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Election 2013: William R. Wilson, Geneva School Board

Here's a bio and in-depth questionnaire submitted by William R. Wilson, who faces off against seven other candidates in the April 9 race for four seats on the Geneva School Board.

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WILLIAM R. WILSON — GENEVA SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE
(8 candidates, four seats)

Name: William R. Wilson

Position Sought: Board member for Geneva Community Unit School District 304

Campaign Contact Information: None

Family Members:

  • Connie Wilson – Wife
  • Lindsay Wilson – Daughter, 21
  • Elizabeth Wilson – Daughter, 13
  • Evan Anast – Son, 10
  • Sophia Anast – Daughter, 6

Education:

  • Geneva Community High School – 1978
  • University of Iowa, BS Civil Engineering – 1982
  • University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, MS Structural Engineering – 1984

Current Occupation and Employer: Senior Project Manager, Shales McNutt Construction

What will be your single most important priority if you get elected?

Continue to see growth in student achievement in a cost affordable and sustainable manner.

Why are you seeking office?     

I have lived in Geneva almost my entire life and am a product of the Geneva school system. Twelve years ago, I set out to give something back to the community that provided me with the skills and knowledge that I have used to become a successful business person and a contributing member of this community. During my tenure, I have both agreed and disagreed with the ideas put forward by school administration, and have collaborated with many different board members to move ideas forward that have been very good for the stakeholders and most importantly, the children of Community School District #304. I believe that voters should re-elect me to the School Board because my knowledge and experiences as a board member have provided me with the necessary skills to represent the best interests of the taxpayers, parents and students of Geneva Community School District #304 on ALL issues that will come before the board.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?   

I am a longtime Geneva resident and graduate of Geneva schools. I have been a seated board member for 12 years, current chairman of the School District Finance Committee, previous member of the superintendent’s Finance Committee, Coultrap and High School advisory task forces, and member of the Facility Master Planning Committee. I am a Master School Board member having attained over 300 hours of state mandated and elective board member training.

What is your top accomplishment of the past four years?     

As I am just one member of the School Board, I cannot take credit for a “top accomplishment” of the board. During my tenure on the board, there have been many things that the board, as a whole, has done that are good for the stakeholders and children of our community (ie. new teacher contract, excellence in education at all of our school building, etc.) while still maintaining one of the lower cost per student ratios in the Fox Valley area.  
  
Describe your leadership style and how it will apply to your term in office.        

I believe that I am a collaborator and a team player, however, at times when I may not like and/or agree with the ideas or recommendations on the table, I am not afraid to say so. I believe that the success of any governing body, as envisioned by the founding fathers of our country, is that through open discussion and compromise, the decisions made by the majority establishes future direction. On all votes, all board members must be afforded the opportunity to express their opinions and thoughts, but following the vote, I believe that you must support the final decision of the majority and take actions to see that the decisions are successful.

What do you think are the top three challenges facing School District 304 today?    

Sustainability in the following three areas; taxes, spending, academics. District spending must be kept to a sustainable level so current residents can afford annual tax payments but, at the same time, we must be able to maintain a quality education for our students to adequately prepare them for a future in an ever changing world.
   
If elected, how would you address those top three challenges?     

Work in a collaborative manner with six other elected individuals, and district administration, to find ways to provide a quality public education in a way that is affordable to our district’s residents.

Issue 1: What will you do to address School District 304 debt? 

Research has indicated that the most cost-effective manner of controlling the tax burden on the resident of School District #304 is through tax abatement, the crediting back of dollars that have accumulated in other district accounts in lieu of collecting new tax dollars. Abatement should be coupled with periodic refinancing when new bonding rates are advantageous and will not add additional years of repayment. I am a proponent of using these methods to keep debt assessment at levels as close as possible to current levels.

Issue 2: What will you do to hold the line on property tax increases?     

Keep district spending in check through prudent review of annual budgets.

Issue 3: How would you approach collective bargaining in the next teachers union negotiations?

By far the biggest accomplishment during the last year was the new teachers’ contract. The board and the teachers reached an agreement forming the basis for a contract that is sustainable from a current and future salary basis, and has curtailed/eliminated portions of the contract that are obsolete in today’s world. This new contract agreement was reached without allowing the threat of a strike to weaken the board’s resolve to achieve these goals. The steps initiated this year must be continued into the future.

Issue 4: Outline what you think should be done with the Coultrap property during the next four years. Please be specific.

The board voted to demolish Coultrap and I supported that effort. During the next year, the board will see the building razed and green space created. As I have publicly stated, I support saving a small amount of building material from the current Coultrap building that can be incorporated into the future High School expansion so that Coultrap can continue to live in the future.
       
