CARY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE FOR EDUCATION
DISTRICT 26 SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE
Name Chris Jenner Phone 847-421-7655
Business/Home Address 540 Spruce Tree Dr.
Non-incumbent X Incumbent Number of Years
I serve or have served on the following District 26 committees:
Technology Committee (1998 - 1999)
Community Engagement Committee, Values / Beliefs Subcommittee (2005)
Do you have school age children? Yes X No
If so, what school(s) do they attend? Immanuel Lutheran School, Crystal Lake
High School Diploma Yes X No
B.S./B.A. B.S. Major Computer Science
College or University University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
Graduate Work MBA, Illinois Institute of Technology
MS Telecommunications, DePaul University
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1. What are your motivations for running?
Voluntary service is an essential part of a great community and a great country. As a community member, I'd be pleased to freely give my time, experience, and skills so I can continue to live in a community with a great school system. I'm also concerned that District 26 may be unnecessarily heading in the direction of other districts that are in dire financial straits and where district stakeholders are at odds. I believe those things aren't happening in District 26 at this point, and I have the interest, desire, drive, and background needed to help prevent Cary from panicking its way into such a situation.
2. Why do you believe that you would be a good school board member?
I've had a successful career doing many of the same things a board member does -- leading and managing people, budgets, policies, etc. I'm interested in all aspects of the district -- policy, planning, finances, curriculum, etc. I've been attending District 26 meetings regularly since October, 2003, and am familiar with what's going on in the district.
I'm a lifelong learner, and I'm willing to dedicate the time needed to learn and be trained in what a good board member needs to do. I'm accessible and responsive. Most issues we struggle with have been faced by other districts somewhere in the state, the country, or even the world. I'm persistent and resourceful in identifying potential solutions to those issues.
I care very much about education, certainly for my kids, and for all children as well. Where will our country be if today's youth isn't properly educated to successfully lead and compete in a world marketplace?
3. What do you believe is the role of a school board member?
A board member participates as part of a leadership team, working with district stakeholders to establish and maintain district policies, including policies for ends, means, board-staff relationship, and process of governance. A board member lends his or her areas of expertise and experience toward directing the superintendent to achieve the district's ends, and asking probing questions regarding things the board is requested to approve. A board member takes input from any and all district stakeholders and drives the board to ensure all input is given fair consideration.
4. What do you think is/are the biggest concern(s) facing District 26?
I believe District 26 is in reasonably good shape, both academically and financially, despite what we read in the press and hear at board meetings. My biggest concern is the district letting itself fall into the troubles that other districts are seeing because of lack of planning and lack of proactive policymaking.
5. What current critical issues do you see impacting District 26?
As a school board member, how do you plan to address these issues?
The most critical issues I see for District 26 are (a) lack of proactive and rigorous policies and procedures, (b) getting to a sustainable financial model, (c) regaining the trust of the staff and community, and (d) ensuring district employees have the respect, support, resources and working environment they need to deliver a great education to the children of District 26.
I would address (a) by putting a higher priority on the Policy Committee. The Policy Committee has only met three times since July of last year, and the policy manual revision has been put on the back burner. For (b), we first need to get our budget in an understandable and accurate format. We can then begin a rigorous analysis of costs and revenues, making sure we're maximizing district revenue opportunities and maximizing efficiency of district spending (getting the most for our money, and prioritizing spending putting the children at the top). To address (c), the board must be much more open and honest with district stakeholders. The current philosophy seems to be to withhold information, unless there's a compelling reason to release it. My approach would be to release information, unless there's a compelling reason to withhold it. For (d), I'd apply my management and leadership skills and experience much the same way I've done in my professional career.
6. What life experience or specific training do you feel that school board members should have or need?
Board members should have the lifelong learner mentality that we want children to leave District 26 with. They should have a passion for education, and care highly for children. At this point, having led a large organization through a financial crisis (which I've done) would also be a useful experience. Board members should have compassion, but not let emotion lead to unsound decisions. Board members should be trained in how board governance is supposed to work, and in proactive, policy-focused leadership.
7. How do you feel District 26 compares to other districts in the county?
Although we may argue the issues as passionately in District 26 as stakeholders do elsewhere in the county, the issues discussed at board meetings (e.g. band fees and the collection thereof) seem considerably less crucial than in other districts.
The 2004 Illinois School Report Cards indicate that of the 14 districts in McHenry County that offer K-8, District 26 is #1 in percent of teachers with a Master's or higher, over five percentage points ahead of the next closest district, and #2 in overall percent of students meeting or exceeding state learning standards, only 0.3 percentage points behind Fox River Grove.
Participating in the Beliefs subcommittee of the Community Engagement Committee has shown me that District 26 stakeholders are reasonably close in what they want from the district. We all want a great school system. In many respects we agree on what "a great school system" means. In the 12 years I've lived in Cary, I've found it to have caring parents, great people. My kids are already talking about what Cary will be like when they're living here as adults. I'm very optimistic about District 26's future.
The short answer is District 26 is one of the best, if not the best, district in the county.
8. Would you be interested in participating in interest-based bargaining training?
Yes! From what I read about the negotiations that led to the current contract, it appeared interest-based bargaining played a major role in quickly, efficiently, and amicably (or so it appeared) getting to an agreement the board and the CEA were satisfied with.
9. If so, what skills do you feel you could offer during negotiations for the benefit of the stakeholders in Cary 26?
I look at opportunities where agreement must be reached with a fair and open mind, and a strong desire for a win-win result. I always find it useful to look at issues from the other person's viewpoint.