Candidate profile: John Valentine

John Valentine
John Valentine

Name: Jobn Valentine

Age: 48

Family: His wife, Julie Fortier, son, 12, and daughter, 9. Town: O’Fallon

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

Occupation: Systems engineering manager at Extreme Networks, a networking manufacturer.

Previous Offices: None

What is the most important issues facing O’Fallon School District 90? How would you approach it? I have been an O’Fallon resident for the last 25 years. I, and many other residents, recall when our districts (90 and 203) were some of the most highly sought destinations for residents. That’s no longer the case. I seek the Board in order to be more intimately involved with the resurgence of our acclaimed district(s). I am eager in being a well-versed participant in helping resolve academic, fiscal, and other issues facing our schools and our kids. Our schools and personnel have been challenged to deliver a stimulating curriculum across a multitude of interests and capabilities – having done the best they could. But the ongoing fiscal constraints have limited what our schools can offer their students. Through numerous conversations, it seems we have many frustrated students and parents. District 90 faces many challenges in its obligations to its students and their parents, the city, and even District 203. I seek an opportunity in guiding the collaboration I feel is necessary between these groups in for District 90 to meet and exceed its obligations for current and future generations.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or why not? The most important issue facing O’Fallon CCSD 90 continues to be the impact the state’s fiscal irresponsibility has had on the district and in the classrooms. Ultimately, I think we can do more academically for our kids while they navigate through our district or embark on their high school careers. As we’ve seen, there are no simple answers. Finding new revenue sources for the district is paramount in restoring the district’s reputation and its offerings. But it shouldn’t be just the residents who bear the burden. District 90 and the city must cooperate with each other for both to succeed. With new city leadership comes new opportunities. As the Board works with these leaders and various regional groups, it must also work with faculty and parents in finding creative and sustainable solutions to ensure our kids’ ongoing academic achievements. More so than ever, our kids and faculty have come to rely on the volunteers who have given of themselves to help the schools fortify extracurricular activities, the arts, academics, etc. Further collaboration with local businesses, community members, and subject matter experts can augment the educational experience.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? I certainly believe there is value in students being able to “see” themselves in their instructors. I believe it facilitates stronger relationships, develops a more vested interest, and simply provides someone they can look up to. That said, I also support employing those fully qualified for the respective positions. If the district wants to consider better aligning its demographics of teachers, does that mean approximately 50 percent of all K-5 teachers should be male? Are there that many qualified male candidates seeking K-5 teaching positions? Similar questions and conversations are just as relevant regarding ethnicity. The student population is the diversity in our community as well as society. There’s no reason our schools cannot mirror to the extent that the kids’ education is equally maintained.

In St. Clair County, there will be votes on two sales tax referendums. Do you support either or both? Why or why not?

This is one of the topics I am most passionate about. There should definitely be an emphasis, or more STEM education offered in our schools. Maybe not to the point where we emphasize and raise the expectations so high that our kids suddenly feel like they are struggling or starting to fail. We should expand the content and conversation and elevate expectations to some degree. I think we’d be pleasantly surprised by the number of students who reach or exceed higher expectations. I understand and agree with the intent of the Common Core curriculum. People learn differently, so teaching competencies through various means accommodates more students. Maybe condensing some Common Core aspects could free up classroom time that could be used for introducing STEM focused materials. Practical application sometimes delivers the “aha” moment when textbook ways don’t. Fulton and Carriel Jr. High Schools have done a great job recently offering STEM related extracurricular activities such as LEGO FIRST robotics, Science Bowl, and now Science Olympiad. Many thanks to the district, schools, faculty, and parents who have made these possible. In order to excite, stimulate, and educate more students requires bringing STEM into the classrooms.

Why should people vote for me? My interest lies in ensuring our kids are getting the best possible education the district can provide them – academically, socially, physically, etc. I don’t come with any heritage, baggage, hidden agendas, or affiliations I need to maintain. I’m a new face and not seeking my ‘n’th’ term. I am willing and eager to learn and better understand the problems so I can help make the best informed decisions possible. District 90 is a core component of our community as well District 203 (or other high schools). I want to help facilitate ways to excite and stimulate our kids – from those who might be struggling to those who may no longer be challenged. I want to ensure we provide equal opportunities for all our kids throughout all our schools. I’m eager to re-establish an educational experience that draws parents instead of them contemplating homeschooling or private institutions. Most importantly, I think we should leverage the ideas of our faculty and parents to the greatest extent possible.

How should the school district approach current budgetary challenges? Creatively and carefully. Nothing’s off limits. We may need to revisit previously discarded ideas. The budgetary challenges impact everything – education/curriculum, facilities, staff and salaries, transportation, and ultimately the kids. Fiscal responsibility is fundamental to a district’s operations. But when the continued loss/lack of funds forces schools and kids to give up basics, something must be done. It’s time to revisit any and all options. Put any egos and kingdoms aside. Maybe it’s time for multiple districts to brainstorm together. Maybe our students or community have great ideas to build on. I believe the O’Fallon/Shiloh districts need more collaboration with the city. If the city cannot provide a hint of additional revenue streams amidst its projected growth, then it falls onto the parents or possibly the residents to help make up for shortfalls. Soon, parents will be paying for so many basics, it may almost feel like our public schools are becoming their own charter schools. There are a lot of smart and practical people who want to see our kids, our schools, and our community succeed. Within this group I’m sure we can find some answers – but we won’t know unless we try.