Zionsville Times Sentinel

October 31, 2012

Zionsville School Board election 2012


CNHI



EAGLE TOWNSHIP

CANDIDATE NAME:  Jane Burgess

Education:  Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Purdue University, 1982. 

                      Masters in Education, Reading Specialty, West Chester University, 1988.   

Experience: Former classroom teacher and reading specialist.  Back to Back coordinator and teacher for the French Exchange Program.  Help One Student To Succeed Program (HOSTS)--teacher training, staff development and training program developer.  

Community or volunteer activities: My community and volunteer activities include

  1. How do you think teacher pay will change when the switch is made to a merit-based pay scale, and how will that change affect the contract with the teacher’s union?

Teacher accountability is critical to preserving our standard of excellence and to insure that we are recruiting and retaining the highest quality teachers.I believe that quality teachers can make all the difference to our children.ZCS has been top performing schools because of parental involvement and committed teachers.Our teaching staff clearly contributes to this success.A merit based pay scale can only serve to enhance the quality of our teachers so long as it focuses on clearly identifiable and objective evaluation criteria. While I will take into account input from our community, the impact on the teacher’s contract can only be addressed through thoughtful and considerate negotiations.

  1. Are you in favor of using the maximum levy for the three years of the referendum? If not, how would you offset any projected shortfall?

As a result of the state’s new funding formula, Zionsville schools receive the lowest amount of state dollars per pupil of all public schools.Referendum dollars do not fully restore ZCS to previous levels and our financial challenges will continue-especially with increasing student enrollment.However, we are working with state leaders on a proposal to reward high performing schools like ZCS with an additional $1 million annually.

I ran to bring fiscal responsibility to the Board.We have balanced our budget.Should our financial situation dramatically improve and lower amounts are needed, I will consider it at that time.However, it is critical that we utilize these dollars in 2013 and to suggest that the budget can be balanced without referendum dollars and without laying off teachers does not reflect reality.Our schools are recovering from devastating cuts and we have begun the path to restoration—let’s not go back.

  1. What is your solution for the 2015 budget after the referendum expires?

I have a plan:1) more equitable funding from the state, 2) refinance 2005 bonds, and 3) additional public-private revenue partnerships.

Our proposal with state leaders will reward high performing schools like ZCS.We unfairly receive the lowest amount of state dollars per pupil of all public schools in the state.We also are one of the fastest enrollment growing schools too—an increase of 195 students from last year.This proposal could bring over $1.1 million to ZCS.

In 2015 we will again be able to refinance the 2005 bond issues which will be nearly 60% of all debt then for a significant savings to ZCS.Additionally, the cost cutting efforts that we began in 2008 will continue.Finally, I helped lead some of the new creative revenue initiatives from private partnerships such as the St. Vincent’s partnership, which has brought significant dollars and value to ZCS.

  1. As a school board member, how would you ensure the schools maintain a standard of excellence?

My work on the board and as a former teacher has further developed my fundamental belief that the key to success continues to be parental involvement and teacher quality.Now that we are on a path to restoration and class sizes have been reduced, the stress that we felt in recent years has decreased.With the rapid changes in technology and learning, teachers must quickly adapt to new teaching methods that are now designed to help our student compete in a global economy.To continue to succeed, we need to insure that we have the resources and talent to educate our children so they can compete in this global economy.I believe that finding and cultivating talented teachers will be a critical factor in maintaining our standard of excellence for our district schools.

  1. What is the single biggest challenge the school board faces other than the budget? How would you address and resolve that issue?

My most important goals were fiscal responsibility and insuring that the Board has a strong relationship with the community.Today, that relationship with the School Board and the Town Council is much improved and is, in fact, a “partnership.”This relationship will improve our ability to meet one of our greatest challenges which is increased enrollment.While the Board does not directly influence enrollment, we must be prepared when our enrollment exceeds our space limitations.

CANDIDATE NAME:  Sue Gentile



Education: I’m a Certified Public Accountant licensed in the State of New York.  I graduated from Pace University in Pleasantville, NY with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree and I majored in Public Accounting.



