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School board candidates face public

Monday, March 24, 2003 Posted 11:30 p.m.
The Fieldcrest Education Association sponsored a 'Meet the Candidates Night' Monday at the Rutland American Legion Hall. Each candidate was given time to introduce themselves and then they were asked to respond to several prepared questions. After a short intermission, the candidates were then asked to respond to questions submitted on cards by the audience. The event was well attended with over 80 people present.

Below is the list of candidates.

Melinda Tiraboschi: Resides in Toluca and works at Alpha Community Bank in Toluca and helps with her husband's auto body shop.

Jeff Pickard: Is currently on the Fieldcrest School Board. He lives in Wenona and is a manager at Oak State Products in Wenona.

Joe Kirkpatrick: Has resided in Minonk for 5 years and works at Growmark in Bloomington.

Rebecca Donna: Resides in rural Rutland and works at Illinois Valley Community College.

Jeff Geringer: Lives in Minonk and is an educator at Bloomington High School.

Bill Butler: Chief of Police in Minonk. Has lived in Minonk for 27 years and is a former Fieldcrest school board member.

Each candidate was asked the following questions. Each candidate's response is listed below the question.

What is your role as a member of the Fieldcrest Board of Education?

Melinda Tiraboschi: Will be a team leader and will respect the opinions of others in making decisions.

Jeff Pickard: Fieldcrest has a good staff of professionals and is not going to tell them what to do but rather will make the tough decisions in deciding the future of Fieldcrest.

Joe Kirkpatrick: To be an overseerer of Fieldcrest administration. Be in a supervisory role for management and staff.

Rebecca Donna: Doesn't want to try to run the school but provide guidance for those who will run the school. Wants to avoid nepotism for any one school.

Jeff Geringer: Thinks board members should not be micro managers but should provide vision for the school and reflect the conscience of the community.

Bill Butler:Make sure that all students receive a proper education.

What are your top objectives?

Melinda Tiraboschi: To be fair in addressing cuts and be open-minded to all options.

Jeff Pickard: Ensure safety in the schools. Balance the budget. Need to work with politicians to address funding crisis and to provide property tax relief.

Joe Kirkpatrick: A quality education for all kids regardless of capabilities. Make responsible use of resources. Cut out waste and increase efficiencies in the schools. Recruit a quality staff.

Rebecca Donna: Improve communications between staff, parents, and students. Keep and recruit high quality staff and provide a safe and secure environment.

Jeff Geringer: Be a liason for the community, provide a long range vision and get rid of the divisions between communities. Provide leadership to survive financial crisis.

Bill Butler: Make the school financially solvent and create a financial plan for the future. Have the schools work together.

What are your qualifications for addressing the financial crisis in our schools?

Melinda Tiraboschi: She and her husband run an auto body shop and has a background in helping running a business. Helped develop PTA at Fieldcrest West. Is on the Toluca Labor Day Committee. Understands long range planning.

Jeff Pickard: Sat in on negotiations with teacher's contracts while on school board. His experience on the school board helps him understand financial problems facing the school.

Joe Kirkpatrick: Has 20 years experience in developing budgets at Growmark. His job is to help companies plan for the future.

Rebecca Donna: Has a BS, MS, and Phd degrees and has experience in dealing with state government. Has experience in contract negotiations, student assessment, and curriculum at IVC. Member of PTO at Fieldcrest West. She is not a YES person, but is honest and forthright.

Jeff Geringer: Educator at Bloomington HS and has a BS and MS from ISU. He said that schools are inherently not efficient because of the needs of special students. Cannot run the school like a business because you have to give extra help to needy students.

Bill Butler: Elected to Fieldcrest school board in 1989 and was involved in contract negotiations. As Police Chief of Minonk he is involved in financial planning for the department and must address personnel issues.

How can we recruit quality teachers when you have to compete with bigger schools?

Melinda Tiraboschi: Fieldcrest has a great faculty and she wants to keep teachers wages fair. Have to consider also the taxpayers when deciding on teacher salaries.

Joe Kirkpatrick: Should reward teachers as best we can.

