Candidate profile: John Wagnon

John Wagnon
John Wagnon

Name: John Wagnon

Age: 40

Family: His wife Kara and daughters Hannah, Abigail and Rebekah Wagnon. We are also in the process of adopting our foster son.

Town: O’Fallon

Office Seeking: O’Fallon School District 90 Board of Education

Occupation: Computer Security Engineer

Previous Offices: Currently a member of the District 90 School Board. I am completing my first four-year term. I have held no other elected offices.

Why I am running: My initial motivation for running is the same today as it was four years ago...my kids. My family and I love O’Fallon, and this is our home. I don’t have a hidden agenda; I just want to make this the best possible District for our kids. I have enjoyed my time on the school board these past four years, and I would enjoy serving our District and our community for another four years.

What is the most important issues facing O’Fallon School District 90? How would you approach it? Revenue instability is an extremely serious issue for District 90 (and most other districts in Illinois). When our school board votes to approve a budget for a given year, it’s best if we know the amount of money we will receive for that upcoming year. If we overspend based on bad revenue projections, that’s a really bad thing. Ideally, we need to know a good estimate of the revenue we will receive each year so that we can build an effective budget. Almost every year, Illinois changes the amount of State Aid money we receive so it creates a very serious problem for our school board in correctly managing taxpayer dollars. The way I have approached this for the past 4 years is that I err on the side of conservative when budgeting for each expenditure in our District. I also try to stay as informed as possible with the legislative actions in Springfield so that I can have a better understanding of exactly how much money to plan for in the budget each year. This approach has served our District well over the past four years.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or why not? The bottom line is that we need the best teachers in our classrooms to educate our kids. As for demographics, I don’t want to force one demographic over another...I just want to get the best teachers. To the extent that we can, I think it’s fine to have a mirrored demographic, but not at the expense of getting the best teachers.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? As a science and technology professional, I understand the need for STEM education for our kids. We need to prepare our kids by helping them learn how to thrive in today’s highly-technical world. I think it’s extremely possible to incorporate technology into various facets of education (i.e. learn proper grammar while building a web page, solve complex math problems by learning how to code, etc).

In St. Clair County, there will be votes on two sales tax referendums. Do you support either or both? Why or why not? As a member of the District 90 school board, my job is to responsibly manage whatever revenue our District receives. If our voters decide to pass the 1 percent sales tax for school facilities, I will be as wise and responsible as I possibly can with the use of that taxpayer money. If the tax does not pass, then I will be as wise and responsible as I possibly can with the use of our taxpayer’s money. As for the public safety tax, my position on the school board won’t allow me to have any decision-making power regarding that money. With either tax, it’s important that every voter be educated about the details of each issue before casting a vote for or against it.

Why should people vote for me? O’Fallon District 90 has the reputation as the best elementary school district in the greater Metro East. Our teachers and staff are absolutely second to none, and our community and parental support make this district the envy of all others. As the current School Board President, I’ve had the chance to strengthen the financial status of the district by negotiating reasonable health insurance and salary contracts for our certified and non-certified staff. I also helped to reduced extracurricular fees for athletic and clubs, and I helped bring back art, choir, and band to the school day (our Jr. High band ranked in the top 10 bands in the state last year). I have maintained my conservative approach to finances by helping grow our Working Cash (savings account) to over one million even in the face of extremely difficult financial times in Illinois. As a taxpayer and District 90 parent myself, I understand the importance of being very careful with every dollar our district is given the responsibility to manage. In addition, I led our school board in setting short-term and long-term goals for the district. These goals provide focus and direction while we make many difficult decisions regarding district actions. I will continue to work hard to set up this district for success in the future while protecting the very valuable reputation and status we have grown to enjoy today. Ultimately, all of this work is done to create the best learning environment for all of our kids...kids who will learn today and lead tomorrow. Our school board has done many great things over the past four years, and I’d like to continue that progress over the next four years.

How should the school district approach current budgetary challenges? We need to be wise stewards of the taxpayer money we receive. So we shouldn’t spend more than we make. It’s true that the state of Illinois significantly underfunds education every year, and that’s disappointing and frustrating. As we find ways to effectively work with our legislators in Springfield, we should pursue those opportunities and help them understand the importance of fully funding education for our kids. We should also find creative ways to solve financial problems without always relying on State funding. We have done a great job with this in District 90 through local business partnerships, donations for new laptop computers, PTO fundraisers, etc. In the end, we need to fight for every dollar we can get for our kids, but we don’t need to stand by and do nothing while we wait for action out of Springfield.