Experience: I’m an Alumni of Arthur Andersen, which was one of the world’s largest and most prestigious public accounting firms, have 15 years of professional experience (emphasis on SEC reporting) responsible for the Financial Presentation of companies with revenues of $50 Million to $4 Billion.



Community or volunteer activities: Volunteer religious education teacher here at St. Alphonsus and St. Mary’s in New Jersey (5th grade through high school students).  Tutored written communications during my four years at Pace University which included working with dyslexic and English as a Second Language students.    



1. How do you think teacher pay will change when the switch is made to a merit-based pay scale, and how will that change affect the contract with the teacher’s union?



My understanding of the new legislation is the merit-based pay scale will not impact existing union contracts, but will be incorporated into the new contracts.  How those contracts are impacted is dependent upon how the school implements the new Teacher Evaluation legislation which goes into effect statewide during the 2012-2013 school year.  This is a great opportunity for our School Corporation to be innovative and creative and to develop a program which could become the Gold Standard for other school districts. 



Each school corporation in Indiana is being provided with guidelines to develop a Teacher Evaluation System and flexibility to implement such system.  With regard to the merit-based pay portion of the law, the Indiana DOE is providing guidelines and “guardrails” and several choices for implementation so that local school districts can choose what works best for them.   If elected to the School Board, I will be committed to ensuring a smooth transition and successful implementation of this new legislation.



2. Are you in favor of using the maximum levy for the three years of the referendum? If not, how would you offset any projected shortfall?



Yes.  In accordance with the will of the voters, I believe the School Corporation should receive all of the referendum funds.  In May 2012, the community voted in favor of the $14,100,000 property tax referendum.  As such, it is the fiduciary duty of the School Board to uphold the will of the voters.  If elected, I would support using the referendum funds to first balance the budget and then to restore the Rainy Day Fund, which is currently being used as a bridge until the referendum funds become available.



3. What is your solution for the 2015 budget after the referendum expires?



The $14,100,000 property tax referendum was a “Band-Aid” and the school has been given a three year window to balance the budget.  The community passed the referendum because firing teachers was not an acceptable alternative.  Although sources of revenue have been reduced, the school’s budget deficits were exasperated by overspending and the failure to address an unsustainable increase in base-line spending.



In order to find long term, fiscally sustainable solutions, the composition of the School Board must change.   I’m a CPA with 15 years of private sector experience.  My strength is in financial analysis and reporting.  I’m experienced at analyzing the overall financial picture of a company and developing common sense solutions to complex problems.  I bring a fresh perspective and the skill set needed to resolve these challenges.  I also believe that every child possesses amazing potential and that next to parenting, education is the springboard to unleashing that potential.



4. As a school board member, how would you ensure the schools maintain a standard of excellence?

Zionsville schools have always achieved a standard of excellence at or near the top in Indiana.  Even last year when it appeared that there were some crowded classrooms, there was no apparent decline in student scores on standardized achievement testing designed to measure student learning.  As long as we continue to have parents in our community with high expectations for their children and who send them to school everyday ready to learn, that standard of excellence will be maintained by the outstanding efforts of our students and our dedicated teachers.



5. What is the single biggest challenge the school board faces other than the budget? How would you address and resolve that issue?

    

The single biggest challenge facing the school board, other than the budget, will be the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement due to be completed in 2013.  Employee expenses represent a significant portion of the school’s budget and, as such, impact the financial position of the School Corporation.  The implementation of the new Teacher Evaluation legislation which goes into effect statewide during the 2012-2013 school year, will impact the new collective bargaining agreement.  As mentioned in my response above, a key feature of the new law requires school districts to link teacher pay to performance.  This law is part of a broader national trend to create more effective teacher evaluation systems and is designed to address compensation packages and to motivate higher levels of performance for the benefit of teachers and students alike.   Attracting and retaining high performing teachers is good for our schools, our children, and our community. 

