Candidate profile: Kristin Geis

Kristin Geis
Kristin Geis

Name: Kristin Geis

Age: 42

Family members: John, husband. Tyler, son. Trevor, son. Taryn, daughter

Town: Belleville, IL (Mascoutah Schools, Freeburg Township)

Office seeking: Board of Education, Mascoutah District #19

Occupation: Occupational Therapist, School-Based

Previous and current elected offices and terms served: This will be my first official election into a civic office. However, I have been elected into Board Positions at the school level. I was elected onto the Mascoutah Elementary School PTO Board of Office. Vice President 2010-2011. President 2012-2013 and 2013-2014

Why are you running? As a child of educators who were very involved in their districts and my experience working in the school setting as an Occupational Therapist for 18 years, I quickly became involved in the Mascoutah School district when our family moved to the area in February 2008. Having three children in the district, I have a vested interest in our schools and the future of our school district. When our family moved to Mascoutah, our eldest son entered Kindergarten at that time and I began to get involved with the schools through PTO. Over the past nine years, I have chaired multiple positions in the PTO and I served on the PTO board for three yea Vice-President for 1 year and the President for 2 years. Through my experiences as a school based Occupational Therapist, I would have district teachers and administrators approach me to ask my professional opinion on OT, accommodations and Assistive technology options which triggered my interest in that area of the school district.

Over the past 9 years, I have been an active participant in our schools. I have inquired with administration and the board regarding class size, technology, related services costs, and more. I’ve attended school board meetings, and at this time last year I felt that my voice was heard to push for change; and change is what happened. At that time, I decided I wanted to do more as a parent within the district, as a resident/taxpayer in our district, and as a partner with our teachers and administration. I decided that I wanted to run for School Board in the 2017 consolidated elections. I feel that I am a strong candidate that is willing ask the needed, yet sometimes uncomfortable questions that need to be asked and help our district move forward and to be resilient as changes occur at the county, state and federal levels. My vision is to be a voice for my three children and their peers, my friends, neighbors and fellow parents, our teachers and fellow peers, and for the most beneficial and practical use and equality between our schools.

What is the most important issue facing the Mascoutah School District? How would you approach it? At this time, Buildings/Class sizes impacts on students and teachers and Residents discontent regarding Finances (i.e. 1 cent tax increase, TIFs, etc.) are important issues faced by the district. Our community is growing each year, with the majority of growth feeding into MMS and MES. MES is in need of a major update/expansion; possibly a new school. WES is a large state of the art school building that is being underutilized. I believe the school board should look at how we can better utilize our current school buildings and better plan for our districts growth. There are multiple scenarios to address this. One scenario; looking through the current number of students at each school we could utilize WES as an intermediate center for all 4th and 5th graders; housing K-3 at MES for current MES and WES students, and housing EC/PreK-3rd at SES. However, with this scenario, the remaining unfinished areas of WES would need to be completed or the current ‘common teaching areas’ would need to become a classroom.

A second scenario would be to house SES ‘as is’. We could then combine WES and MES into a primary building and intermediate building scenario (MES preK-3 and WES 4th-5th). This scenario would bring the students back together that were separated when WES opened, decrease the class sizes and utilize the buildings with increased efficiency. WES could house that number of students in the finished areas. Either scenario would assist in the total numbers at each school as well as better utilizing the new building. I am willing to work as a team to find the best scenario for our district. Busing would need to be looked at; however it has been proposed to house pre-K at WES, therefore busing could potentially go to the farthest distance in the district to transport those students as well. Transporting all 4th and 5th graders could be an option. Based on current numbers, MMS is currently holding 839 students. Using the current class sizes, next year’s enrollment will be 853. The max capacity is set at 900; the future needs at MMS have been discussed by the current board which includes expanding common areas for the current student population. The one cent sales tax to be utilized by the school district for buildings would assist in these plans as well without increasing our property taxes. Regarding TIFs, the current school board has voted on them and approved them at this time.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or why not? As a parent in the Mascoutah school district, I feel that our district strives to hire teachers and staff that strive to teach every child no matter their backgrounds/beliefs. Our district should hire teachers/staff that have the attributes to treat each student equally and fairly. I grew up in an inner city where teacher demographics did not mirror the students. The majority of teachers were Caucasian; however they treated all students the same. I see that in our district as well. A teacher chooses to teach all students, not just ‘certain’ students. As an Occupational Therapist in the school, I have worked with multiple ethnic/cultural backgrounds and well as those from poverty or extreme wealth. I treat my students the same no matter what their background consists of; that is what I would expect from our teachers. Teachers and students demographics do not need to be mirrored for the best educational experience.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? STEM has become an important part of our evolving world. We need to help our students become better prepared and competitive as they advance through our schools and as they enter the workforce, trade schools, college, and beyond. Many school districts across the country are implementing STEM programming into their curriculum at different levels. I am confident in saying that our school district is utilizing science and math enrichment at this time and we should continue to look at ways to cost effectively continue and increase these programs.

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? As a parent and resident of the district who feels strongly about education, I am FOR the referendum regarding St Clair County School facilities. Working in multiple schools within the county, I have witnessed first-hand the cuts districts have had to make due to deceased funding from the state, and /or waiting for state aid to come through. There are also many residents who receive property tax relief due to their age and/or military status which affects a large portion of school taxes that are not made available to our schools. This referendum would increase the monies available to our schools without increasing property taxes for those that are currently contributing to the school tax monies collected. I agree that there are specific needs for buildings in our district. As a board member, I would address the order in which the building’s needs should be completed.

As a child of educators and having a strong belief in education, regarding the one cent sales tax for county public safety costs, I am not in support of the vote. As a resident, I cannot support a 2% increase in sales tax to support both referendums. In researching the plans for the monies from this referendum, I am not seeing a large amount going to our local safety officers and departments. If there was, my support on the referendum would waiver. I see the majority of the monies going to county courts, jails, and probation departments, as well as to facilities that are not needed at this time (i.e. shooting range).

Why should people vote for you? I am one of you…a parent, a ‘teacher’, a friend, a resident. I have a vested interest in this district. I am a team player, however I am not afraid to step ‘out of the box’ and ask questions. I can be your voice. I am willing to work full time as a wife, mother of three and full time school based Occupational Therapist while using my knowledge and experiences to work for our school district to achieve what is best for our students, teachers, staff, administrators and buildings. Our family moved to this district because of the great things we learned about it. I have been an involved parent for nine-years and I have a vested interest in the future and resilience of our school district. Please come out and vote on April 4th…vote for a strong school board member…vote for Kristin Geis.