Stephen Pickering

Demographics

Independent

50

Fox River Grove, IL and Lowell, IN

High School, English, Mathematics, Lowell High School, Lowell, IN

Bachelor's Degree, Drama, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL

Software Support Analyst, CVS|Caremark

Married, Amelia Dawson

Kyleen Pickering, 18

William Pickering, 15

On the Record

What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for office?

I am currently serving my first term on the District 3 Board of Education. During this first term, I served on our Class Size Committee. For five years prior to my serving on the board, I attended nearly every meeting of the Board of Education. I felt that this was an opportunity to see firsthand what was discussed at board meetings and to pass the information on to those who were not able to attend the meetings in person. I am also in my sixth year of serving as a volunteer coach in the district, as the director of the school play. Other organizations for which I have volunteered include the Fox River Grove Recreation Council and Cub Scout Pack 357, where I served as Cubmaster and Asst. Cubmaster.

What are your top two or three priorities if elected?

My top priority is to maintain the district’s path of fiscal and educational strength. District 3 schools continue to be recognized as some of the top schools in McHenry County, while the district’s budgets remain balanced. We have done this while continuing to offer sports, music, art, and extra-curricular activities to our students. My second priority is to continue to find ways to involve Fox River Grove in District 3. There is a perception that only parents of students get involved in school districts, but a strong school district has benefits for the entire community, not just the students. School districts affect so many things in a community, things like housing values and the feel of the neighborhoods. It’s important that the whole community see the benefits of a strong District 3 and that members of the community know how they can help keep the district strong, whether or not they have students in the schools. Third, we’ll need to address the issue of enrollment and class sizes. I participated in a committee this past year to look at strategies to address class sizes. The committee included a number of stakeholders in our classes and pointed toward multi-age classrooms as a strategy that might fit our district. I would like to continue researching this to see if this would work in our district. This is important as we see decline in enrollment numbers.

Would you support freezing your taxing district’s levy until housing prices rebound? Why or why not?

Freezing the levy sounds good, but the actual tax rate paid by taxpayers is determined by PTELL, not necessarily by the levy. Freezing the levy, also known as under-levying, can reduce the tax rate, but has long-term effects. It is not just until housing prices rebound. Under-levying reduces the amount that future boards can levy in future years. Rather than tie the hands of future boards, I prefer our practice of holding our levy close to the expected dollars received, keeping budgets lean and balanced, and looking to abate taxes to residents. This would have the effect of a reduced levy, while preserving the ability of future boards to collect PTELL rates when housing values rebound.

What one decision by the school board do you most disagree with and why?

There was a decision a few years ago by the board to approve a large expenditure on a new phone system. There were four members in attendance at that meeting, and in the final vote, one member abstained; therefore, the expenditure on that new phone system was approved by a 2 -1 vote. I felt the decision should have been tabled to the next meeting, so as to be considered by the full board.

What was the biggest accomplishment of the board in the past year?

One could say that keeping our budget balanced and maintaining our high educational standards are pretty big accomplishments. This past year, we re-opened a committee to study strategies so that we might better address issues of class size and we participated in a study to look at potential benefits and risks if our district and District 23 were to merge. That study was a particularly big accomplishment, as it gave us a concise way of looking at the metrics of doing such a merger. Consolidation is a big topic among school districts, and having this information at hand will serve us well, both as a way of assessing a potential merger and as a means of helping our district and other districts that feed into Cary-Grove High School work together better and find new opportunities to share best practices and perhaps programs that will benefit our students and theirs in a cost-effective manner.

Why should voters elect you to office?

As a long-time resident of Fox River Grove, a person who volunteers in the district’s extracurricular activities, a long-time observer of District 3’s board, and an incumbent board member these past two years, I have worked and will continue to work to keep the community informed and involved in their school district. I recognize both the value our residents place on having a strong school district and the burden that places upon our residents. So I will continue to strive toward keeping our district strong, both educationally and fiscally, and I will do everything I can to ensure our residents get great value for their tax dollars in our district and that the tax burden shouldered by our community is no greater than it needs to be. I will do all I can to keep District 3 a district that all of Fox River Grove can be proud of, and that other districts can look to as a model.