FOCUS 

“focus is the amalgamation of procedure, the public, and technology to achieve strategic objectives” – Scott Vetter

 

I have nine primary goals as a board member:

1. Always make decisions that are in the best interests of our students and their ability to compete in an ever more diverse economy, and employ best practices from the private sector where appropriate.

2. Ensure financial integrity, financial management, and accountability to all D155 taxpayers.

3. Redesign and implement processes that will help our teachers do their best work.

4. Work in collaboration with all stakeholders: parents, taxpayers, teachers and the community, to take action on the most effective solutions to the difficult problems facing our school district.

5. Examine the leadership profile and needs of the superintendent and his leadership team.

6. Encourage public comment from parents, the business community, students, and teachers by broadcasting, taping and cataloging all board meetings to ensure that the community and taxpayers understand clearly the decisions the board is making and the reasoning behind it.

7. Audit the budget so we can show, in a simplified manner, that we are appropriately spending and managing the dollars entrusted to the district.

8. To increase transparency, I will ask staff to lay out a schedule of budget meetings, town halls, community meetings and media briefings to update the community on major initiatives and spending proposals.

9. To add and grow a vigorous vocational program that will benefit all our students.

My first move will be to personally visit every single school in D155 so I can see firsthand what their greatest needs are. Meeting with every principal and seeing in-person what our schools require will help me to make informed decisions that will benefit our students and our community.

Some of my basic objectives and Ideas are:

  •      District administrative staffs are costly for the taxpayers of D155. In fact, 320 Illinois school district administrators, primarily district superintendents, make $200,000 or more in compensation annually. More than three-quarters of Illinois’ 872 superintendents have six-figure salaries, and many also get additional benefits in car and housing allowances, as well as bonuses. Their high salaries lead to generous future pension benefits: Superintendents on average receive $2 million to $6 million dollars in total pension benefits over the course of their retirements. Examining the number of administrators, evaluating their necessity and looking for possible consolidations of responsibilities, thus decreasing the numbers, is a must.

  •      Our Teachers are nothing short of world class and the level of information and knowledge that they possess are at times, I believe, underutilized. To tap into this genuinely intelligent resource, I would propose an incentive program that would reward any teacher, a bonus, for any cost saving or cost-effective idea that equates into a bottom line budget savings. For example, if a teacher or teachers provide an idea or proposal that saves the budget $250,000.00 a 10% bonus of $25,000.00 would be awarded. This is a very effective concept utilized by many businesses in the private sector.

  •      I believe that it may be time to elect school superintendents instead of having them appointed since elected officials are usually more cognizant of the impact on the citizens of each decision to increase spending and, thus, taxes. Also, it's time to let noneducators compete for top school management jobs in school districts and state government. Good management is what is needed, much more than subject-matter expertise in education.

  •      Rather than punish D155 residents with more tax hikes, we must, at least, take up the discussion of reforms including pension reform and school district consolidations. Local taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for multiple layers of government that duplicate services, waste taxpayers’ money, increase government debt, and decrease transparency. By virtue of its responsibility to taxpayers, this board has the duty to identify waste and propose efficiencies.

  •      Begin by placing a greater emphasis on the correlation between education dollars and outcomes. Board Members have tended to focus too much on inputs without paying enough attention to efficiency, or to ensuring that educational dollars are delivering value. Boards often point to their generous funding as proof of their commitment to education, rather than highlighting results boosting reforms.

  •      Pooling purchasing power can yield substantial savings for D155 and their partners by reducing operating expenses for such items as utilities, equipment, services and supplies. Partnering with businesses can help D155 tap into underutilized assets.

