Mike Backer: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Unit District 303 board, 2-year term

  • Mike Backer

    Mike Backer

Updated 3/17/2023 11:23 AM


Town: St. Charles


Age on Election Day: 63

Occupation: Coordinator of Community Partnerships

Employer: Valley Sheltered Workshop

Previous offices held: N/A


Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

A: We are at a critical moment in education. As students, parents, teachers, staff and community members have now fully returned to our schools, they all need our support more than ever.

As a parent, educator, and community member, I believe I have an important level of experience, empathy, and understanding for where we are at and where we need to go as a school district.

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I would like to share for me to share may ability to listen to all perspectives, build relationships, seek common ground, strategize positive interventions, and honestly evaluate outcomes.

This school district has given so much to me, my family, my colleagues, and my community; it's time for me dedicate myself to contribute back!

Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?

A: Promoting successful learning opportunities and remaining accountable for student progress is the most important function of the school board. The most effective school boards are ones that commit to high expectations of achievement and quality instruction- and seek clear goal based outcomes.

An effective school board will then allocate and sustain resources to support to meet those district goals. There should be a strong partnership between the school board, the superintendent, staff, parents and community stakeholders; to encourage active engagement in the process.


Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?

A: One topic that I believe needs current and ongoing support and attention is the process in which curricular issues are reviewed, critiqued and shared. There needs to continue to be a process whereby students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members can express a voice in curriculum review and renewal.

A system where diverse input and perspectives are welcomed and taken into account, builds a culture of inclusiveness and ownership in a school community. Stakeholders want to be acknowledged for their opinion, respected in the dialogue, and informed of decision making rationale.

Q: How do you view your role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?

A: The goal of school board members must be to work in a harmonious, cooperative and respectful manner to carry out the many facets of the role they play in the community. In order to earn and build trust and transparency in any community; there must also be a clear manner in which constituents can give voice to their perspectives, concerns and feedback.

There will be times when individuals both within and outside of the board disagree with pending decisions or discussion outcomes. I and other board members must insure that we have individually and collectively listened to and carefully considered all perspectives on given issues and topics.

If trusted relationships are established and stakeholders truly believe voices have been heard; there is more likelihood that challenging decisions will be respected. There are occasions when boards must defer to state standards and guidelines in discussion outcomes. Again; with clear transparency, constituents respond favorably

Q: Concerns are growing regarding a new resurgence of the pandemic. If another massive outbreak of infectious disease occurs, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that will guide your decision making?

A: The recent health crisis across the country was and in some cases still remains a tremendous challenge in our schools! One advantage that we have now -- that we did not have in 2020 is that school boards across the country have enacted clear mitigation plans and more proactive steps in addressing outbreaks such as COVID going forward.

Now, we have a clearly delineated communication link with national and state public health agencies. We know what interventions are implemented at those levels and which ones fall to the local school board to determine.

If another such health crisis were to rise up; it'll vitally important to immediately stay connected with national and state officials, communicate the district mitigation plan to all community members and to face and carry out any adjustments deemed necessary to insure the safety of our children. Proactively; we can rely upon our nurses and health instructors to remind students of steps to remain healthy.

Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.

A: As a principal. teacher, and parent; I have had many opportunities to participate in group policy and decision making. I would describe my approach as threefold; facilitator, collaborator, and leader.

It is vitally important to facilitate discussion insuring that all voices are expressed, listened to and considered.

Secondly, as a collaborator, it is important to seek out themes, threads and common ground factors from the discussions; leading to action that truly represents the voice of participants. It is then important to demonstrate leadership in expressing, rationalizing and supporting the outcome of policymaking. I believe we are at a point in our school district where we must renew our levels of community and constituent outreach.

We will be more effective -- more trusted, more respected, and more supported when all feel represented.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: I thank the Daily Herald for creating this opportunity to respond to excellent questions related to the coming election for D303 school board.

I believe strongly that I bring great diversity of experiences in all areas related directly to the role of school board member.

I recently completed a nearly 40-year career in education as a teacher, coach, and administrator at the elementary, middle and high school levels. I know how schools operate and function at all levels. I am an invested parent. My late wife Amy and I moved to St. Charles in 1995 with our four children. We believed in strong involvement with the parent and school community.

And Amy was heavily active in our children's' schools. My wife Colleen and I have continued to support our 6 children; 4 of whom have completed a K-12 education in D303, and two boys who are in grades 1 and 3 at Davis and Ferson Creek Schools. I have had the opportunity to observe and support my children as they progressed academically, socially, and emotionally in many facets of our schools' programs. Lastly, I too am a constituent. I believe that my family and I have been well represented by members of our school board. I'd like now to contribute to that team!

Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?

A: Bring back our incredible alumni to mentor, coach and support our children in class, in extra curricular programming, and in the community! Our graduates are proud recipients of a well-rounded District 303 education.

It would be wonderful to have as many as possible come back to work with our students as they make their way through our programs. This is happening in some areas across our school community, and it's been successful in every instance I'm aware of.

I'd like to expand on the idea AND publicize the interactions more. I truly believe that our ultimate mission is to support the maturing of our students to graduate and go on to be well-rounded, successful, contributing members of our community.

When they come back to the schools to teach, coach, mentor our current students, and share their experiences -- it really brings our mission full circle.

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