UNION TOWNSHIP

CANDIDATE NAME: Joe Stein



Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Indiana University

Passed the CPA Exam



Experience:  Worked as an auditor in an international public accounting firm, office manager of a physician practice, owned and operated my own business, Chief Financial Officer of a regional law firm



Community or volunteer activities: ReadUp tutor (IPS 58), Youth Group leader Zionsville Fellowship Church (20+ yrs), ZYSA Travel Coach, ZYFL Coach, ZLAX Coach, Served on numerous Awakening teams,



1. How do you think teacher pay will change when the switch is made to a merit-based pay scale, and how will that change affect the contract with the teacher’s union?

ZCS teachers are the backbone of our schools.  I am in favor of paying them well.  Our children have had many teachers and I am proud to say that almost all of them have been tremendous.  Good teachers should not be concerned.  The RISE program (merit based pay) encourages teachers to strive for excellence and those that are successful are rewarded for their efforts.  Evaluation of the teachers remains the responsibility of the administrators, not the board.

I would love to claim that I have negotiated teacher contracts before, but I have not.  Therefore, my recommendation would be to hire an independent consultant who has been involved in many negotiations in the past.  The board should work in conjunction with the consultant and the superintendent to achieve a contract that is mutually agreeable to the schools, teachers and the community.



2. Are you in favor of using the maximum levy for the three years of the referendum? If not, how would you offset any projected shortfall?

The referendum passed in the last election - the community has spoken.  The by-laws of the school board clearly state that the board has a dual responsibility to the schools and the community.  To unilaterally decide to go against the will of the community would be a breach of my fiduciary duty as a board member.  I would vote in favor of levying the referendum dollars all three years.  If  I am able to have a positive impact on the future budget years those excess dollars would go toward replenishing the Rainy Day Fund.



3. What is your solution for the 2015 budget after the referendum expires?

Without the recent referendum our schools would be operating at a significant deficit.  Not long ago our schools had surplus.   I would be a better steward, I would reduce capital expenditures unless they are mission critical to educating our students.  We need to use current facilities to the extent we can.  We need to evaluate all vendor contracts, such as the energy contract that is not the optimal energy saving solution.  The termination of such contracts (even after termination penalties) would result in positive cash flow to the schools.  We need to continue to work with the state to get the funding formula changed and we need to explore additional revenue sources for the schools.

Another referendum will be difficult to pass with the same leadership.  With new leadership and a plan to wean ourselves from future referendums the community would support the board again.



4. As a school board member, how would you ensure the schools maintain a standard of excellence?

Excellence is achieved by high quality teachers and a healthy school corporation.  It is imperative that we get our financial house in order so that we can offer programs to students at all levels.   We must maintain a wide variety of curricula including the arts.   We must also have educational opportunities for students who have trouble learning.  We can not overlook the academically challenged.

Our students are great learners because they come from strong families that understand the value of an education.  They are great because we have teachers in our schools that are passionate about children and even more passionate about educating them. 

The success of the schools is contingent upon sound operations and fiscal responsibility.  The Rainy Day Fund will be nearly extinguished.  We need to better stewards of our resources.  We need a new perspective.  I offer a fresh new perspective.



5. What is the single biggest challenge the school board faces other than the budget? How would you address and resolve that issue?

The biggest challenge that the board faces other than the budget is restoring the trust of the community.  Through my campaign I have had the pleasure of discussing issues with people who voted yes and no.  I have talked with current teachers, past teachers and past school board members.  I have even talked with my opponent.  There is a widespread distrust of the current board.  The community is holding the board responsible for firing teachers, cold classrooms, warm water fountains  and other actions that I have been told were “vindictive.”  There are many who say “they (board) had to prove a point after the referendum was voted down.”  If elected I will work hard alongside the other four board members to restore that trust.  Through open communication, user friendly reporting and forums that encourage open dialogue we can regain the trust of the community.

CANDIDATE NAME: Rob Wingerter



Education: B. S. in Business Administration University of Indianapolis, J. D. (Law) Degree, Indiana University, Graduate Degree Covenant Theological Seminary.  I am a licensed Certified Public Accountant and Attorney and member of all relevant professional certifying agencies.



