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Four Candidates Vie for Three Seats

Profiles provide voters with handy information on each candidate.

Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch is providing each candidate an opportunity to provide information about themselves for voter's to use in making an informed decision on Election Day, April 5.

The candidates are presented in alphabetical order.

For more information on the School District 67 Board of Education race, visit the Lake Forest Caucus website and the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff League of Women Voters website.

 

Name: William R. Andersen

Age: 52

Town: Lake Forest

Incumbent? No

Family: I have a wife and three children. My children are all in Lake Forest public schools. My wife attended Lake Forest public schools from kindergarten through high school.

Occupation: I am in the investment management business. I have my own firm which is located in Lake Forest.

Education: I have a B.A. from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Community Involvement: I serve on the Wellness Committee of District 67 which rewrote the nutrition standards for the district. I am a community member of the District 67 Finance Committee, and also a trustee of the Lake Forest Fireman’s pension fund.

Link to campaign website or Facebook page:

http://www.lfcaucus.com/

 

Why are you running for a School Board position?

I’m running for school board because I believe I have experience and skills which can help the board maintain and improve the quality of education our students receive. I’ve been fortunate to have three children who’ve been in the district (two currently), and also to have served on several district committees during that time. (I have been a member of the Wellness Committee and the Finance Committee.) I feel fortunate to have raised a family in Lake Forest, and am aware that our community thrives in part because of the civic contributions made by its residents. I want to be part of the tradition of citizens contributing to our community.

In addition to my career experience and my eleven years parental participation in District 67, I have direct experience with the District that makes me a strong candidate. After lobbying for its creation, I was one of two parents on the District 67 Wellness Committee, which developed the guidelines that led to the new school lunch program. The lunch program now offers healthier food and beverage choices and has eliminated the junk food previously sold in the schools. The program was developed by the local community with input from parents, school health professionals and administrators. Since implementation, we’ve seen participation increase, and the program no longer loses money. In fact, it now generates funds which are being used to replace outdated kitchen equipment. For the past two years, I’ve also been a community member of the Finance Committee, which has recommended that the district make tough, proactive decisions about expenses. Other districts on the North Shore are seeing significant operating deficits this year, but our district is in good financial shape.

 

What are the key issues that the district will have to address in the next four years?
There will always be a number of academic, operational, financial and other issues facing our district. The following are three which will be particularly important for the Board in the coming years.

  • New Superintendent. Later this year, Districts 67 and 115 will hire a new superintendent. This will be the most profound decision the Boards make for some time. There is currently a nationwide search underway, and I am certain there will be strong candidates. In evaluating candidates, my primary criteria will be experience, integrity, an ability to work with all the constituencies in our community, and a commitment to ensuring our schools continue to provide a world class education for our students.
  • Financial Stewardship. Public schools represent the largest expenditure of our property tax dollars. For many residents property taxes are a significant expense every year, a fact made more significant because many residents don’t benefit directly from having children in the district. At the same time, strong public schools are one of the reasons families choose to live in Lake Forest, and good schools increase property values and improve quality of life. The Board must always balance between educational excellence and spending taxpayer funds carefully.
  • Governance. The community has a right to feel that their Board is fully in charge of the district from a management, fiscal and educational standpoint. Legally, the superintendent and all school staff are responsible to the Board of Education. In practice, it sometimes appears to community members that the Board essentially rubber stamps decisions of district employees. While I don’t believe this is generally the case, I think the Board could be more proactive in following and demonstrating its proper legal role in managing the district. To effectively carry out its governance responsibilities the Board must maintain timely and effective communication with parents and citizens of the Lake Forest community to ensure that it is responding to their needs and concerns.
     

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

1. Make sure we pick a great new superintendent. 2. Keep the academic standards high. 3. Look after the finances in a way which keeps education strong as cost effectively as possible.

 

What are some of the district’s strengths?
Lake Forest District 67 has many strengths. A stable, highly involved group of parents is one of the biggest ones. We have four beautiful schools and great athletic facilities. The teachers in the district as a group are very good. Class sizes are relatively small. And of course we have great students.

