Just as with Susan Handelsman’s responses to the Woodstock Council of Teachers’ questionnaire, I found the following responses from L William Nattress III in the comment section of McHenry County Blog.
I am happy to give them more readership by publishing them below:
1. What are your motivations for running?
I believe very strongly in youth development. In the almost twenty-five years that my wife and I have lived in Woodstock I have been very active in a number of youth organizations, both civic and religious. I believe strongly in developing the next generation of leaders and helping them to have the tools necessary to be thoughtful and caring members of our society. I also believe that students must have foundational learning objectives while having options to their education so that their potential career interests can be explored; whether to higher education, trades, military service, or skilled labor.
2. Why do you believe that you would be a good school board member?
I was appointed to the District 200 School Board in April of 2014 and was elected to a two-year term in 2015. My experience comes from those three years of service but also two other rather different perspectives. Up until the end of 2015, I was a technology consultant in which I spent many years working with grade school and higher education clients both in North America and abroad aiding my clients in advancing the needs of their students. This work has involved the augmentation of the curriculum with technologies. The second perspective is that I also have extensive Board experience within corporate and not-for-profit organizations. Because of this experience, I have the tools necessary to think strategically and collaboratively while understanding the future impacts and achieving goals.
I am still a somewhat new voice offering to lead and work with a strong group focused on the same values that I hold dear, the development of the next generation. My experience in systems of governance and strategic thinking aid in being a part of making the decisions necessary for the success of our school district. My experience in education and associated technologies has been a boon to the district, as it would bring a different and needed understanding to the decisions that will be faced in the coming years. The district has benefited from my knowledge in educational technologies in the deployment of the Fiber Optic infrastructure, in building network distribution, and initiatives in board transparency with electronic board materials and the possibilities of streaming board meetings.
3. What do you believe is the role of a school board member?
The school board member is one voice in seven that serve on the board with the primary role of financing and delivering the education to the youth of the district. The board has one employee in the Superintendent. Through the boards strategic direction, the Superintendent is responsible to the tactical approach to achieve the goals and initiatives of the boards strategic direction.
One of Dr. Moans first tasks assigned by the board when he was hired was to update the strategic plan of District 200. This was in process when I was appointed to the board and has since been completed. Generated by educators and community members, this plan provides a very clear road map for the board to use in making decisions. However, it did not assess our facilities.
In making decisions for the district, I often refer to the strategic plan. I also need to weigh decisions against the data generated by the community that resulted in the passing of the 2006 referendum. This data is outdated and why I strongly supported the creation of the recent facilities review task force. With the recommendations from the task force, the board will be able to make more relevant decisions based upon recent data and community preference.
4. What do you think is/are the biggest concern(s) facing District 200?
Taxes – Taxes were high when my wife and I came to McHenry County. The level of services received distributed across a smaller population made that situation. In that time, the issues at the state level have forced greater reliance on the local taxing bodies. The real estate bubble burst moved this to critical mass. There are many reasons for the recovery taking as long as it has. Taxation has an impact on this but not as significant as the loss of value created by the foreclosure rate in the community. Now that foreclosures have come under control the real estate values have begun to increase. It is important to note that District 200 has not increased the local tax levy since 2014 and has just recently abated a percentage of the 2017 levy due to the state finally providing full payment of the monies due to the district. This has not occurred in many years.
Debt Management- The voter approved referendums have created bonds that the Board continues to manage the debt against. Leveraging the School Districts very favorable bond rating, Aa2, the Board has refinanced bonds and paid interest to reduce the debt load. This activity will continue as bonds mature and this strategy should offset the balloon rates that are coming due in the next five years.
Balancing quality schools against rising costs- The Board has taken many steps towards improving the quality of the education delivered within the District while reducing costs. Education curriculum costs money. The District has moved away from the outdated paradigm of purchasing curriculum on a multi-year basis to the online method that provides consistently updated curriculum with annual costs. Since the District was able to deploy increased internet bandwidth and improved networks within all of the buildings, we have been able to use this new curriculum acquisition method at a reduced cost to the taxpayer. This method of cost savings will need to continue as we further update our teaching materials.
5. What current critical issues do you see impacting District 200?
State funding will always hold a need for concern. Until the funding calculations are more equitable across every district in the state, there will be no means to finance education other than through local tax dollars. When one considers that District 200 is one of the largest employers within McHenry County, the answers to many questions do not necessarily point to reducing staff or closing buildings, as this would have different negative effects. It does lend itself to more efficient usage of the districts resources, hence the creation of the task force that is currently exploring these issues.
6. What valuable training do you feel that school boards members should have or need?
The IASB provides training programs for school board members that inform them of the requirements of the open meetings act and school district financing. Further training is available in many areas of personal interest at the annual conference. The district administration did a fabulous job mentoring and explaining the various reports issued to the board members monthly. It does help to understand financial statements and how the school code applies to the reporting of these. There are several status reports given to the board throughout the year based giving information on the outcomes of numerous programs within the district. These reports are program specific and the administration has made staff available to the board members should they wish to learn more about those programs for greater understanding.
7. How do you feel District 200 compares to other districts in the country?
We should look no further than the continued success and accolades received by each of our individual schools and programs within the district. Scholastically and socially our district continues to shine both locally and nationally. This is a testament to the administration, staff, students, and board of the district, as well as the working relationship that they have.
District 200 is referenced nationally as one of the primary examples of how to run an effective and efficient dual language program. This extends beyond our boundaries, as our program has developed dual language references to be used within other One-to-One programs across the country. The positive metric achievements of these students are beginning to prove that these programs are supporting better educational outcomes for all involved.
8. When are you available to visit schools and classrooms?
I am available at any prearranged time. I have already visited a number of classrooms over the last three years mostly in review of the One-to-One programs and evolving use of technologies in the classroom.
9. What are your views on school district consolidation?
Consolidation can mean different things. I am a strong proponent of looking at consolidation of programs into common buildings. This does move the district away from the neighborhood school concept. By looking at program/curriculum delivery first, the potential of closing or modifying building usage can be more effectively viewed. In our current configuration, we do have excess space that could be used more effectively, resulting in the need to close some buildings. However, those recommendations have not yet been fully vetted and so their impact to students or costs are not understood. I will not support closing a school to only save dollars if it creates a negative impact on educating our students.
10. In order to reach out to the entire District 200 community, would you agree to having your answers translated in Spanish by the Department of Language and Culture and District 200?
I have no concerns with this information being translated so long as the intent is not lost in that translation.