Dist. 203 School Board Candidates Debate Curriculum

Article excerpt

Eight candidates are running April 17 for three 4-year terms on the Naperville Unit District 203 school board.

The candidates include two incumbents - Mike Davitt and Suzyn Price - and newcomers Jerome Buch, Daniel Denys, Steve Deutsch, Terry Fielden, Michael Jaensch and Fred Lu.

A third incumbent, Gerry Cassioppi, is not seeking re-election.

The Daily Herald asked all the candidates to address issues facing the district in 150 words or less. Here is the third in a series of reports on their edited responses.

Q. What, if any, changes need to be made to improve the district's curriculum?

Jerone Buch: I believe there needs to be more disclosure on a regular basis to the parents of our schoolchildren as well as all taxpayers in the district about the school curriculum.

The district stresses academic freedom for teachers, but I see no accountability by either the board or the teachers to accompany this responsibility.

Where is the formal curriculum committee? Where is the written process to show that options were presented to the board for approval? The answer is that they do not exist.

The board has abdicated such activities to the administration, and this needs to change. I will work to change it after this election.

Mike Davitt: I'd like to see more debate here. By state law, it's the board's responsibility to direct curriculum and textbook selection. It is therefore a matter of common sense to review, ask questions and discuss before we approve. Otherwise, we are just "rubber stamping" every textbook recommendation and abdicating one of our board responsibilities.

Daniel Denys: The district currently provides very little detail on curriculum. I believe it is the board's responsibility to provide leadership by setting strategic direction and participating in tactical decisions that strengthen our entire district. This includes:

- Parent input will be an integral component.

- I would challenge our administration to provide more diverse, cost-effective educational opportunities. I commend District 204 for establishing a joint program with the College of DuPage.

- I would look for similar opportunities in our district, particularly in partnership with colleges and universities in and around the district. Recent innovations such as magnet schools should be explored.

- During the candidate orientation, our superintendent stated the bus schedule controlled delivery of education. Let me assure you it is better to change the bus schedule than to shortchange our children.

Steve Deutsch: When measuring achievements and objectives, why not compare our performance against the best districts in Illinois and the country?

The District 203 curriculum needs updating. I have four suggestions:

- Math and science. We don't have to look far to find the level we should aspire to: the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora.

- Financial literacy. What is lacking is not information, but the ability to interpret it. We are graduating students who don't know enough about how to manage their finances. That needs to be fixed.

- Language. The district recently examined second languages. The analysis needs to be re-done. It treated language instruction as non-core and a "luxury" item. They asked parents for preferred methods of instruction. Shouldn't teachers already know?

- Computers. Students must be prepared for today's information technology curriculum. How can anyone suggest computers aren't part of everyone's career or pastimes?

Terry Fielden: We have been very happy with the curriculum provided by District 203. We moved here six years ago and the quality of the district was a major factor.

The focus on reading is one of the strongest aspects in the elementary system. I don't have a specific comment for the improvement. However, I agree a foreign language program at the elementary level will benefit students. …