High School, Theodore Roosevelt High School
Bachelor's Degree, Political Science, Loyola University of Chicago
Administrative Manager, The Structural Group, Ltd.
On the Record
What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for office?
I have served 12 years on the Board of Education, which has provided me a great deal of experience with all facets of our district. I have served on the Board during times of exploding enrollment and declining enrollment, during better financial times and extremely difficult financial times. I’ve served on nearly every committee of the Board, and currently am serving on the Curriculum, Technology, Policy, and the Human Resources Committee. Being active on these committees has kept me well informed of the issues facing education today. When my children were attending District 47, I was heavily involved in various parent groups, serving as an officer in Coventry’s PTA, Beardsley’s PTO, and the Crystal Lake Friends of Gifted Education. I have one niece currently attending a D47 school. I understand the concerns of parents and the important role they play in decision making as stakeholders in our district. I am currently serving as President of the Service League, and know firsthand the increasing financial difficulty some residents are facing. My business experience has provided me with a background in finances, budgeting, and personnel issues. I’ve held many leadership positions, and have served as part of many collaborative teams.
What are your top two or three priorities if elected?
Top priority has, is and always will be to provide our children, both current and future, the best education possible with the resources provided to us. Specifically, it has been the goal of the Board to achieve a balanced budget and maintain that budget going forward. We are currently projected to deficit spend in FY 13/14 by some $125,000, worsening to nearly $700,000 afterward largely due to State funding cuts. As it is our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars while providing an excellent education to our students, we must get our fiscal house in order without doing damage to the educational program we have built and continue to improve on. While we find every savings possible, building on much that we have already done in cutting over $7 million from our actual and budget over the last 2 years, we must retain quality staff by successfully negotiating a new teacher and paraprofessional contract. Implementing the Common Core, raising the achievement of our lowest and neediest students, maintaining an aging physical infrastructure, providing 21st century learning tools so that our students can acquire 21st century learning skills, and supporting our teachers in their jobs are also top priorities.
Would you support freezing your taxing district’s levy until housing prices rebound? Why or why not?
Every district must consider their individual situation each year when setting the levy. District 47 has sustained substantial reductions in non-property tax revenue over the last 5 years, mainly from the State, totaling over $9.7 million. Based on reports from Springfield, it appears our District will be facing a cut in General State Aid again, a possible shift in pension costs, a proposed cut in the transportation reimbursement rate, and unfunded State mandates. Further complicating matters is the fact that we must pass our levy in December before we know the State’s plan. The current formula does not allow us to levy without impacting future years. Less levy one year means less levy in future years. A tax abatement might be possible if and when we can stem the cuts and mandates from the State. Future lost revenue could well result in teacher layoffs and higher class sizes. As a Board member I would consider freezing our levy only if District 47 could still ensure its students would continue to receive a quality education.
What one decision in the past year by the school board do you most disagree with and why?
In the past year our Board has voted unanimously on all questions except for perhaps one or two, and on those votes I was with the majority. A year and a half ago I was the sole vote against extending the Superintendent’s contract 5 years. I felt at the time that as a relatively new superintendent, only having served three years, he had not yet demonstrated that he deserved an extension for that long of a period. However, once a vote is taken it is incumbent on each Board Member to set aside their differences and work toward the success of whatever course the majority has decided to take.
What was the biggest accomplishment of the board in the past year?
There were many important accomplishments in the areas of curriculum, technology, finance, special ed, operations, and teaching and learning, and it is difficult to pick just one. There are two that stand out as examples of what I believe we should be about as a Board. The first was starting a full day kindergarten program. Research shows that full-day kindergarten boosts student achievement, improves students’ social and emotional skills and provides a bridge between pre-K and the early elementary years. And over time it saves money. Economic analyses of quality early education programs show that they generate returns of $3 to every $1 spent by reducing grade retention and learning interventions in later years. The second accomplishment is that we approved a budget for 2012/13 that was balanced, which was difficult and demanded of us hard choices, including delaying the implementation of programs and improvements that would benefit children and reduce class sizes. However, we must protect the education of future students while we provide excellence to the current ones.
Why should voters elect you to office?
Good school board members are passionate about children and educational excellence. They understand that they work as a member of a team, not only with other board members but also with administration, teachers, staff, parents, and the community. They are problem solvers, critical thinkers, and good communicators. They are hard workers, attending many meetings and sifting through many pages of information. They possess an open mind, waiting to find out all the facts before they make a decision. They care about all facets of a public education system: from the finances to what students are being taught in the classroom; from the workload of staff to what children are eating in the cafeteria. They understand their role as setting the vision, direction and policy of the district, and not micromanaging the administration. I think I have demonstrated all of these qualities during my 12 years on the board. In addition, my business and accounting background have been useful in dealing with the financial and management issues we face, while my experience as a parent has given me a perspective on the hopes and concerns all parents have for the education of their children.
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