Candidate profile: Lee Ann Gemmigen

Lee Ann Gemmigen is a candidate for Signal Hill District 181 school board.
Lee Ann Gemmigen is a candidate for Signal Hill District 181 school board.

Name: Lee Ann Gemmingen

Age: 48

Family members: Two children

Town: Belleville

Office seeking: Signal Hill School Board

Occupation: Teacher

Previous and current elected offices and terms served: I am currently serving a four-year term on the Signal Hill School Board as the vice-president and chair of the personnel committee.

Why are you running? I am running for a second term as a Signal Hill School board member because I believe that I can continue to make a difference in the lives of students. In the last four years, our board has maintained all district programs including band and our talented and gifted program, as well as expanding our Spanish program and increasing technology in classrooms. We have also made considerable improvements to our buildings and grounds. Last summer, we hired a new superintendent. Currently, we are working on refining our strategic plan and vision for the district, which will guide us in future initiatives. I would like the opportunity to continue this important work.

What is the most important issue facing the Signal Hill School District? How would you approach it? Schools are faced with many challenges and Signal Hill School (SHS) is no exception. The biggest challenge that SHS faces is continuing to provide opportunities for each student to achieve one year of academic progress in math and reading for each school year. This is part of the district’s strategic plan. With a high mobility rate and low-income students, this can be difficult to achieve, but SHS is making significant strides through student engagement, targeted help for at-risk students, knowledge and use of technology, home and school connections, and a rigorous and innovative curriculum aligned with Illinois State Learning Standards. As a board member, one of my roles is to ensure that the superintendent is empowered to provide faculty with the resources, training, and tools needed for students to progress and succeed academically.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or why not? Ideally, a school district’s teacher demographics should mirror its student demographics; however, this has proven difficult for Signal Hill School (SHS) and many neighboring school districts. Finding and keeping quality teachers is always a priority of any school district. SHS is no exception. Hiring teachers of diverse backgrounds and cultures has been a challenge. We strive to employ and retain highly qualified teachers who embrace diversity and engage students so that learning will be maximized.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? The emphasis of STEM education should be an integral part of instruction. STEM activities integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education promotes problem-solving and critical thinking skills that students will need in their future careers. The benefits of STEM activities also serve to encourage females to explore these typically male-dominated fields.

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? Regarding the public safety tax referendum, I am currently undecided. I do support the facilities tax referendum. This referendum will provide $200,677 annually to help Signal Hill improve building and grounds, as well as pay down debt. Maintaining and updating our facilities will help attract new families to Signal Hill. Notably, homeowners will benefit from property tax reductions. Homeowners will save $107.21 per $100,000 home market value. Ultimately, it will be the voters who will decide how important these issues are to them.

Why should people vote for you? The residents of Signal Hill School District should vote for me because over the past four years I have worked with board members to ensure that Signal Hill School remains fiscally responsible while providing a premium education for its students. As a veteran teacher of 26 years at West Junior High, I have a wealth of knowledge and a passion for education. I understand the myriad of issues facing our schools and will continue to work hard to empower the Signal Hill faculty and staff with the resources, materials and professional development needed to maximize student learning. In my own profession, I am a leader and problem-solver, as well as a strong advocate and champion of public education. Signal Hill has a rich tradition of academic excellence and innovation. As a board member, I plan to continue that tradition, so I would greatly appreciate the vote of Signal Hill residents.