District 51 school board candidate John Williams
Q: Why are you the best candidate to represent your district on the board?
A: I am fortunate to be the only candidate in District C, which makes me the best candidate. It also frees me up to spend time communicating about the bond and mill levy override ballot measures rather than running a personal campaign. I was elected in 2013 with fellow board members Greg Mikolai and Tom Parrish and I know that each of us has worked hard over the last four years leading efforts to initiate performance-based learning, getting the current school tax issues before the public, and being in schools weekly developing constructive relationships with teachers and school administrators (where the real work happens.) We have been transparent and accessible.
Q: Do you support the bond measure and mill levy override? Why or why not?
A: I enthusiastically support both measures. The Board of Education made more than $30 million in budget cuts in 2010-11, and it is time to catch up. The bond and mill efforts have been carefully crafted to support teachers in classrooms. All of the components of the bond are basic needs that directly benefit kids. The mill levy override components are also basic — more school instruction days, the purchase of relevant and current curriculum materials, and creation of an annual fund to repair our 44 schools. I expect no increase in funding from the state. It is up to the local community to support the most important factor for the economic vitality of our community — K-12 schools.
Q: What are your impressions of new initiatives, such as performance-based learning and strategic teacher compensation? What other initiatives or policy changes would you like to enact?
A: I enthusiastically support both performance-based learning and strategic compensation. District 51 is one of the few school districts where a student must be proficient in a subject to move to the next level. Each kid can move at his/her individual speed, but will not be promoted until proficiency is achieved. Seat time is no longer the standard. Likewise, under our strategic compensation model, teachers earn salary increases only if they demonstrate proficiency and participate in professional development that is relevant in their classroom. Just like our expectations of our kids, simply being in attendance is no longer enough. I have three distinct goals in coming years: (1) all third-graders reading at grade level proficiency by the end of third grade; (2) create and extend our partnerships with CMU, WCCC and the Chamber to create more school-to-work opportunities; and (3) create a school calendar where our kids attend school on predictable schedules every week.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge District 51 faces and what can you do as a board member to address it?
A: I see a lot of significant challenges — diverse backgrounds/needs of our students, mental health issues, teacher shortages, etc. The two that stand out most to me are (1) trust and (2) funding. With regard to trust, there is a perception in the community that District 51 is not accountable to the taxpayers for money entrusted to it. While I believe the district is spending its tax dollars wisely, we have to do better. The BOE must insist that all decisions made are for the sole and absolute good of students. With regard to funding, I am convinced that solid local funding makes a huge difference. No longer can this community rely on the state for an annual increase in funding. It is up to the BOE to critically determine needs and then effectively communicate those needs to the community if and when additional funding is truly needed.