9 Candidates, 4 School Board Seats—20 Questions

What questions would you like Geneva Patch to ask the nine School Board candidates in the April 9 election?

Barring any challenges to petitions, nine candidates are seeking four positions on the Geneva School Board.

What 20 questions do you think these folks ought to answer between now and the April 9 election day? Let us know in the comments field below, or leave a comment on Geneva Patch's Facebook site.

The nine candidates, in order of the ballot, are:

Mark Grosso, 7 Bridgeport Lane, Geneva, IL 60134

David Joseph Lamb, 1401 Fairway Cr., Geneva, IL 60134 Ph: 630-208-7302 Email davidlamb2@aol.com

William R. Wilson, 39W651 Terney Ln., Geneva, IL 60134 Ph: 630-208-0624 Email wrw0660@gmail.com 

Jay Moffat, 2730 Fargo Blvd., Geneva, IL 60134, Ph: 630-232-2730 Email jay.e.moffat@gmail.com

Daniel J. Garrett, 2025 Eldorado Ct., Geneva, IL 60134 Ph: 630-845-3043 Email dgarrett@me.com

Robert L. Cabeen, 3616 Ridge Point Dr., Geneva, IL 60134 Ph: 630-232-2272 Email Thecabeens@aol.com

Jeffrey K. DiOrio, 306 Cape Way, Geneva, IL 60134 Ph: 630-232-2970 Email jeff.diorio@gmail.com

Fred A. Dresser, 344 Ashby Ct., Geneva, IL 60134 Ph: 630-845-0405 Email dresserf@yahoo.com

Leslie N. Juby, 316 Peyton St., Geneva, IL 60134 Ph: 630-232-9904 Email lnjuby@aol.com