Experience:  Over 36 years practicing as a CPA with Ernst & Young. 25 years as a partner including Indianapolis Office Managing Partner and Indiana Tax Practice Leader. My primary specialty area of focus is tax planning for many of the major public companies in Indiana. 



Community or volunteer activities: Five term trustee of Zionsville Community Schools, Chairman of Board of Trustees of University of Indianapolis, President of Wheeler Mission Board of Directors, Board of Directors of United Way of Central Indiana and Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.



1. How do you think teacher pay will change when the switch is made to a merit-based pay scale, and how will that change affect the contract with the teacher’s union?



Recent legislation has totally changed the landscape of teacher compensation. Compensation is still determined at the local level but instead of one raise percentage for all teachers, a pool of dollars is created and then distributed differentially to teachers based on performance. This new pay structure comes in to effect at the end of this school year. Initially I have been focusing on equitable administration of the evaluation process during the initial review period that is currently underway. Later this year informal negotiations of the compensation portion of the contract will begin. The existing contract was long term in nature and negotiated to provide certainty on both sides of the compensation portion of our budget and was reasonable under the economic conditions at the time. During the upcoming negotiations, the current model will benchmarked against similar school districts to create an equitable pool for the next two year contract period.





2. Are you in favor of using the maximum levy for the three years of the referendum? If not, how would you offset any projected shortfall?



 The root cause of the referendum is the change in the state funding formula that has made Zionsville the lowest tuition funded school in the state of Indiana. If we were funded at the same level as five years ago, we would receive over $6 million more than we are scheduled to receive this next calendar year. The board selected the $4.7 million amount to stop the elimination of even more teachers and programs. However, our class sizes remain well above historic levels. To bridge the gap until our initial distribution of referendum dollars we will need to rely on our “Rainy Day” fund. That fund is projected to decline to $600,000 by the end of 2013. Absent a dramatic shift in the state funding formula, I would anticipate appropriating all of the available referendum dollars to continue to meet our children’s educational needs and potentially restore some emergency reserves.



3. What is your solution for the 2015 budget after the referendum expires?



After cost cutting for five years there are no simple solutions. When selecting the term of the referendum we chose 2015 to coincide with an option to refinance 60% of our bonds at that time. This will free up space in our property tax supported funds. These dollars can be used to fund other portions of the budget such as technology and maintenance that are taking dollars from the classroom.  Any solution has to include an increase in state funding. I have been talking with legislators about a more equitable funding formula. Even a restoration of the overall cut to school funding that occurred during the economic crisis would bring $3 million back to Zionsville without a formula change. Additional sources of earned revenue for day care and rental can be generated as well as increasing donations and grants. Coupled with additional targeted spending cuts we can solve this problem. 



4. As a school board member, how would you ensure the schools maintain a standard of excellence?



The world is getting more complicated every day. The global competition this generation faces is unprecedented. The key to individual and collective success is to receive an outstanding education. This can only happen if the school board meets its responsibility to: (1) provide adequate funding for facilities and staff, (2) provide long range strategic guidance to the administration, (3) thoughtfully select and evaluate the superintendents performance (4) challenge and support the administration, teachers and staff to excel at their jobs and (5) recognize the role of the board to set policy but allow our employees  to do their jobs without undue interference. We are fortunate in Zionsville. We are arguably the premier school district in the state. Several years ago, the board set the goal of being a premier district in the country. If the board takes the responsibilities outlined above seriously, I think we will reach that goal.



5. What is the single biggest challenge the school board faces other than the budget? How would you address and resolve that issue?



Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the board is to regain the trust of the community of Zionsville and create a collaborative and open environment between the board, administrators, patrons, staff, teachers and students. The economic stress of the last few years has created pockets of special interest groups that have fractured the cohesiveness of the community. Zionsville schools are major part of the identity of this town. The accomplishments of the schools are a source of community pride. People move to Zionsville because of the schools. Our reputation has kept us growing and supported home values even during the down turn in the economy. We all have a vested interest in the health of the schools, whether we have children or not. None of us can afford to have the schools be a source of divisiveness.  Reestablishing this cohesive environment through open communication has to be a priority for the board.