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Four Candidates Vie for Three Seats

Candidates answer informational questions for voters.

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 115 Board of Education race, visit the Lake Forest Caucus website and the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff League of Women Voters website.

 

Name:  Dick Block

Age: 60

Town: 510 Broadsmoore, Lake Forest since 1996

Incumbent? (If yes, when were you elected?)

Yes, I am an incumbent. This is my second time running for the D115 Board.  I was appointed to an unexpired term in the summer of 2006 and elected to my first full term in 2007.  I have been a member of the Lake Forest High School Board of Education for a little over 4 ½ years now.

Family:

My wife of 37 years, Debbie, and I have four children - Ben, Chris, Allison and Zack. They all went through Lake Forest public schools and graduated from LFHS -  Ben in 2003, Chris in 2005, Allison in 2007 and Zack in 2009. Ben graduated from Purdue in Industrial Engineering in '07 and has worked for Dell Computer in Austin, TX, since that time. Chris received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech in '09 and will receive an MS in Biological Systems Engineering from there this May. Allison is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis.  She will receive a BS in International Studies this May, and a BS in Biomedical Engineering this December. Zack is a sophomore at Michigan State majoring in History.

Occupation:

I’m now a private investor, but I'm a former businessman, having been executive vice president and COO of a Fortune 500 natural resources company, Freeport-McMoRan Inc., and president of a major international agricultural chemicals company, the former IMC-Agrico Company, based here, now part of the Mosaic Co., headquartered in the Minneapolis area.  I have been on the Boards of several publicly traded corporations, privately held companies and industry associations.

Education (degrees and schools):

I received a BS degree in chemical engineering from Louisiana Tech University and attended an Advanced Management Program at the University of Michigan.

Community Involvement:

I have significant community knowledge and volunteer experience.  n addition to my role on the Board of Education, I am currently chair of the Governing Board of the Speak Up! Prevention Coalition, a local community group addressing the issues of underage drinking and prescription drug abuse in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Knollwood. Previously, I served on the Lake Forest Caucus, including as a Ward chair, its vice president and its president. I was also on the Board for four years and served as Campaign chair for two years for our United Way, and was active in scouting, coaching and on the Board of the Lake Forest Park and Recreation Foundation when the children were younger. Before coming to Lake Forest, I served for four years on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan New Orleans YMCA.

Link to campaign website or Facebook page:

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

 

Why are you running for a School Board position?

I enjoy volunteering to help our high school be the best it can be.  It is a defining part of who and what we are, both in terms of my personal family, and all of us in Knollwood, Lake Bluff and Lake Forest. I have talents, experience, energy and time to offer, and I enjoy giving back. I have significant knowledge of LFHS and secondary education generally, having been involved at our high school for the past dozen years as a parent, strategic planning volunteer, then through my various roles with the Lake Forest Caucus, and as a Board member. Prior to moving here, I was on the Board of my high school in New Orleans for 5 years.  I try to be up-to-date and well read on public education issues, and I have attended at least a half dozen full-day training sessions specifically designed for school board members.

 

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

The biggest issue, now and always, is continuing to improve student and taxpayer outcomes while successfully addressing all other issues.  Beyond that, the most important issue is the selection and nurturing of the best possible individual to be Superintendent effective July 2012. Related, the district will need to replace at least four other members of its senior team.  Two assistant superintendents, the principal and the assistant principal have all announced their retirements within two years of the superintendent change. The other major mid-term challenge is improving finances. The district clearly needs to reduce expenses and increase non-taxpayer revenues. The bargaining agreement with the teacher’s union is very impactful on overall costs. The current contract expires this July, and it’s imperative the Board negotiate a new contract that is fair to the taxpayers, and the teachers, and lays the groundwork to keep LFHS financially and academically healthy.

 

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

My top three priorities are to work effectively with other board members and the professional staff to concurrently maximize:

  • Student outcomes,
  • Taxpayer outcomes, and
  • Public transparency.

Embedded in the above is the concept of objective measurement.  No organization can know how well it is doing without defining what it is trying to achieve, and then measuring and reporting against that.

 

What are some of the district’s strengths?

We are obviously fortunate in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Knollwood in many ways. As relates to the high school, we are well funded and have great facilities.  We have a well-educated, supportive community, successful, involved parents and a talented and dedicated staff. The key then for a board of education here, in my opinion, is to help the staff effectively harness those resources and provide a culture of excellence, accountability, continuous improvement and transparency to benefit all involved. In my experience, when expectations are clear, when a dedicated staff is empowered and when results are fairly and routinely measured, things improve.