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John R January 03, 2013 at 10:48 PM
I'll start 1. TaxFacts, which was co-founded by Bob McQuillan and Jay Moffat, held a town hall meeting early last summer which addressed D304 debt issues. At that meeting Mr. McQuillan proposed the "McQuillan Plan" as a possible path to stabilizing property taxes. The intial phase of this plan calls for a 5% reduction in the schools budget yearly for three years. Or roughly eleven million dollars of cuts over three years. Do you support this plan and if so what area's would you be willing to cut? 2. A couple of you have posted and it appears that you are first time patch contributors. Have you ever posted on the patch using a different name? If so what is your old screen name? 3. It was no secret that TaxFacts was recruiting people to run for school board. Were any of you recruited by TaxFacts? 4. How would you like to see the school district manage it's debt so as to lesson the burgen on the taxpayers? IE: continue abating, spend down reserves, reduce budget, etc.... Note I actually have come to appreciate all that Bob and Jay Moffat have done in developing TaxFacts. It is no easy task to get an organization up and running. Over the years Jay has put countless hours into TaxFacts. I suspect that my questions might ruffle a few feathers. But for the sake of transparency I feel it is important that folks running disclose their affiliations. There is a lot at stake in this election and informed voters is key. Rice
Rudy January 03, 2013 at 11:09 PM
1. I would like to know if any of these candidates have any affiliations with the District, PTO, or the GEA either currently or in the past?
RjR January 03, 2013 at 11:36 PM
^That's an important point, Rudy. I'd like to hear each of their thoughts on the 'step and lane" compensation model and 'pension spiking'.
sam January 04, 2013 at 05:28 AM
Looking at the current financial situation that we find ourselves in - what mistakes were made, how could they have been avoided, and how can they be rectified?
Bob McQuillan January 04, 2013 at 04:58 PM
I'm glad that John R started the ball rolling by asking several questions. I think all of the questions are excellent and should not ruffle the feathers of any candidate, board member or school district resident. Just a point of reference on the "McQuillan Plan" that John mentions. I made it clear when the idea was discussed that the 5-5-5 plan might not be the right configuration but that something had to be done as to cutting expenses. The tax levy has continued to increase while a discussion of exact cost cutting measures has not taken place. Based on a $71 million operating budget, the total reduction would be $10.3 million over three years. Based on the approved teachers contract, we know that a large number of teachers could retire within three years, this should automatically reduce the total salary expense when new teachers are hired. The other cuts would be in Operations & Maintenance and Transportation. The answer to question # 3 is going to surprise many people. Rudy's question should be expanded to include whether or not the candidate has any conflicts of interest whereby they would have to recluse themselves from any votes or decisions the board makes. The board has stated that by the end of June 2013 there will be over $50 million in reserves. I would like to know each candidate's plan on how the reserves should be used. And what they believe is the minimum that should always be in reserve.
Ken S January 04, 2013 at 05:18 PM
I would like to add a few questions. What do we do with the excess capacity in the elementary schools. Should one be moth balled? If so, which one? How can we utilized the facilities that we have more efficiently without the quality of education being significantly impacted?
John R January 04, 2013 at 06:17 PM
@Rudy and RjR that's fair we should know who has been recruited and by which organization. I hope that folks are running for the sake of giving back to the community and not to push any particular agenda of this or that organization. But honestly I don't expect anyone to answer that question. @Bob that's fair and your correct that you've stated that the 5 5 5 plan might not be the right level. Soooooooo......Maybe it should be worded like..... 1. If you feel that budgetary cuts are neccessary, in order to stabilize the schools portion of the property tax bill, what level would you be willing to consider? And where would you cut? I've got another one..... 2. What are some of your idea's to ensure that D304 continues to provide a high quality of education to our communities children. What can the district do better and what can we improve on? Are there any opportunities to implement more technology into the classroom which could enhance the educational experiance? Mitaro put your questions out here if you are reading this thread. Rice
Dan January 05, 2013 at 04:31 AM
Rice's 4 questions; 1. Priority #1 is budget savings to reduce the budget and rein in the levy increases. Tall order when our debt service climbs from $15Million to $24M over the next 3 years - A $9M increase is already committed there and a key reason we need savings elsewhere to avoid a levy spike. I agree with Bob above - reviews of relatively high ops/maint and transportation are good first steps. #2 Dan Garrett here... and that's the only name I use to blog or comment on Patch. #3 I was not recruited by TaxFacts - but agree with many of their concerns and met with a few folks. Met with JayM, BobM and Dave Lamb and thank them for taking time to discuss the issues, I've been to one TaxFacts meeting. The focus on the tax issues, the debt service increase, levy concerns and the general district financial health is spot on. I agree with TaxFacts mission, that an informed citizenry is critical to bring focus and more people into the discussion for best priorities and decisions. All three of them said I'd make a good board member. So I was encouraged, but not recruited. More in the next comment...
Dan January 05, 2013 at 04:48 AM
This is a combo of Rice's #4 and Bob's point on the budget and reserves. Besides Bob and Jay of TaxFacts, I also chatted, although brief with Bill, Mary, Kelly and Donna after the finance meeting, and I met Mark, Tom and Kent at the board meeting for the levy vote - I didn't have time to chat with Tom or Mike. But from that brief time, I appreciate their thoughts and willingness to help me understand district 304's finances better. I can also feel their commitment to doing what's best for the school and community - I think my background will help boost their effectiveness. Mark Grosso's patch article by Rick Nagel has a good list of items for 2013 priorities. We are burdened with extra capacity and debt load which will hamper us for some time. I think abatement and using reserves to reduce the levy are a delicate balance. Two months of spending or about $30 mil, should be enough - but June 30 is a terrible snapshot of reserves, I'd like to see the min/max levels of reserves as we cycle through the receipt of June and Sept local tax receipts - and how bad things can get cashflow-wise as the state continues to be late with their checks. While we have constraints, I also see opportunities, esp. for increased us of technology. From online textbooks and apps, to modified curriculum that equips students on how to be a life-long learner, and not just a master of skill sets. I want our leaders to challenge them to go beyond just high scores on standard tests.
Dan January 05, 2013 at 05:03 AM
KenS - yes, we have more room than we need. Maybe 500 slots - in a district of nearly 6000, that seems high. We overbuilt - debate the why and how elsewhere. We are stuck with the debt service, it grows about $9M and peaks at $24M in 2017. We can abate some from reserves, but its going to be a drag on our ability to expand the budget, and will likely require cuts and analysis of all areas - I've talked about those in my other comments to this article. Can one be moth-balled? Sure. Pick one? I have several ideas, but I won't commit here. The May 2012 study to raze Coultrap but keep the land, is well documented and found in a Patch article around that date - Mark and Bill were on the task force - and I agree with their decisions and reasons why. We will have to carefully consider how many retiring teachers we replace given our student population is growing at zero percent rather than the projections based on pre-2008 market crash expectations. The board has a 2013 agenda, with much research and discussion already done, on building use, excess capacity, staffing needs, boundary considerations, vacant land future purpose/sell/keep. It would be unwise for me to give a definite position on any of those, other than to say I agree with the priorities the board is considering as being the top items. The finance committee is also keenly aware of the debt load and debt service needs - I can help, as can Dave Lamb, on that front.
