the complex issues facing the district,” Lopatin said. “I bring reasoned and thoughtful consideration into each meeting, I treat district staff with respect, and I challenge simple assumptions, whether from staff or my fellow board members.”
Priorities Lopatin wants to see addressed by the School Board include the successful onboarding of Kaneland’s recently-appointed superintendent, Dr. Todd Leden.
“I think it is critical for the board to develop an open and positive working relationship with Dr. Leden, and to work collaboratively in the development of a clear vision for District 302,” Lopatin said. “I believe that my skills at strategic planning, facilitation and collaboration will enhance our district’s ability to complete this in an effective and efficient manner.”
Lopatin also wants to see contingency planning and preparation for financial challenges forced on the district through state action (or inaction).
“Inadequate funding for public education, coupled with the potential shifting of costs to local districts, is a real concern in the near- and long-term,” Lopatin said. “My role as a board member is to ensure that district staff fully understands the implications, presents realistic recommendations, and functions with transparency so that the board can carry out its responsibilities.
Lopatin’s final priority involves successful negotiation of labor contracts with the KEA and SPEAK.
“The district needs to address how to make Kaneland an attractive choice for qualified instructors, and a destination district that retains the best. This is what our students deserve,” Lopatin said. “Establishing contracts that are fair and sustainable is a critical issue. My participation in this process will keep students, staff and taxpayer needs in balance.”
Lopatin believes he has demonstrated his abilities as a forceful communicator and questioner on the board.
“I ask the big questions and expect accountability from district staff,” he said. “I seek consensus, but I am not afraid of confrontation when it serves the needs of the community.”
Dan Nagel is one of four non-incumbent candidates for Kaneland School Board trustee. He said he has the time and expertise to dedicate himself to investigation of board issues, and believes his extensive business experience is an asset in knowing where to look for the answers and execute a plan.
“As a board member, you have a fiduciary responsibility for the education of taxpayer’s children and for cost effectiveness for the taxpayer themselves, since they finance 92 percent of the total District 302 budget,” Nagel said.
Nagel has served on numerous public boards in Kane County, and was Sugar Grove Township supervisor from 2004 to 2012. He is a founder of Hope & Promise for Boots and Hooves, a not-for-profit that provides equine therapy for veterans, and currently serves on its board. He has also been an active participant with the Kaneland Financial Advisory Committee the past three and a half years.
Nagel’s goals as School Board trustee include providing and fostering a safe learning environment, and setting and obtaining reasonable goals for improvement in the education of the taxpayers’ children. He said he also wants to see transparency throughout the school system, including open bidding on any contract over $10,000; errors and omissions insurance for general contractors, architects, accountants and lawyers; and release all results in a universal format to the taxpayer.
Nagel also said he wants to Implement financial stabilization of the Kaneland budget to rightfully effect the real estate market and values (EAV) in the School District.
To achieve his goals as a trustee, Nagel intends to implement social/emotional learning standards and anti-bullying programs according to Illinois statutes and mandates, and believes this will facilitate change and bring about a safe educational environment and increase student performance.
Nagel said he wants to implement performance timetables to measure progress of goals, set by the board, for superintendents, staff and teachers.
Nagel’s additional goals include: financial compliance with GASB guidelines; reduction of interest rates on bond issues; institution of an open-bidding process and nepotism policy; and publishing district organizational chart for all employees on a monthly basis. He also wants to help School Board trustees operate with a keen awareness and anticipation on how educational and financial matters impact the short- and long-term stabilization of District 302.
“Due to District 302’s previous pension liability, starting in 2016 we must include a $2,650,000 pension liability payment in our existing budget each year for the next 40 years,” Nagel said.
Nagel said he has been a supporter and strong voice in the community since 1961, namely as a proud father of three children—all graduates of the Kaneland School system—a devout husband, business owner of various companies, and as a concerned citizen.
“Being elected as a District 302 Board member means taking an active role in collaborating with taxpayers/parents/guardians, teachers, administrators and villages, and serving as the best advocates for our children’s rights, education and the community at large,” he said.
Kaneland School Board incumbent trustee candidate Gale Pavlak ran for the position in 2010, and common sense on the board was the one thing she felt was most important.
Not only does she still feel that way—she believes it’s now more true than before.
Pavlak has 40 years of experience in the human resources field. In addition to being a member of St. Gall Catholic Church in Elburn, Pavlak is involved in teaching there, serves on the church’s Building Committee and ushers and greets at selected services.
