Name: Ken Miller
Town: St. Jacob
Position Seeking: Triad School Board
Campaign website: On Facebook at @KenMiller4Triad
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I have always felt a responsibility to serve the public good. As a result, I’ve spent much of my life in public service. My professional life was spent in education as a teacher, coach, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent. Along the way I have also served on numerous nonprofit boards and professional committees and have also held elected positions. When I learned that one of Triad’s current board members had decided not to run for another term, I decided that I have the desire, time, experience, knowledge, and temperament to be a good replacement. I think those same qualities (desire, time, experience, knowledge, and temperament) provide our voters with the reasons they should vote for me.
What are the most important issues the school district faces, and how would you approach them? Triad is a great school district, in large part because they have always strived to stay ahead of the curve on the issues that confront nearly every school district. But staying ahead of the curve requires constant vigilance. Finances have been a critical issue for many years. It appears that the recent changes in state school funding, along with the community’s passage of the Education Fund rate referendum, have helped put the district on fairly solid ground for now. Staying there will require constant attention from the staff and consistent oversight from the board. Recruiting, hiring, mentoring, and retaining a great staff is a critical issue for school districts. Triad has consistently been successful in that area but again must strive to maintain this success. Within the next couple of years the Board of Education will be faced with perhaps its most important role in this process when it will hire a new superintendent. If elected, I look forward to contributing to that process.
Under what circumstances would you vote to raise property taxes? As long as the district maintains a fairly solid rate of growth in residential and commercial property value, it’s likely that during each levy cycle the Board of Education will continue to be able to ask for additional dollars for funding without having a significant effect upon the tax rates. In fact, in really good years they may even be able to reduce the tax rates a bit. The only time that I would expect to vote for any significant increase in the property tax rates would be after a public referendum approving it—as the Triad community has done twice in the last 12 years or so. With the school buildings currently in pretty good shape and the district’s finances on fairly solid footing, it’s highly unlikely that any kind of referendum will be needed for the foreseeable future and therefore unlikely that I would ever have to vote for any significant increase in the property tax rates.
What are your goals for the district/what do you want to accomplish? The Triad district has a long history of outstanding superintendents whose leadership has been a major factor in the success of the district and its reputation as one of the best school districts around. I have worked for and with the last three of those superintendents. If elected, one of my major goals will be to ensure that, when the time comes, we hire the next great superintendent to lead the district into the future. Beyond that, my goals are to see that the board continues to set the policies and provide the leadership that will allow the district and its students, already great, to be even better.
What is your position on the proposed increase in minimum wage for teachers in Illinois? Triad can be proud that its “minimum wage” for teachers is already above the proposed minimum, so the law, if passed, will have no immediate effect on the district’s finances or its bargaining positions. As for the proposal itself, I would say that in an age when a baseball player is apparently worth $30,000,000 a year, teachers surely ought to be worth at least $40,000 a year. Obviously, some districts are not already up to the proposed minimum standard. But the bill, as I understand it, will phase in that amount over the next several school years which will mitigate the immediate effects. Regardless of how far under the proposed minimum a school district currently is, the law will undoubtedly create some financial burdens and also some issues during contract bargaining as the minimum rises to amounts already paid to more experienced teachers. I sympathize with the difficulties but we’ve solved worse problems in the past. Ultimately, if the new minimum encourages more good people to enter the field and helps retain those already in our classrooms, that’s a good thing.