 

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

While the district has been making positive progress on many fronts, particularly in student outcomes, much more can be done, even in a challenging economic environment. The number one area for improvement potential overall, in my opinion, is cultural in the area of accountability. As I have said above, for the high school to truly know how well it is doing, it must define objectively and measurably what its key outcome indicators are, and then routinely measure and report against them, both historically and comparatively versus other high performing institutions. When an organization collectively decides what’s important, and then constructively and openly assesses itself in meeting those ends, things generally improve. The new superintendent will be a pivotal influence here, as will those she/he helps select for their senior staff, hence the importance of the maturity and leadership of those doing the selecting.

 

What role should the School Board play in shaping curriculum?

By policy and by law, the school Board plays a significant role in shaping curriculum, from approving major curricular changes and all textbooks, to establishing a routine curriculum assessment process. The professional staff and the Board collaborate closely on these matters, by definition, and the staff, appropriately, takes the lead on recommendations, with guidance from the Board. In recent times, some examples of changes decided at the Board level have been as follows:  the addition of Mandarin Chinese to the Foreign Language program, the revamping of the freshman Health and Wellness curriculum and the Freshman Orientation program, the adoption of new Math and Reading programs to better assist struggling learners, the inclusion of socio-emotional wellness and character development aspects across all academic offerings, the elimination of the Transportation program (Auto Shop), and many others which could be pointed out.

 

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

The district’s financial state must be, and can be, improved without a new tax levy. The school has been depleting reserves, as the macro-economic situation has reduced revenues while costs, mainly personnel related, have increased at greater than inflation.  This is untenable for much longer, as cash reserves this summer are now projected at only about $1.6 million, or 3.5 percent of yearly expenditures, versus the board’s minimum goal of 10 percent. The district needs to both reduce expenses and increase non-taxpayer revenues. This can be accomplished, while continuing to improve student outcomes, and the Board has taken, and is currently taking, many steps to help accomplish this. As more than 70 percent of expenses are employee related, the new teacher’s contract, which must be reached this year, and the selection of a new district leadership team, will be critical in establishing the groundwork to keep LFHS financially and academically strong.

 

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

I have a lengthy, varied and successful track record of achievement, at a board level, in the educational, community affairs and professional arenas.  I have a demonstrated focus on transparency and what’s best for the taxpayers.  The district faces significant challenges near term, and I believe no one is better equipped to hit the ground running to help overcome these challenges.  I believe that is why the Lake Forest Caucus, after its extensive vetting process, is endorsing me again for election. Further, I think my fellow Caucus candidates and I were selected because we are synergistic and will fit well with the current members of the board, and will be able to work collaboratively together right from the start.

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 Name: Monty Edson

Age: 64

Town: Lake Forest

Incumbent: No

Family: Wife Kathy, two grown sons: Charles and Davis

Occupation: Sole Proprietor, Insurance Partners; Business Coach, ActionCoach USA

Education: BA, Middlebury College; MBA, Harvard

Community Involvement: Board Member, Former Chair of Lake Forest Graduate School of Management

Campaign website: www.lfcaucus.com/candidates/bdofedinfo.asp

 

Why are you running for a School Board position?

I have a life-long interest in using education to improve people’s lives.  As a board member, I will bring my previous experience as past Chair of the board of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (LFGSM) and my years in the classroom as an adjunct professor at the same institution.

I believe in serving the Lake Forest community.  My two children attended Lake Forest public schools, beginning in with kindergarten and going all the way through 12th grade.  Our high school’s reputation is a key reason that people want to live in our town – it certainly was an important reason for my having moved here. 

As a board member, I will focus on examining measures LFHS uses to assess how well it is meeting its mission (LFHS Mission: “To inspire the passion to learn, the wisdom to know oneself and the courage to make a difference”).   Measurement clearly involves more than ACT scores and college placements, although these are important.   What are the appropriate measures?  How well does LFHS stack up on them?   What reasonable, high reward, best practice initiatives can be implemented to move the needle on these measures?  Do they make financial sense?

 

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

The school needs to build on its 2020 Vision program to identify skills required in the 21st century, phase in new curricula to introduce those skills, add stronger assessment components, help teachers measure learning results more consistently and identify best practices to improve curriculum delivery.