 

What do you think could be done to improve the district?
In general, the district is very well run. As we move into a new era with a new superintendent, I think it will be important to reach out to all constituencies including parents, students, community members and teachers to insure the all feel they are important in the district’s operations. I think the board can also do a better job of demonstrating its leadership role in the district. It is often perceived (not always correctly) that the board is somewhat of a rubber stamp for the district staff. In addition, in today’s economic climate it will be more important than ever to watch expenses. When tough choices need to be made, I’ll always focus on keeping academics strong, even if it means giving up some non-academic programs.

 

What role should the School Board play in shaping curriculum?
The Board is responsible for shaping the curriculum just as it is responsible for all aspects of the district’s operations. This means being informed, asking tough questions, and getting input from multiple sources, not just the district staff. In setting goals, the Board must always insure our curriculum is developed based on the highest national standards in order to keep our schools world class. The goal at each grade should be to develop a full understanding of the material which will help students move successfully to the next level and eventually to high school. The district should always be aware of new developments and opportunities in this area, including being aware of innovations at other top performing districts. Teaching materials should be as free as possible from political, religious and other ideological influences.

 

What are your thoughts on the district’s financial state?
District 67 is in quite good financial shape. I have served as a community member of the finance committee since 2008 and so I have a good sense of this. A number of districts on the North Shore are facing large deficits but Lake Forest District 67 is not.

 

What distinguishes you from the rest of the School Board candidates?
I’m proud to be part of a great group of candidates from the Lake Forest Caucus. I have a lot of experience with the district from serving on the Wellness Committee and as community member of the Finance Committee. I’ve also seen the district first hand as a parent. My background in finance will also be valuable in helping keep the district strong financially.

I and my fellow Caucus candidates were selected because our individual skills complement each other and will fit well with the abilities of the current members of the Board. Together we will form an effective Board that will be able to work collaboratively right from the start.

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Name: Gary Finley

Age: 49

Town: Lake Forest

Incumbent? No.

Family: My wife Karla grew up in Lake Forest and attended the local schools.  In 2005 we decided to return to Lake Forest to ensure that our children could benefit from everything the community has to offer.  We have two children in the District 67 schools, one in 5th grade at Deerpath Middle School, and another in 2nd grade at Everett School.

Occupation: I received a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois.  I am co-founder of XtremeData Inc, a database computer manufacturer in Schaumburg.

Community Involvement: I have been attending school board meetings for the last two years in preparation for running for the school board.

Link to campaign website or Facebook page:

www.garyfinley67.com

 

Why are you running for a School Board position?

I want to serve on the school board to ensure that we maintain local control over our schools, to ensure that our tax dollars are spent wisely, that our teaching standards are kept high, and that the civic values of our community are taught to our children.

 

What are the key issues that the district will have to address in the next four years?

The most urgent issue our community faces is the attempt by the State of Illinois to dissolve our school districts and create one school district for all of Lake County, Illinois HB1886.  If this bill passes, then we will lose all local control over our schools.  It is unlikely that we could maintain the standards and integrity of our schools under this system. 

 

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

The State of Illinois' attempt to dissolve our school district, our current financial shortfalls, and the introduction of unproven educational methods into our district.

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Name: Lesley Fisher

Age: 38

Town: Lake Forest

Incumbent? No

Family: My husband, Chris, and I have been married for 13 years. We are both graduates of Deer Path Middle School and Lake Forest High School. We have three children who are currently attending District 67 schools. Molly is a second grader at Everett School. Danny and Jake are finishing fourth grade at Everett, and will be entering Deer Path Middle School in the fall.

Occupation: My profession and passion is education. I am a former classroom teacher, having taught at the middle school (Hawthorn Middle School in Vernon HIlls), college (Lake Forest College), and graduate school (Barat College) levels.
When our three children began attending our community's schools, I left the classroom as a teacher to volunteer my time in their classrooms and schools. I am currently Everett School's APT President.
 
Education: After graduation from Lake Forest High School, I received a B.S. in communications from University of Kansas, with a concentration in Early Childhood Development. After I completed my undergraduate studies, I earned my Master's Degree in Education, with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction, as well as Certification in Education Administration, both from Loyola University.