Rebecca Donna: Fieldcrest is blessed with an incredible faculty. Teachers salaries are the most important expense. Lower cost of living in this area should help attract teachers.

Jeff Geringer: Teaching here is incredible. Thinks a small town is a draw to most teachers. Should treat them as professionals in order to help keep them here.

Bill Butler: Fieldcrest has a good staff and we must be able to pay them to keep them.

How do you feel about cutting extra curricular activities?

Melinda Tiraboschi: Extra curricular activities are very important and would hate to give up sports because it would result in the loss of school spirit.

Jeff Pickard: Kids won't keep up grades if activities are cut because they will be less motivated. Have to keep a balance of activities and education.

Joe Kirkpatrick: Kids learn things from extra curricular activities that help them later on in life. Teamwork in sports, etc. If you start cutting in that area, you have to go all the way.

Rebecca Donna: Have to keep kids busy to avoid boredom. However, activities are a priviledge. Might have to consider paying for activities.

Jeff Geringer: If we need cuts, cut sports first before music and art.

Bill Butler: Agrees the extra curricular activities are a priviledge and you have to start cuts somewhere. Cut sports first, not vocational education or music and art because they may help a student later in life. If we want sports, we should have a fund raiser or have a fee for playing in sports.

Where do you stand on the referendum?

Melinda Tiraboschi: She will vote YES for the referendum. We have invested in new buildings and now must provide the appropriate education for the kids. We want to avoid being put on the State's financial watch list.

Jeff Pickard: Will vote YES on the referendum. Says that Fieldcrest has been financially responsible for the last 12 years. The cost of educating a student is less than the state average. We need to change the state's method of funding education. Illinois is 48th in funding of education. Thinks we need a long term fix now that will take care of us for the foreseeable future.

Joe Kirkpatrick: Believes that the referendum should be passed. He doesn't blame the present administration for the financial problems. We won't have any new businesses come to town if we let our schools go down. Until we have another way to fund education, we have to work with what we have.

Rebecca Donna: She said we need the referendum but it won't pass. People on fixed income can't afford a $200 increase in their property taxes. It is bad timing for the referendum because of the present state of the economy.

Jeff Geringer: Conditionally opposed. He said that certain proposals for cuts were not considered. If we cut to bare bones, then he would be in favor of the referendum.

Bill Butler:Thinks that cuts should have been made long ago. He has a hard time with the referendum. Have to undergo cuts before asking for more money. People don't have the money right now for a tax increase.

What are your plans for the future of Fieldcrest?

Melinda Tiraboschi: She is partial to keeping the present buildings, thinks they are unique. It is too expensive now to consider consolidating schools into a bigger building.

Jeff Pickard: Have to maintain present buildings. The only way that a new centrally located building is possible is if Fieldcrest has to consolidate with other schools in the area.

Joe Kirkpatrick: Thinks that in the long term we will have to be thinking about building a new high school. The present buildings can only last so long before they have to be replaced.

Rebecca Donna: Wants to keep the buildings as they are.

Jeff Geringer: Thinks that it would be best to have a new building constructed near Rutland. He said it may take 20 years to get there but feels it is the best solution.

Bill Butler: Thinks that Fieldcrest should have one junior high to provide unity among the schools instead of having the two junior highs compete against each other.

What do you think of the recent cuts in art in junior high?

All candidates thought that art was important and that art should be restored to the curriculum as soon as possible.

Why do you want this job?

Melinda Tiraboschi: I believe in our children.

Jeff Pickard: There is a lot more to running a school district than people realize. He is looking forward to the next 4 years.

Joe Kirkpatrick: Has no axes to grind. Thinks education is so important to our kids and wants to be involved in the education process. Will bring a fresh perspective to the board. Feels that education is too important not to be involved.

Rebecca Donna: Our kids deserve the best we can give them. Wants to help kids.

Jeff Geringer: He is in it for the kids. He is running because he cares.

Bill Butler: He loves kids and is concerned about the education that they get. Our children will not get very far with an education. Wants to keep good teachers and provide a good education for the kids.