In addition, the school needs to carefully husband its financial resources in light of today’s economy and limits on tax levies.  Declining revenue and increasing demand for services will continue for the foreseeable future.  District 115 needs to meet this challenge by reducing expenses without negatively impacting education programs.  A partial solution will be to continue to explore cost savings through shared services with Districts 65 and 67.  Another will be to follow through on the school’s notice of intent to withdraw from the North Suburban Special Education District next year.

In the short term, District 115 faces two key challenges: negotiating a new contract with its teachers and replacing its current superintendent, who is retiring at year end and.   Both are important decisions that tie directly to the longer term changes mentioned above.

 

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

As mentioned above, ensuring that metrics and a strong assessment processes are in place to evidence that the school is meeting its mission.

An effective board must have a rigorous and regular self-assessment process in place, one that clearly identifies the board strengths and areas where governance needs improvement.  This process should be open and honest and should be supported by specific initiatives in areas requiring improvement.  I will work with other board members to ensure that an effective self-assessment process is in place.

Ensuring that the 2020 Vision program generates meaningful improvements to the curricula and delivery methods that are tied to skills required in life after high school.

 

What are some of the district’s strengths?

  • A vibrant student body
  • Dedicated teachers
  • A wide variety of programs and activities
  • Shared services agreement
  • Supportive parents
  • Ability to attract and keep talented faculty and staff

 

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

  • Improved metrics and outcome assessment tied to the school's mission.
  • Improved planning process, where strategic themes are tied to the school's mission and are clearly articulated, where each initiative and funding element is clearly tied to one or more of the strategic themes and where progress is tracked and reported.
  • Assess and review how well the school provides information to the community about its governance processes.

 

What role should the School Board play in shaping curriculum?

By its nature, a board's mission is governance, not management or education delivery.  The board should ensure that the scope and mission of the 2020 Vision program is clearly defined, that the project is properly staffed and organized and that recommendations developed by it are appropriately funded and implemented.

 

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

The district will find it difficult to increase spending due to decreases in certain revenue sources, levy caps and public pressure.  At the same time, teacher salaries, which make up 80 percent of the school's educational fund are up for negotiation this year. Squeezed between flat/decreasing revenue and pressure on salaries, the district will be pressed to find creative ways to save in all areas.  Examples include the district's decision to withdraw from the North Suburban Special Education District while providing the same or better services on its own at a lower cost and the search for additional areas to include in the shared services agreement.

The district must continue updating its long range financial plan to incorporate what is known about future revenue and expense sources in order to "avoid surprises".


What distinguishes me from other board candidates?

I have experience in the classroom, as an adjunct professor at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.

I have experience in board governance of an educational institution, the same Lake Forest Graduate School of Management . I have experience in developing outcome assessment protocols for educational institutions.

I was selected by the Caucus because I and the other Caucus candidates have abilities that 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:  Hannah Emmanuele

Age:  48

Town:  Lake Forest

Incumbent? (If yes, when were you elected?) 

No, I am one of four candidates vying for three open seats on the Lake Forest High School Board of Education.

 Family: My husband and I have four children, a junior at the Lake Forest High School, an 8th grader and 5th grade twins at Deerpath Middle School.

Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BS in Public Health and Chemistry; University of Chicago Booth School of Business, MBA

Occupation: Treasurer and Acting CFO, University of Chicago Hospitals, ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees almost 11 years. Managed $500 million investment portfolio.Integrated long and short range financial and strategic plans.  

Hands-on experience includes work redesign, budget reductions, contract negotiation, senior management recruitment, accreditation, and overseeing 500 physicians in the medical housestaff program.

 

Community Involvement:

  • Frequently participate within and around our schools at all grade levels as an active parent volunteer (room parent, culture festivals, concession stand, field trips, Open Lands, yearbook, etc), organizing sports teams, and assisting/volunteering in various extracurricular activities.
  • Advisor to the District 67 and Deerpath Middle School administrative team on 21st Century learning and the netbook pilot project.
  • Girl Scouts troop leader, Financial Partner of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Girl Scout Community
  • Advisor to the Girl Scouts Illinois Crossroads Council, regional office of the GSUSA.
  • Favorite position:  Mrs. E., the “costume mom,” for countless Brainstormers musical productions over the past ten years working with many brilliant young actors and talented and patient directors.