Pavlak believes that the School Board is meeting its responsibilities when it clarifies the district’s purpose by adopting goals and policies that reflect its community values, as well as state requirements. She said the board insures that the superintendent and staff work in alignment with those community needs and values.
“The board is in a position to monitor district performance and to gauge progress toward meeting district goals and compliance with district policies,” Pavlak said. “The board must provide for the financial and human resources necessary for the desired aim and goals, and insure the wise use of those resources.”
The Kaneland School District educated two of Pavlak’s children. As someone who believes in paying it forward, she believes the best way she can do so is to insure that the sons and daughters coming through this district have the best education possible within the resources available.
“Working to provide the best education possible for our children within the budget constraints that we are experiencing in the state of Illinois—and in this general economic climate—takes a strong commitment. I have proven that commitment,” Pavlak said. “I value the service of Kaneland candidates and would hope that they bring some level of knowledge and familiarity with our district issues. At the same time, I would hope that they would not be driven by crusading for a certain vendetta or have an ax to grind. Those kinds of personal agendas do not serve the community very well, and are counterproductive to School Board governance.”
Pavlak is seeking re-election because of her strong desire to serve children and the Kaneland district. She said her 40 years of employment in the human resources field taught her the importance of education, along with the standards set by her own parents. She believes education changes with the needs of industry requirements and technology, and she remains current with what those needs are.
“I’ve witnessed how these needs impact the lives of our children going forward, and understand the importance of good public education,” Pavlak said. “As I would expect continued professional development from our Kaneland teachers, I have participated in yearly board training and professional development to become a better board member. I have shown the willingness to spend the time required to become well-informed, and to do the homework needed to take part effectively in the board and committee meetings.
“I have been a good board member in that I have tried to work as a member of a team, including having an open mind and an ability to engage in productive, respectful discussions,” she said.
Should Pavlak achieve re-election, her priorities on the board will include creating a fair, supportive culture for Kaneland’s recently appointed superintendent, Dr. Todd Leden, so that he can be effective and accountable in meeting the district’s goals.
“Our relationship with him must consist of mutual respect and a clear understanding of respective expectations,” Pavlak said. “In order to do this, the Board of Education must take full responsibility for its behavior and its activity—the work it chooses to do and how it chooses to do it. Let us not run anyone else away from Kaneland.”
Pavlak said she wants to come to a fair and reasonable agreement with both collective bargaining units in the School District.
”The negotiations process to be used is an “interest-based” approach in which both sides find common ground,” she said.
Pavlak also wants to update the district’s strategic plan to provide the vision and goals necessary to meet the district’s mission, and continue to provide the education that children need to be successful in college, career and community.
“With the possibility of a new board being seated in a few months, I would hope that there is a concerted effort made up to that point, and then afterward, that the needs and education of our children are at the top of the list. There is nothing more important,” she said. “It is a serious responsibility to serve on the School Board, and I pledge to be conscientious in meeting that responsibility. I am committed to transparency and looking out for the best interests of all of our students and citizens.”
Kaneland School Board incumbent trustee candidate Tony Valente has 21 years of experience in the field of education—15 as an administrator; six as a teacher.
In addition to his four years as School Board trustee, Valente has also served as a Sugar Grove Park District coach and chair of the Kaneland Discipline Committee.
Valente believes the role of board trustee is to ensure a quality education for students while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.
“School board members are responsible for developing policy that fosters positive social/emotional development of the students and creates a strong educational environment,” Valente said. “I feel that with my experience in the field of education, we can work collaboratively to improve academic achievement for our students while controlling spending.”
Valente feels he possesses the experience in the field of education to ask the critical questions that are necessary to create accountability.
“I also have the experience to review programs for effectiveness to ensure that the district is fiscally responsible,” he said.
Should he achieve re-election, Valente’s priorities on the board will include improving academic achievement, involving a three-step process to ensure academic growth in the Kaneland district.
“First and foremost, we would need a clear alignment of our curriculum to the Common Core standards,” Valente said. “Secondly, we would need to create an instructional framework that would allow each teacher to grow professionally in the area of instruction. And lastly, we would need to create intervention/enrichment programs for students who have fallen behind or need acceleration through an RTI model.”
Valente also wants to stop what he calls Kaneland’s “tax to the max” mentality, and believes the board as a whole needs to start questioning all expenditures and demand data to prove each program’s effectiveness.