Issue 5: What do you think should be done with the Fourth Street property during the next four years? Please be specific.  

At this time, I support keeping the facility as the home of the School District administration. Relocating the administrative offices from the Fourth Street location to another location within the district would be very costly endeavor.
     
Issue 6: What would you do to address the issue of enrollment bubbles in School District 304?

Last fall due to late summer enrollments at several of our elementary schools, the district was faced with a situation where we had wide swings in class sizes between our six elementary schools. For example, at the same grade level, there may have been 20 children at one school, 25 at another, and 29 at a third. This situation tends to repeat itself on an annual basis, resulting in the need to add teachers at the last-minute and add to our staffing costs. As a result, the School Board requested an administrative review this matter and asked for recommendations in preventing this annual concern. In an ideal world, I would like to see this accomplished by striking a balance in student population, throughout all of our schools, with small, periodic boundary adjustments that are reasonable and equitable, so that equality in class size and learning environments for all students is achieved.
  
Issue 7: Is School District 304 as transparent as it should be? Why or why not?

Transparency is always something that any public body can improve upon. Over the last 12 years, I believe that the School District communication has improved greatly. However, I do believe we can continue to find ways to improve.
      
Issue 8: What do you think of the so-called "Enrollmentgate" issue? Should it be further investigated?        

I believe that the previous board openly discussed all issues related to the referendum and the time to discuss any discrepancies should have been at that time. A majority of the voters in the district approved the referendum and the buildings were constructed. As nothing can be changed now, this issue is now closed. In order to maintain integrity in the boards, future boards need to learn from the past.

Issue 9: What do you think of the TaxFACTS citizens group? Has it been a help or hindrance to progress?  

I believe that the original motive behind TaxFACTS is a noble one.
     
Issue 10: How would you rate the performance of District 304 Superintendent Kent Mutchler?       

Dr. Mutchler has done an excellent job of moving the focus of the district from one focused on growth to one focused on creating and growing a strong educational program in the time he has been in the district.

Issue 11: Would you be willing to spend more money on technology in schools? Why or why not?    

I believe that our children will need to understand and know how to use technology in their life, and as that starts in elementary school I would support spending on technology if the money spent produced a direct benefit to the student. Therefore, appropriate expenditures for software, ebooks, etc., that enhance and/or measures educational effectiveness will need to be part of the district’s future. In addition, the district will need to make sure that we keep our hardware systems and assessment requirements in line with ever changing industry standards, but we will need to do so in a cost-effective manner.
   
Issue 12: Do you think educators and administrators in School District 304 are appropriately compensated? Why or why not?        

Based on a review of statistics from surrounding school districts, our educators and administrators are compensated in accordance with prevailing market conditions.

Issue 13: What does School District 304 need to do to improve academic performance?

At this time, we have one of the top performing high schools in the state, and our middle schools and each of our elementary schools are consistently mentioned in the top schools in our area by local media. That alone does not mean that there is no room for improvement. I believe that the district is doing many great things to improve; we use data from a variety of assessments to target areas of need for students, subject area, grade level, etc., we are looking to add professional learning communities at the high school to promote educational improvement, we continually look at curriculum K-12 to find ways to push rigor and learning opportunities down to lower grade levels, and we are always working with each student to make sure that all of their needs are consistently met on a daily basis.

Issue 14: What are your thoughts on the Common Core curriculum and upcoming changes in ISAT evaluations?       

The common core curriculum is raising the bar and will help make our children better prepared for their future. We in Geneva will continue to do what we have always done and that is to prepare our children to be lifelong learners, good problem solvers, and to be prepared for any and all challenges that may come their way in the future. Whether in school, or the working world of their future, our children will always be evaluated in new and different ways. As we do not teach to the evaluation, but rather prepare our students to succeed, I believe we will continue to see growth and improvement on whatever means of evaluation is used in the years to come.

Issue 15: Do you think sports or extracurricular activities should be on the table as possible budget cuts?

Studies have found that a well-rounded educational program includes the arts, sports, as well as extracurricular activities. Geneva is not at a point, at this time, where these areas will need to be reduced/cut from district offerings. I am not opposed to reviewing our fee structure on an annual basis though to ensure that they remain financially viable and self-sustaining.

Please add any other information pertinent to your campaign.        

None listed.

Kelli Trejo April 05, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Mr. Wilson, My neighbors and I (Area 20 - Batavia Highlands) have been trying to reach out to the Board about the boundary adjustment issue. We have each written multiple letters, yet not one of us has received so much as a confirmation of receipt from the Board. As an incumbent Board member, do you believe your constituents have a right to communicate with you and what obligation do you feel towards responding? I see, by the way, you have not provided contact information.

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