 

Link to campaign website or Facebook page:   www.Hannah4LFHS.com

 

Why are you running for a School Board position?

After a successful career, today I find myself a mother of four children currently enrolled in our Lake Forest public schools, devoted to and vested in the education of all our children. I am particularly well informed and passionate about educational issues. My skill set is especially relevant to the issues LFHS faces today and a wonderful complement to the current LFHS Board members.

As the only parent on the high school ballot who has children currently enrolled in our schools, I wish to use my considerable experience, my knowledge about our schools and education, and my insights as a business woman and parent to help create a well-rounded Board of Education to serve the best interests of our children and our community.

 

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

 ●     Selecting a new superintendent for our schools

●     Contract negotiations with the teacher’s union for July 2011

●     Potential consolidation of Lake Forest and Lake Buff school districts 65, 67 and 115 under Governor Quinn’s plan

●     Continuing fiscal constraints which require doing more with fewer resources.

●     Responding to the College Board’s decision to revamp the entire AP curricula and tests.

●     Further development and implementation of the Tri-District 2020 Vision to launch all our academic programs for the next generation of students. 

 

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

  1. To recruit a new superintendent with exceptional high school experience, prepared to lead our schools in the tradition of educational excellence our community expects and supports and that our children deserve.
  2. To work collaboratively with senior Board members to improve openness, transparency, and accountability, while strengthening the partnership between parents, the community, the school and the Board of Education by establishing a shared LFHS vision.
  3.  To understand and forecast our operating budget, capital plan and technology needs as it relates to the 2020 Vision so that our school and community understand where we are going and to ensure fiscally responsible decision making.

 

What are some of LFHS district strengths?

●     Lake Forest/Lake Bluff is a community that values education

●     Small size which enables our students to participate more fully in activities

●     Dedicated and talented teaching staff

●     Bright and talented students who produce high test scores and good grades

●     Modern and updated facilities

●     A great variety of curricular, sports, fine arts and community service programs and

●     Sophisticated parents with high expectations

 

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

 ●     As the district with the highest cost per pupil in the state,  seek ways to reduce our operational costs and ensure tax dollars are spent wisely.

 ●     Ensure that we are not just counting what we measure, but measuring what really counts in student learning.

 ●     Develop a continuous cycle of improvement, evaluation and feedback to ensure our programs serve our children well.

 ●     Benchmark with other programs and high schools.

 

What role should the School Board play in shaping curriculum?

The Board should provide oversight and accountability, not day to day management of schools and curriculum. School Boards should not design curriculum, but make policies to determine which courses and programs are offered and approve the purchase of textbooks, tools and technology as recommended by the administration and faculty. 

 

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

With a projected year end operating deficit, a tightening revenue stream and dwindling fund balance reserves, LFHS has to find more effective ways to use resources and look for opportunities to reduce spending in areas that do not negatively impact the classrooms.

To serve the best interests of our taxpayers and the LF/LB community at large, we also must pursue excellence in our schools as a point of differentiation for our community to ensure the purchase of a home in Lake Forest is a wise investment decision.

 

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

 I am the only candidate on the LFHS ballot with children currently enrolled in our schools.  The existing board has only one Board member who is a parent of a high school student and that student will be graduating next year. At that time and until the next election, there will be no parents of high school or middle school students sitting on the LFHS Board. 

I am a well educated, accomplished business woman and mother. There ought to be more than one or two women on our seven member Board of Education.

My personal experience inside our classrooms and actively supporting our teachers has helped me understand the issues we collectively face. This insight would add a new dimension and improve balance on the Board of Education.

I have unique insight into the way kids today communicate and learn differently than they did even five years ago.

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Name: Nicki Snoblin

Age: 55

Town: Lake Bluff

Incumbent? (If yes, when were you elected?)

Yes; I was elected in 2007.

 Family:

Husband Karl; children Peter (age 26) and Amelia (age 20). Both children are graduates of Lake Forest High School.

Occupation:

I own and operate a communications business specializing in web design and development.