“Spending money on programs and on areas that are not best practices has been problematic in the past, and that type of reckless spending has caused the levy to increase over the past eight years,” Valente said.
Valente’s final priority includes the creation of safety programs for students in the area of bullying.
“We need to foster an environment where student’s social/emotional development is a priority,” Valente said. “We need to develop intervention programs for students pre-K through 12 in the area of bullying prevention and social/emotional development. Best practices would dictate what programs are the most effective for our School District.”
Regarding how Valente plans to achieve his goals, he said the key element is the collaboration among the board, and with school administration, toward a common goal.
“We must create a common vision that will allow this group of individuals to clearly review administrative proposals using data and best practices in the area of education,” he said.
Pamela Voorhees will seek one of the Kaneland School Board’s four open trustee seats on the April 7 Consolidated Election ballot.
Voorhees has more than 30 years experience in financial and business leadership, mainly in manufacturing, as well as two years of school business experience at a larger Fox Valley district.
She considers the role of trustee as a liaison between the public and the school administration for the development, refinement and execution of fair policies that will benefit the academic development of students; someone to review and approve prudent and efficient sources of revenue/funding while practicing fiscal responsibility in spending.
“(I seek the position of trustee because my) desire is to use my business experience toward the betterment of the community,” Voorhees said. (My strengths include) training, experience, energy and available time. I am an empty nester of grown children who attended Kaneland.”
Should the public vote Voorhees into the role of School Board trustee, her priorities will include helping develop a cohesive team to facilitate the advancement of the district, and working together with the public toward the approved strategic goals.
Voorhees also wants to improve on community communications “so that the utmost transparency of activities is at the public’s fingertips,” and regain trust in the elected board’s execution of fiscal responsibilities.
How to achieve said goals? For Voorhees, it’s simple.
“Listen, learn, formulate plans, communicate, get approval and execute plans,” she said.
Teresa Witt has served on the Kaneland School Board the past four years, and believes she has a proven record of providing student-focused leadership while working within budgetary constraints.
“I thoroughly research topics for discussion, and thoughtfully and respectfully question the district’s administration and staff before making decisions,” Witt said. “I treat other board members with respect, and listen carefully to the needs of all stakeholder groups. I am not a single-issue candidate.”
Witt is currently employed in the library at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and has seven years of experience in computer leasing and marketing, and 11 years in libraries, including public, academic and special.
Witt said it is the role of every school board member to assist in clarifying the district’s purpose, and to work cooperatively and collaboratively with other board members and all stakeholder groups to monitor progress in fulfilling that purpose.
“Board members must be respectful of the opinions of other members, and recognize when it is important for the board to speak with one voice,” Witt said. “Board members should not seek to micro-manage, but to delegate authority to the superintendent to create processes and procedures to fulfill board policy.”
As a candidate for Kaneland School Board, Witt feels she has a strong commitment to public education and a desire to see the district provide the best education possible to students.
“In my four years serving on the Kaneland School Board, we have made progress in many areas, but there is still work to be done,” Witt said. “I am seeking re-election in order to continue to serve the Kaneland community, and to work toward greater educational advancement.”
Should Witt achieve re-election, her priorities as a trustee include continuing to pursue cost neutral or low-cost enhancement of programs and services for students, including STEM opportunities, additional AP classes and experiential learning choices, and services addressing social emotional needs through collaboration with curriculum directors, administrators and classroom teachers.
Witt also wants to Implement standardization of processes and procedures for operations of the district by encouraging the superintendent to develop a district procedure manual.
“Procedures for consistency in communications are especially needed,” Witt said.
Witt’s third goal as board trustee is to retain competent teachers through fair negotiation of a new contract that meets the needs of employees while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
As only one of seven members of the board of education, Witt believes it’s important to collaborate with other members to refine, enhance and implement ideas so that, through open and respectful dialog, the best course of action for the district can be set, she said.
“It is of utmost importance to provide for the educational needs of students while also protecting the current and future financial health of the district,” Witt said. ”In doing so, it is vital to maintain a broad focu, and not pursue a singular goal above all others. Communities with strong school systems see many rewards, including higher home values, a strong employment base and students who are active and engaged. We must not lose sight of the fact that we are educating the next generation of leaders.
“As a School Board member, my purpose has always been to make student focused decisions while maintaining fiscal responsibility.”