Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Forest Park Review sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Years in Forest Park: 17
Are you a D 91 graduate?
I am not. I attended St. Barnabas grammar school, Chicago (’64); Brother Rice H.S., Chicago (’68); Loyola University of Chicago (’73); and John Marshall Law School, Chicago (’77).
Do you have children who have, are or will be attending District 91 schools? What are their ages?
My step-daughter Kerry Baldwin , 24, graduated from Forest Park Middle School in 2003, and my son, Rory Connor attended Grant-White and graduated from Forest Park Middle School in 2011.
Why are you running for this office?
For the past six years I have been closely associated with the District 91 Board through my wife, Mary Win. With her, and at my own expense, I have attended all of the Illinois State and National School Board Association conferences. During this time I have attended over fifty seminar sessions dealing with the operations and best practices of school districts throughout Illinois and the nation. This exposure has grown my interest from one of curiosity, to a desire to be a part of this school board and help further our students to achieve their highest potential. I believe I am uniquely positioned to further this goal. My decision to enter my name into candidacy was solidified when I learned that a local politician was fronting two individuals that seemed to have taken no interest in any community involvement up to the present time. I did not want local politics to be injected into the education of our children. I made my decision knowing that the position is unpaid, and very time consuming.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
Two years ago, I was a candidate for the office of Village Commissioner. I was not elected.
Are there individuals or groups which actively encouraged your interest in running for the D 91 Board?
Although I decided to run for this position without consulting anyone, I did get the approval of current Board members, Mary Win Connor, my spouse. Board President Frank Mott was consulted regarding the issue of spouses on the same board. I was assured there was no conflict with any policies, regulations or laws.
What do you consider to be the greatest strength of District 91?
The current school board has been described by state board representatives as being “high functioning” and I concur. The close working relationship and deep personal respect among the members gives them the ability to work through their differences, come to a consensus, and speak with one voice. The integrity of the current board is superior. I have witnessed the District improve every year for the last six years, both in test scores and behavior of our students. This comes from a committed Board. District 91 also has the enviable position of being financially sound. Reserves are at a level that can carry the district through most short term problems. We also have a very dedicated staff of administrators that work very hard to improve in all aspects of educating our children. The Board should always be mindful of this. The strength of our district, and any district, always lies with the quality of its teaching staff. I believe we have a very dedicated and educationally progressive staff that does an excellent job. They have always been up to the task of implementing changes that further the board policies.
What are your strongest concerns about the district at this time?
The number one concern to the District is, and has always been, providing a safe and nurturing environment for our students, so they may achieve their fullest potential. That being said, setting policy and allocating resources to achieve that goal is the challenge. A second major concern will be to sustain the high quality of educators we now employ, with diminishing resources from the state, while maintaining the level of services. A third concern is the teacher’s pension issue that is currently being debated by our state legislators. This could put the burden on each individual District to fund the now underfunded pension. We are fortunate to currently have the resources to handle this potential crisis, but it may result in making hard decisions in the future.
How many District 91 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years?
I have attended five or six school board meetings in the past two years. I have made presentations to the meetings on at least three occasions regarding seminars I have attended at the state and national school board conferences.