John R January 05, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Dan, thank you for the responses to my questions. I think Nagle is actually compiling questions which I think he will pose to all the canidates at a future time. But I think it's great that your engaging the questions and participating in a bit of dialog. I had some back and forth with Dave Lamb on a different thread so Dave if your following this thread thank you as well. The expertise that both you and Dave could bring to the board speaks for itself. All the way around it seems to be a very talented pool of canidates. Very nice to see so many people offering up their time and energy to serve on the school board. I'm hopeful that when it's all said and done we end up with a diverse board with individuals who bring unique strenghs to the table which will of course benefit the district and the community as a whole. My primary concern is that we keep D304 as strong as possible. My wife and I, like many other families, moved here because of the quality of D304. Families continue to move here because of the schools. I believe that if we cut, to fast and to deep, into our school district then the educational experience will be diminished and our property values will suffer. I understand the flip side and realize that changes are probably coming. I'm hopeful that we end up with responsible and thoughtful board members. I'm an old dad (47) with a young son (4) I want him to have the same educational experience as your kids had. Thanks again, J Rice
Mitotero January 06, 2013 at 12:33 AM
Mitotero 3:16 pm on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 With 9 candidates to choose from, I hope we get more information from each of them than in previous elections. Every one ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and promised to scrutinize the budget carefully. I think we need more specific information this time around. For example: 1. Do we have excess buiding capacity? 2. If yes, which school would you propose closing. 3. What can/should be done with the current vacant schools? 4. Going forward 3 years, what terms of the teacher contract would you propose modifying. 5. Does the Geneva school district have any opportunities for expense savings if we pool resources with neighboring districts? 6. What there be any benefit to entertaining discussions regarding merging school districts? Big Picture, a Tri city school district. 7. Do you believe that the current school board has been transparent in the decision making processes? If not, what would you do differently? 8.What one change would your selection as a board member create? 9. Why do want to be school board member? 10.This list could certainly be added to. If we have 9 candidates, more information will help the voters select the best board members. I believe they all will promise to watch expenses. We need more information from everyone to determine what else they bring to the table. Thanks to everyone for running. An engaged electorate is necessary this time. Reply
Mitotero January 06, 2013 at 12:39 AM
After thinking about this post from a few weeks back, I believe we are all looking at the financial side of being a board member, instead of the educational, administrative and curriculum sides of the position. In fact, we have two finance guys running, which would be fine if we are continually refinancing our debt. It would be helpful if a former board member, or incumbent, would educate the taxpayers as to what attributes contribute to a successful board. We should not focus only on one aspect of a job, when a well rounded, diverse board may serve us all better.
PW January 06, 2013 at 04:44 AM
John wrote: " I'm an old dad (47) with a young son (4) I want him to have the same educational experience as your kids had." John, as one who has been through the 304 system with 3 kids who went on to good colleges and are on their way to good careers, let me share some insight with you. As a father of a 4 year old, YOU (and your spouse) are the most important factors in your child's education. Read with them every day, engage them in conversation, provide a variety of 'real-life' experiences for them. That, I can assure you, has far more impact than anything that happens in a classroom. The tragedy, in my opinion, is if the rising costs of living in the district force you (or your spouse) to spend more time working and less time interacting with your son. The highest paid teacher in the world can't make up for that.
Dan January 07, 2013 at 05:01 PM
From what I've seen on the Illinois Association of School Boards website and training materials, the first priority of a school board member is fiscal responsibility to the tax payers. While my expertise is municipal bonds, my main concern is fiscal responsibility. All aspects of teaching, curriculum, tools and technology - require a sound, sustainable budget. The budget has expanded rapidly with no increase in student population for the past 4 years. Why? Can we cut expenses, given the projected growth didn't occur? We've built the buildings and incurred the debt, so the increasing debt service is already committed, and will mean cuts & smarter spending elsewhere - or else taxes will spike (not just trend) higher. The key numbers are student enrollment the past 4 yrs is 5900, but taxes are up 35%, debt service rises 60%: $15M to $24M within 3 years, yet we have not heard of a fiscal review of the budget, esp. operations and transportation. Teacher retirements will help the budget - but what are the projections for how much savings? Fiscal responsibility is where I can help us excel - and not just debt structure - in fact, per Bill, Donna, Kelly and Mary - refinancing our debt would cost more upfront than we'd save in payments. We have been spending/budgeting for 10% growth, but we have 0% growth. We need to modify our planning and priorities to reflect this new reality, adjusting our budget while retaining our quality education strengths.
SuzyQ March 19, 2013 at 04:45 PM
To All Candidates: Are you aware of the Common Core Standards for IL schools and the controversy surrounding them across the United States?
Dan March 19, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Yes, I've addressed common core impacts on patch, Daily Herald and KCChronicle. As I recall, Suzy, you are not a Geneva voter, so I won't waste time answering on this particular thread.
SuzyQ March 19, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Thank you Dan. I am indeed a Geneva voter who is pretty concerned about Common Core curriculum. I will search for your comments.
Dan March 20, 2013 at 02:26 PM
My apologies. Other threads on the teacher contract implied you were outside 304. My full answer to the Daily Herald. http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130215/submitted/302159541/ Patch comments have limited space, so here's a summary. DH: What do you think about the shift to the common core standards? How big a role do you think the board of education should play in setting the curriculum for students and what ideas do you have for changes to the current curriculum? Dan: The common core standards have merit. The lack of foundational knowledge complaint from both colleges and businesses needed to be addressed. The board's role is to encourage and support the administration in creating a curriculum that meets these standards, and stress these are minimums to be enhanced with additional content to challenge our Geneva students. Core does not imply "only" and our students and teachers have proven we perform near the top of the nation in education achievements. I've talked to a few teachers who see implementation challenges. For example, the kindergarten common core adds content and skill practice time, so prioritize and revamp other curriculum to keep a half-day plan or move to a full day for K students? Asking for input from teachers, perhaps through online forums or emails, with questions such as: what's working so far? challenges?, improvements?, what board action would you suggest to streamline or more cost-effectively meet the common core standards?


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