Scott Shaffer: 2023 Candidate for Antioch District 34 School Board (4-year term)
Age on Election Day: 65
Previous offices held: Board member Lake Forest Graduate School of Management
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: My wife and I are very close to our children and grandchildren. We moved to Antioch to be closer to them. Seven of my grandchildren are or will be attending District 34 schools and after reviewing the 2018-2019 district report card (the latest one posted on the website), I had concerns. 40% of the children are proficient in English and Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics and historically there has not been any improvement. Hence I threw my hat in the ring to try to make a difference. I am sure it is a complex problem to solve and it will not be done overnight, however the scores themselves indicate to me, that there needs to be more of a focus on this.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The curriculum would be established and proposed by the professionals (administration and educators) and presented to the board for adoption. The board would need to determine if such curriculum is aligned with the educational goals of the board (and Superintendent), hence early involvement in the process would be needed,
Prior to board adoption, at a minimum, the board should understand 1) the subject areas of the curriculum; 2) the cost of textbooks and other materials; 3) the quality of the textbooks and material; 4) if the curriculum is aligned with state guidance; 5) the appropriateness of the subject areas and materials; and 6) if material considers the needs of IEP students.
In order to monitor the progress and success of the curriculum, the board, along with the Superintendent, should establish specific measurable goals, measure such progress based on empirical data and hold people accountable accordingly.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: Not at this time
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: It is all about being transparent with the community, especially parents when dealing with these issues. Transparency leads to trust which benefits the community as a whole. For example, the district could post the following on the district website: 1) classroom and homework assignments; 2) blank tests after the tests are taken; 3) an inventory of all books teachers bring to the classroom; 4) all learning material for students; and 5) learning/training material for teachers. Another thought is to send parents a survey that has a list of proposed tactics (not only limited to the above) to gauge their reaction. Holding a public forum where the community can engage in a Q & A session with the board is another idea.
The above is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather just some ideas to promote an open and communicative environment for our community.
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: Interesting question which of course the answer is dependent on the type of disease. In the beginning of the pandemic things were done that probably needed to be done (shutting down schools, remote learning). I do not blame anybody for the early measures that were taken. However as more data came to light, not only from the CDC website, but from studies that were published and physicians that were being quoted in news articles, I started to question things. As we all know, as a group, the virus impacted children a lot differently than the elderly and people dealing with diabetes, obesity and other issues.
If another infectious disease occurs, I would want to understand its impact on certain age groups, gather as much data as possible, hear both sides of the argument from the professionals, and do as much research as needed to make an informed decision.
Additionally, one must also self reflect on that decision and the impact on the students as new information becomes available.
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 consultant, I work in group settings daily. There are three things I do in group settings: 1) listen; 2) ask questions; and 3) elicit responses from group members who have been silent. Teams and groups go through various stages as highlighted by Bruce Tuckman: forming, storming, norming and performing. The key is for the group to recognize what stage it is in and what can it do to move to the next level. Time usually helps as well as getting to know each group's member individual strengths and leveraging those strengths. I come from the business world working for global companies and will have different perspectives from an educator who sits on the board. Both perspectives are valuable as is healthy respectful debate.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I have worked in consulting for 40 years and have been involved in a lot of complex situations for my clients. Additionally I had my own business, employed people, and have interacted with a diverse set of individuals through the years. One other thing to mention is that for seven years I was a member of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management Board and chaired the Finance Committee, so fiscal responsibility and the budgeting process would also be on my radar. Given all that, I believe I would bring a different perspective to dealing with the board issues.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: Focus on improving the scores. It is a complex situation as I was told there is more to a child's success than just scores. However the report card is a reflection on the district, not so much the child. Goals need to be set annually, weighted and then measured as to progress. I believe score improvement is a goal that should he heavily weighted, along with fiscal responsibility. Additionally, people who are tasks with achieving these goals need to be held accountable to meet them.