Fort Wayne, IN
Master's Degree, MBA, Marketing and Finance, The University of Chicago
Bachelor's Degree, Political Science, Bowling Green State University
Marketing Manager, IBM
On the Record
What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for office?
I have served for the past four years on the CCSD 47 Board of Education, and I have served on several other boards over the years. Through these experiences, I have gained insight into the role of a board and importantly, how to be a good board member. The primary function of a Board is providing organizational oversight and transparency into decision making. Accomplishing that function involves creating good working relationships with other board members and with the administrators who answer to the board. That means a good board member listens, asks questions, and provides guidance while avoiding playing the role of a day-to-day administrator. In addition to my public service, I have worked for 17 years in various roles at IBM. In my business experience, I have managed people, budgets, deadlines, and internal conflict. I know what it takes to motivate people and how to bring people along when making a group decision. In my opinion, this is essential experience for anyone serving on a board, whether in the public or private sector.
What are your top two or three priorities if elected?
1)Maintain a balanced budget. We weathered the financial storm of the recession thanks to a combination of careful use of cash reserves, a strong working relationship with the teachers’ union, and sufficient enrollment declines that allowed us to reduce the number of paid staff through retirements, not lay-offs. Now that we are at a balanced budget, we need to stay there. That means any new spending needs to be offset with cuts elsewhere. 2)Increase the size of our bus fleet. This will cost money, so the timing will be dictated by the economy. We live in an amazing part of the country. Our children are less than 90 minutes from world class museums, music and theater. Currently, our transportation constraints eliminate the possibility of field trips to Chicago. Our children will benefit greatly when we can change that. 3)Reinvent the middle school day. Today, electives are pushed aside for large blocks of time on ISAT-driven core classes. Our children’s education is poorer for that. Also, kids need more personal attention and support at that age because they are starting to make decisions that will impact their future academic opportunities and even their lives.
Would you support freezing your taxing district’s levy until housing prices rebound? Why or why not?
I cannot support that sort of absolute position. Unlike our state and Federal Governments, local school boards are obliged to pay our bills. Some costs are completely out of our control, and rise regardless of property values: energy, insurance, commodity goods like paper, etc. Besides the costs, the state of Illinois has slashed our financial support by over 50% since I joined the Board. The state’s actions have shifted more of the financial burden onto local property owners. Illinois is one of the worst states in the country in terms of state support for K-12 education. If we want our children to have a solid education, we local taxpayers (and I am one!) are forced to foot more of the bill. We are fortunate to live in a community where that is possible. Other districts don’t have the resources we do, and their children suffer as a result. That said, we must challenge every budget proposal to minimize, or eliminate any impact on our taxpayers. I personally asked the administration to look into a zero levy each of the past two years. In both cases, rising costs and declining state revenues compelled us to issue a levy.
What one decision in the past year by the school board do you most disagree with and why?
In all honesty, I cannot say that I disagree with any decision over the past year. We carefully and actively deliberate and debate every important item that comes before us. Through the process of debate, we almost always arrive at a consensus. For example, I wanted a zero levy this past year; however, when confronted with the cold facts, I felt it necessary to join with the rest of the Board to approve the levy. I wish we could have zero levied, but that is not the same as “disagreeing.”
What was the biggest accomplishment of the board in the past year?
The decision to offer full day kindergarten beginning in the 2013/14 school year is the single greatest accomplishment not only of the past year, but of the past four years. When I joined the school board, full day kindergarten was one of my highest priorities. Ever greater learning expectations are being placed on our children, including children in kindergarten. We may have mixed feeling about that, but there is no denying the truth that the expectations exist. Besides that, something as seemingly unrelated to education as our climate has a huge impact on the quantity and quality of kindergarten education. My wife was a kindergarten teacher. In the winter months, 2.5 hours of educational time was reduced to almost 1.5 hours simply because of all the time spent taking winter outwear on and off! That has a real impact on what a teacher can accomplish. I have yet to meet a kindergarten teacher who is anything other than thrilled at the prospect of a full day with the children. This new offering will have a profound impact on the quality of our elementary education. Detractors may complain about costs, but this investment in our children is well worth the expense.
Why should voters elect you to office?
I bring the business and public service background necessary to continue being an effective member of the District 47 Board of Education. Taxpayers rightfully expect a high quality education for our children in exchange for their hard earned dollars. Balancing the programmatic requirements to deliver that high quality education against the costs of those requirements is the primary duty of the Board. I have a proven track record of careful investment where appropriate and aggressive cost cutting where necessary. I will continue to provide the leadership District 47 needs to align the community, the board, the administrators, the faculty and staff in the same direction: providing the education our children need for success in high school and beyond.
Routzahn's Current Race
Other Local Races
Kelley Ann Kepes