Community Involvement: I am currently serving as Everett School's APT President. Previously, I have held the positions of Room Parent Coordinator and Room Parent on Everett's APT. I am the Nominating Chair for District 67 APT Executive Board Nominating Process for the 2011-2013 term. While our children attended preschool, I served on the Kinderhaven Preschool Parent Board. I have also served on Children Memorial Hospital's North Suburban Medical Research Junior Board. I volunteer my time at The Community Church of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff where I assist with the Sunday School program.

Link to campaign website:

http://www.lfcaucus.com/candidates/bdofedinfo.asp


Why are you running for a School Board position?
As a product of our schools and a life-long Lake Forester, I understand where our community has been and I have a vision for where we want to go. I am grateful to have benefited from our schools throughout my elementary years.
 
At this point in my life, there is no cause I am more devoted to than the future of our schools. Education is not only my background but my passion-for myself, for my own children, and for all of our youth.
 
My experience as a classroom teacher, coupled with the facts that I am a current District 67 parent, and have been serving as Everett's APT President for nearly two years, can assist our Board in gaining a variety of important perspectives.
 
This is a pivotal time in our school community, as District 67 is in the midst of searching for a new Superintendent. I feel strongly that this position needs to be held by a seasoned, proven professional who is eager to work alongside our Board, administration and teachers, and our involved parents and larger community.

He/she must also have a wide range of experiences as this Superintendent will not only lead District 67, but District 115 as well. This is a unique dual role, and unique talents are necessary. Thanks to my current role as Everett School's APT President, I have had the rare opportunity to work with parent leaders and administrators across all four schools in our District. I am confident that I know what our District needs and wants at this time.
 
 

What are the key issues the District will have to address in the next four years?
First and foremost is the selection of a new Superintendent. Leadership is the key to the maintaining the academic excellence our students achieve.
 
The quality of our programs, including small classroom sizes, exposure to a variety of foreign languages, access to enrichment and support services, as well as continued integration of technology, must remain intact.
 
We need to continue to attract, select, and retain stellar classroom teachers and administrators, providing them with continuing education as it relates to current and best practices. Expanding our students' critical thinking skills must be the goal of all of our educators.
 
We must nurture the partnerships we have established between home, school, and community. We need to enhance the opportunities for open, timely lines of communication.
 
As 21st century technology continues to grow in its role in the classroom, we must always reinforce the basic communication skills of writing and speaking, as our students need to be well-versed in all three of these areas in order to be successful throughout their lives.
 
Finally, our duty to our youth goes beyond the classroom. We must educate and consider the whole child. By utilizing both the Emotional Wellness Program and the Character Education Program, positive behaviors between students can reduce bullying instances, foster empathy, and assist in building self-esteem in order to equip our children now and well into the future. We must be sensitive to the social-emotional needs of our youngsters. There are many pressures they endure as they strive to maintain balance between challenging academics and extra-curricular commitments, all the while continuing to develop as individuals.
 

What are your top three priorities as a Board member?

  1. It is important to continue to promote and utilize technology while reinforcing communication skills, including speaking and writing. Our youth must be well-versed in all three areas to be successful in academic settings, professional arenas, and in their interpersonal relationships.
  2. In this age of broad technology, strong emphasis on extra-curriculars, and more rigorous academics, we must take the time to nurture critical thinking skills in our students. They need to be critical thinkers, self-starters, and gain tools for resilience.
  3. We must continue to be fiscally conservative. We have proven that forward thinking and conservative budgeting is invaluable during downward economic periods. In order to protect the integrity of our programs and instruction, we must move forward cautiously, embracing creative and effective cost-cutting measures.

 

What are some of the district's strengths?
We are fortunate to have a very invested, involved parent/community population where education and achievement are promoted. We must continue to nurture home-school-community partnerships.

Our leadership is strong, from our administrators to our classroom teachers to our support staff. As these are not only the people educating our youth, but the citizens our children model themselves after, it is important to maintain high quality individuals in all of our positions.

District 67 provides small classroom sizes, cutting-edge technologies, and strong special services including enrichment, special education programs, and a variety of foreign language options, beginning in third grade. There are many extra-curricular programs offered by the District's  Brainstormers Program, such as theater, speech, art, and chess.