  •      The advent of low-cost computing technologies, such as netbooks and broadband, presents opportunities for D155 to save money by switching to e-Textbooks. By transitioning to online textbooks, the District would encourage students' participation in virtual learning while radically reducing textbook costs. The future of eBooks and e-Textbooks is coming fast with the growing popularity of affordable tablet platforms such as Nook, Kindle and the iPad. Then there are the emerging efforts to augment online learning, as with the Florida Virtual School. Online classes are increasingly part of the offerings at colleges, universities such as MIT and now High Schools. Blended learning, making much greater use of online instruction, offers much promise for delivering curriculum for learners in a more cost-effective manner.

  •      D155 must get out of the business of providing their own IT. Kentucky is partnering with Microsoft to allow all schools access to a suite of online applications -- potential savings is estimated at $6.5 million. Meanwhile, Oregon will save an estimated $1.5 million annually by partnering with Google to offer the state's schools cloud-based computing. The initiative provides Oregon's public schools with the ability to transition e-mail, calendars, online documents, video conferencing and website creation to Google's Apps for Education services.

  •      I plan to look at how other states are spending their education dollars, to find out if there are better alternative ways of doing more to help every child learn for every dollar we spend. As it happens, there are some highly efficient programs already operating in other states. Just to give one example, Florida has a program that has been found to simultaneously increase student achievement, expand the range of educational choices open to families, and save millions of dollars every year. It does this by cutting taxes on businesses that donate to k-12 scholarship organizations. Those organizations, in turn, subsidize tuition for low-income families or families with children with special needs, offering them the option to send their children to independent schools.

  •       No-bid contracts . . . cousin-cousin deals . . . nepotism . . . we're spending hundreds of millions on education with very little outside oversight. Whenever you have human beings working together with money at stake, you will have waste, fraud, and corruption. Look at all the civil litigation between private companies regarding contracts. It's astounding that we aren't demanding better oversight of the millions of dollars in school spending. Let's get investigative audits going, enact "sunshine laws" to expose business relationships, and demand more information from our schools about their vendors.

  •      District 155 should have to publish a detailed list of employee expenses, including entertainment, travel costs, destinations, hotels, per diems, purposes, and itemized "other" costs. They should put them on the website. Why not? We bought them those websites, and the computers they use to keep track of those expenses. Let's see where the dollars go.

  •      Put parents back in control of the money. Every additional state and federal tax dollar sent to local schools drives the stake deeper into the heart of local control. The farther away from the source of the funding you are, the less power you have. So the funding power needs to be yanked back from Washington, D.C., and state capitals and given to the locals. The reason private schools do a better job is that parents have directly invested in the operation. Public schools will never do the job they should without this accountability key.

  •      A simple and effective way to provide accountability would be to publish the district's checkbook on the district's website. This should be a searchable database so we can see what vendors are being paid for what items. Each warrant should be itemized. It's OK to list paychecks by job title rather than name so that nobody gets embarrassed. But the principle is "transparency" with the budget. It's our money, and we deserve to see where it's going.

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  • These are just basic beliefs and I will do my best to maintain and grow our great education system, but we must also look at our ever-rising budget. Homeowners are leaving the District. This is a fact. People move to an area for many reasons. Schools and affordability are the top two. As the taxes in this District, County and State continue to grow, our resident numbers will continue to decrease. Thus, our student body will also continue its downward trend. This will also result in a decreased tax base, and in turn, we, the “stick it outers” will then be burdened with an even higher tax rate. Lower taxes, increasing the size of our community, lessening of the tax burden and a growing student body, is a great recipe for success. I want this community to grow. I want to talk about building another school, one day, not arguing an efficiency report that irresponsibly recommends shutting one down. We must start to take immediate action, we must make D155 a great place to live, again! Please help John Pletz, Raphael Kamner, Donna Kurtz and me, Scott Vetter, to grow D155 and continue with the excellence in education.

Meet The Team

Raphael Kamner

John Pletz

Donna Kurtz

Scott Vetter

My Wife

Karen Black-Vetter

My Children

Larissa

Alexis

Jadyn

Marcus

Lidia

&

Christian

And My G-Kids

Lylia

Kory

Odin

&

Athena

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