Candidate profile: Ellen Dauber

Ellen Dauber is a candidate for Signal Hill District 181 school board.
Ellen Dauber is a candidate for Signal Hill District 181 school board.

Name: Ellen Dauber

Age: 56

Home: Belleville

Please list your immediate family members: Daughter, Annie Dauber, 20

Office you are seeking: Signal Hill School District 181 School Board

Occupation: Lawyer, retired judge

Previous and current elected offices and terms served: None

Why are you running? I am running for Signal Hill School Board because I strongly believe that public schools are one of the most important cornerstones of our country. Nelson Mandela once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I believe that, and I want to use my time and energy to help change our small corner of the world by ensuring that Signal Hill achieves and maintains high standards as we prepare our students. In my opinion, a good education is vital to the success of every child, and a good school is vital to the success of a community. I want to volunteer my time and give back to my community, and I can think of no institution that is more important to our communities than our public schools

What is the most important issue facing the Signal Hill School District? How would you approach it? The most important issue facing Signal Hill School is a changing population. For a long time, most of the students at Signal Hill started in kindergarten or preschool and stayed until they graduated. Often, their parents and even grandparents had graduated from Signal Hill. Students and parents knew each other, and knew what was expected and customary at Signal Hill. Because families stayed at the school, teachers and administrators could easily ensure that students met all standards as they moved from grade to grade. Now, Signal Hill has a significant mobility rate, which means that more students are moving into the district from school districts that may have different standards and a different academic culture than Signal Hill. This presents a challenge for families, teachers, and administrators as they figure out how to ensure that all students learn the necessary subjects and skills in a safe and comfortable environment.

In required state testing, Signal Hill has a significant achievement gap between low-income students and those who are not considered low-income. I believe that gap is partly a result of Signal Hill's struggles to adapt to a changing demographic. It's difficult for teachers to help students "catch up" and master foundational information while also trying to challenge those students who exceed standards and need more difficult material to remain engaged. The teachers and administrators at SHS have implemented intensive and individualized multi-tiered programs to try to meet the needs of every single student, no matter where they start. I'm impressed by, and proud of, the dedication and professionalism of the Signal Hill staff, and believe the Board needs to support their efforts, even expanding these programs if necessary to meet the needs of all students. I would also like to explore ways in which the school and community can reach out to new students and their families, welcoming them and increasing their involvement in the school, and embracing the growing diversity of our community.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or why not? In a perfect world, yes. While most teachers are able to look beyond color, gender and disabilities and do their best to reach all children, there's no doubt it is good for students to see teachers who look like them, and for all students to see teachers who mirror the diversity of our world. We want all of our students, regardless of gender or race, to believe that they can achieve, and to know that a person's gender or ethnicity should not limit anyone's potential. Seeing teachers who reflect that diversity reinforces that belief, and I believe Signal Hill should make efforts to hire teachers who reflect the student demographic.

The essential requirement in hiring teachers, however, must be that they are qualified -- smart, enthusiastic, and devoted to educating our students. We cannot sacrifice quality simply to change the demographic of our faculty, but I do believe that when hiring new teachers, Signal Hill should make a concerted effort to hire qualified teachers that reflect our student population. Unfortunately, it's not possible for all schools to have faculty reflect their student population because teachers in America simply don't reflect the demographic of our country. Teachers in America are disproportionately white and female, according to the National Cenrer for Education. As a small school district, SHS is often competing with larger school districts that are able to offer higher salaries or other incentives to qualified minority teachers, which may hamper the ability of Signal Hill School to increase the diversity of its faculty. Nevertheless, I do believe that increasing the diversity of our faculty should be a goal.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? There is no doubt that science, technology, and math have an ever-increasing role in our society, and Signal Hill School must ensure that our students are given an adequate foundation in these subjects to achieve in high school and beyond. I believe we should explore teaching additional computer skills, and adding higher math at the junior high level. We must also make sure that we are staying current in teaching technology, math, and science. Our students, however, also need a good solid foundation in other subjects. We all want our children to be well-rounded, and I believe it's a mistake to focus on STEM to the exclusion of language arts, social studies, and the arts. Elementary school is about teaching our children how to think analytically, and inspiring them to want to learn and achieve. Learning to express oneself clearly is an essential skill no matter one's profession or vocation, and it is important that schools, especially at the elementary level, teach students that skill. At this stage, we are laying the foundation for future learning, and we want to make sure our students have an adequate foundation in all areas for them to build upon as they grow.

In St. Clair County, there will be votes for two sales tax referendums. One would benefit school facility costs, one would benefit public safety. Do you support either or both of the referendums? Why or why not? At this time, I reluctantly support both the sales tax referendum for public safety and the referendum for schools. I am reluctant because I am generally not in favor of increased sales tax, and I recognize that the sales tax in our county is already high. Until and unless there is a systemic change in statewide funding for our schools, police departments, probation departments and other public safety units, however, I believe that raising the sales tax would be beneficial for our county. As a lawyer and judge, I saw first-hand the need for additional police and probation officers, and strongly believe additional funding is necessary for public safety in St. Clair County. The school tax referendum is a more complicated decision for me because Signal Hill School District is financially sound and not in dire need of additional funding at this time. As a small district, and given the state budgetary concerns, this could change, however, and I believe that Signal Hill could benefit significantly if the sales tax were increased. I also understand that many schools in St. Clair County have a greater need for increased income, and I believe good schools anywhere benefit all of us.

Why should people vote for you? People should vote for me because I bring a unique skill set and background to the Board, as well as a passion for education. For the past thirty years, I have worked in St. Clair County as a lawyer and a judge. I have worked with and seen people from all walks of life and all levels of education, and witnessed many times the difference a good education can make in someone's life. My experience has also impressed upon me the importance of instilling in young children a desire to learn. Since 1990, I have volunteered with Join Hands ESL, a not-for-profit group that works with children, youth, and families struggling in poverty in East St. Louis. Walking with these families has further reinforced a belief that education can change lives, and is essential for breaking the cycle of poverty in which many families find themselves. I am a single parent of a daughter who attended Signal School from pre-school through eighth grade. I am a proud member of the Signal Hill community, and believe that our school is a valuable asset which we must maintain and improve.