 

What do you think could be done to improve the district?
I believe open, timely communication is an important consideration. As we have gone green and are using more technologies to communicate with our parents and wider community, we must remain cautious that our accessibility and response not be compromised.

 

What role should the school board play in shaping curriculum?
The Board and Superintendent perform their due diligence in the hiring process, placing highly-skilled, specialized administrators and master teachers in roles that examine and determine our curriculum. These professionals remain current on best practices. The School Board should oversee and analyze the effectiveness of their practices.


What are your thoughts on the district's current financial state?
Preserving financial stability must remain at the top of our list of priorities. Creative planning practices such as shared services between our elementary and high schools, reduction of paper communication, and effective and fair teacher contract negotiations are some of the ways in which we can continue to succeed during uncertain financial periods. During this time where expenditures have been greater than revenue, we are fortunate that proper planning has helped us maintain the integrity of our programs and small classroom sizes.

 

What distinguishes you from the rest of the School Board candidates?
I am a parent of District 67 students, currently serving as Everett School's APT President. I have a clear understanding of where we are and we want to go. This important point-of-view, coupled with my experience in education, can assist the District 67 School Board in gaining a variety of important perspectives. The Caucus selected candidates based on individual skills that will complement each other's unique talents, and will fit well with the abilities of current members of the Board. Together, we can work collaboratively, right from the get-go.

 

What are some of the district’s strengths?

Our community has a long tradition of educational excellence.  Our citizens have shown  their willingness to support our schools with both their money and their time.  Our schools consistently perform near the top of standardized tests, and we are fortunate to count many experienced and dedicated teachers on our staff.

 

What do you think could be done to improve the district?

Our students perform very well when compared to other schools and we need to keep our standards high.  I am concerned about the 21st Century Learning program that the school board is proposing for our district.  This program moves away from the traditional content based teaching methodology, and replaces it with "critical thinking skills."  So far, the school board can not show that our children need this program,  nor can they show that this program improves skills as advertised.  I will remain open to the possibility that new programs could help our students, but I will remain skeptical of unproven educational fads.

 

What role should the School Board play in shaping curriculum?

As elected officials the school board members answer for everything that happens in our schools, including the selection of the curriculum. Unfortunately the current union contract delegates the selection of the curriculum to a comittee consisting of 6 teachers, 3 administrators, and 3 parents,  none of whom are school board members.  I believe that ultimately, every member of the school board should be able to discuss the decisions of the curriculum committee with parents or concerned citizens in a meaningful way.

 

What are your thoughts on the district’s financial state?

Our property taxes have been rising, our District's reserve funds are running out, all while the community suffers through a deep recession.  This problem started with the economic downturn, but has been compounded by a generous union contract that continues to raise salaries by 5% or more per year. The present contract was signed by our school board in 2009, one year after the initial economic crash in 2008.  When the contract was signed unemployment was rising, and investment returns and housing values were falling.  We need school board members who will consider the consequences of their actions on the community when spending our tax dollars.  When negotiations begin, I will put the taxpayers of Lake Forest first.


What distinguishes you from the rest of the School Board candidates?

I am running to give the people of Lake Forest the choice of an independent candidate who has a passion for our children's education.

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Name:  Rick Schuler

Age:  50

Town:  Lake Forest

Incumbent? (If yes, when were you elected?):  Yes, I am currently on the LFD67 School Board.  I was not elected, rather I was appointed by the Board to replace another Board member who was leaving his position about six months prior to the end of his term.

Family: Married to Rene’ Schuler; we have two boys, Ian (9) and Owen (7), both who attend Sheridan School.

Occupation: 1) Proprietor of a small company in the air purification business, and  2) Consultant for banks and owners of commercial real estate property and debt.

Education (degrees and schools): BA from Boston College (including credits from the London School of Economics) with a major in economics. An MBA from the University of Michigan with a concentration in finance.
 
Community Involvement: Board member of the local, not-for-profit Citadel Theatre Group. Active sports coach through the Lake Forest Recreation Center for football, basketball and baseball.
 