Community Involvement:

I am currently a member of the District 115 Board of Education (and the Board’s Education Committee); the secretary of Knollwood Neighbors, a nonprofit community organization; a member of the League of Women Voters of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area (and its webmaster); a member of the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce; and a member of a new organization in the community (sponsored by the Charmm’d Foundation) called Bridges. I have also served on many other elected and appointed boards and committees in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff/Knollwood, including the Lake Forest Day Centennial Committee, Shields Township Board of Trustees, Shields Township Public Safety Committee, LFHS Applause (where I served two terms as president), Partners for Progress, and the Lake Bluff PTO. I was an active school volunteer throughout the years my children were in school, and now I am a parent representative for my daughter’s university.

 Link to campaign website or Facebook page:

 www.nickifor115.com .

 

Why are you running for a School Board position?

I have been a District 115 board member for four years. As the parent of an LFHS graduate and a current student when I was elected, I came into office with considerable information and first-hand experience regarding the school and its staff, but serving on the board has allowed me to gain an additional perspective on the operations and administration of the district.

 We are facing momentous changes in District 115, and I want to use my knowledge and experience to help the district and the community through these changes. The school district will need continuity, collaboration, and capable leadership to set the course for the next four years. A strong board is greater than the sum of its parts; achieving an optimal balance requires board members with complementary backgrounds and abilities, and I believe my skills will continue to be an asset to the board.

 

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

Hiring a new superintendent, preparing for the retirement of several other key administrators, negotiating a new teacher contract, and evaluating our special education program are all important issues on the horizon. Adapting our budget to the new fiscal realities of the district is an ongoing  task that will continue to be a challenge.

 

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

Among my priorities for the coming years are (1) making sure we are serving the diverse academic needs of our students, with emphasis on individual progress over time; (2) interdistrict cooperation and curriculum alignment; and (3) continued progress in fostering emotional wellness.

 

What are some of the district’s strengths?

Probably the greatest strength of District 115 is its outstanding teaching staff. The Board and administration have given a great deal of attention to ensuring that we have teachers capable of not just teaching but inspiring our students. Our physical facility also has become a strength, since we now have enough space for the kinds of innovative programming and staff development that make LFHS a very special learning environment.

 

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

An area that warrants our ongoing attention is transparency and communication. Both the Board and the administration firmly believe in reaching out to the community for input and feedback, and we are constantly seeking more effective ways to communicate.

 

What role should the School Board play in shaping curriculum?

The School Board works closely with the professional educators on our administrative staff to oversee curriculum development. We are interested in current research in education, but we need to balance emerging information and technologies with current best practices. The Board’s primary role is to reflect the values and priorities of our entire community in setting the direction for the district.

 

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

The Board has been in constant communication with the District’s business office during the current economic downturn to stay abreast of our financial position. Judicious reductions have been made in staffing levels, primarily affecting administrative and support staff, and all areas of the school’s operations have been examined carefully for possible cost savings. We have developed what we believe are realistic financial projections that will allow us to slowly rebuild our reserve to its optimal level over the next several years. Given the prevailing economic uncertainty, we feel we have done everything we can to safeguard our academic programs and position the district for economic recovery.

 

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

I am the only candidate with a background in communications, coupled with the in-depth knowledge of the school district that comes of being a long-time parent volunteer at the high school and a school board member. In addition, I have previous experience serving on elected boards. I am able to address important issues of communication and transparency while still being cognizant of the legal, ethical, and fiduciary responsibilities that go along with board service.

 I was selected along with the other Caucus candidates 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 team that will be able to work collaboratively right from the start.

Todd Burgener March 22, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Certain candidates seem intently focused on the fact that many school board members have no children currently enrolled in the schools; insinuating that these representatives lack proper vesting in the districts and are somehow less qualified to serve. I would argue, on the contrary, that these board members are unique in their selflessness and objectivity. Currently, I am the only member of the District 115 Board of Education who has NEVER had a child at Lake Forest High School. I do, however, have two children coming up through the elementary schools feeding into the High School and have six nieces and a nephew who, barring unanticipated residency changes, will also attending LFHS or are currently there – nine family members (as many as five in a single year) should attend the school over the course of the 11 years from 2009 to 2020. I am also a graduate of LFHS and a product of the Lake Bluff Elementary Schools. While interesting, perhaps, this is information is irrelevant except in explaining a part of who I am. It is not a qualification for board membership in itself. Objectivity, openness of mind, an interest in the quality of education and the success of our community’s schools and concern for the prudent use of tax payer dollars are – regardless of status as a parent. Todd Burgener
R April 07, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Vote for Ted Moorman and nobody else! Let's get an independent voice on the Board. Just one independent person would make a difference!!

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