Link to campaign website or Facebook page:

http://www.lfcaucus.com/candidates/bdofedinfo.asp 
 

Why are you running for a School Board position?  
 
Other than issues of health, there is no more important issue to me than the proper education of our children. I believe that a superior, effective and efficient school system is undeniably of great importance to everyone in our community, with or without kids currently attending one of the schools in our Districts. For those with children of school age the benefits are obvious.  Additionally, the quality of our school system is likely the number one determinant of home values for everyone in our community.
 

What are the key issues that the district will have to address in the next four years? 
 
Near-term the most significant issues/tasks will be the successful hiring of a top quality school superintendent to replace our current superintendent who will be retiring in the upcoming year, as well as effectively negotiating a new contract for the district’s school teachers.
 
Longer term, an ongoing challenge will be to address the anticipated decline in the School District’s budget surplus without lowering the quality of our education system and facilities. Growth in our funding tax base is down and unfortunately will likely stay down given the recent devaluation in home values and dearth of new development which are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. These factors will in turn continue to limit growth in tax receipts.

To continue upgrading the quality of our education system and facilities, and to build on the District’s 21st Century Vision program our administrators will need to make ongoing progress in providing services in more cost-efficient ways through additional improvements in the “shared services” program with District 115, and otherwise.
 

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

  1. Diligent, effective and objective oversight and assessment of the School District’s administrators, budgets, policies and procedures.
  2. Successfully hiring a top-quality replacement for our joint-districts’ school superintendent.
  3. Conscientious and objective self-assessment of the board in an effort to provide the most effective and fair oversight we can provide.

 
What are some of the district’s strengths?

  1. Our school system provides a very high-quality education for our children as evidenced by the high-ranking overall test scores consistently achieved.
  2. Our schools provide a very well grounded, nurturing, encouraging and friendly environment for our children.
  3. Our district is blessed with a community of parents that really care about the well-being of our children and who are actively involved.
  4. Our School District benefits from a relatively well-funded tax base.
     

What do you think could be done to improve the district?
 
I believe that our School District can best improve by our administrators and teachers continuing to think out of the box and examining and trying new ways of teaching the timeless base skills everyone needs to develop, along with newer skills that now require more emphasis.  A good example of this is the district’s 21st Century Vision Program which should continue to be emphasized and developed. 
 
Improvement in providing the District’s school services in more cost-efficient ways also needs to be a never-ending goal.
 

What role should the School Board play in shaping curriculum? 
I would not characterize the role of the School Board members as “shaping the curriculum,” rather to work as a team to oversee the functions of our school District’s administrators and teachers, including the curriculum they have in place.

In general I would like to see continued emphasis on the basics of reading, hand writing, and fundamental mathematics along with continued new emphasis in using the electronic “Neos” as a contemporary and practical learning tool. I would also like to see continued growth in the newer skills and learning methods that are part of the “21st Century Vision Program,” as well as continued growth in innovative ideas like the new language immersion program.
 
 
What are your thoughts on the district’s financial state?
 
I believe that the School District’s administrators have done a good job of anticipating the now developing slow down in our tax based revenues and resulting reduction of the budget surplus.  The Board needs to ensure that our administrators continue to anticipate and plan around this trend to keep the budget balanced and the surplus reasonably positive through this difficult period.
 

What distinguishes you from the rest of the School Board candidates? 
Given my education and work background and experience I believe that I am qualified to effectively contribute to the Lake Forest District 67 School Board.  After receiving BA and MBA degrees, I spent more than 25 years in banking and investment banking, most recently as CEO of a community bank. Currently I am doing consulting work and running a small private service business. Throughout my career I have served on the boards of several companies in the banking, real estate and services industries. Currently I am on two other Boards, one a private for-profit company, and the other being a local not-for-profit group. 
 
I believe these collective experiences will continue to allow me to contribute to the Lake Forest District 67 School Board’s general process, and specifically with emphasis in the areas of operations and finance. That said, I would like to point out that I and my fellow Caucus candidates were selected because our individual skills complement each other and will fit well with the abilities of the current members of the Board.  The vision is that together we will form an effective Board that will be able to work collaboratively right from the start.

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