Name: Eric Levin
Occupation: Retired Boeing Finance Executive
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Position seeking: Board of Education for Edwardsville C.U.S.D. #7
Campaign website: Eric Levin for District 7 School Board on Facebook
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? In short, because I believe in public education and I have the skills and experience that would benefit the community. I am a recently retired divisional Chief Financial Officer to The Boeing Company and am now able to focus more time on giving back to the community. One area where I’m currently devoting time is on public education. I currently serve on the Boards of Advisors for the SIUE and SEMO Business Schools. In addition, District 7 is a large organization with an $85M annual budget, 1,000 employees, and over 7,400 students with many locations and facilities. A large organization any way you want to look at it. Given my roles at Boeing, I have the skills and experience necessary to provide oversight and support to a large complex organization such as District 7.
What are the most important issues the school district faces, and how would you approach them? The three most important issues to me: The first is community engagement. It is essential for the Board to actively engage with the various stakeholders in the community and have ongoing dialogue. I have met with different District stakeholders, and they are all interested in having additional insight into the district and operations. I would continue down this path. The second is the skilled trades (or CTE). We have a gap in that the curriculum for students wanting to learn the skilled trades. This is another area which will require engagement and partnerships with community organizations, and I would plan on pursuing it with them. Finally, District 7 is digging itself out of a financial hole. I would want to ensure that we continue on a course of financial stability, and I think with my experience and knowledge of managing large budgets, I could help in this area.
Under what circumstances would you vote to raise property taxes? I think that raising taxes should be used only as a last resort and only when absolutely necessary to avoid very serious consequences. In my past experience, I was faced with situations where I had to solve issues with the resources that I had and didn’t have the option of securing more funds. I think this should be the mindset of the District – living within the funding that they have should be the expectation. The district has been in serious financial distress and has had to make some hard decisions. While the decisions that the district made may have been painful at times, I believe this is the right approach in dealing with issues prior to considering a tax increase.
What are your goals for the district/what do you want to accomplish? My main goal for the district is to fulfill the board mission statement, which says in part, “ provide an environment that will develop all students to their fullest potential so that they will have the knowledge, skills, and behavior necessary to compete in a global economy and to exercise the rights and responsibilities of good citizenship.” Towards that end, I intend to work with the district to encourage students who are interested in the skilled trades and help them along that path. I think that will require proactively engaging with community stakeholders to further their support of the schools. Moreover, I want the community to have a seat at the table so that their voices can be heard and a dialogue had. Finally, I want to ensure that the District continues to be a good steward of taxpayer money in conduct of its mission.
What is your position on the proposed increase in minimum wage for teachers in Illinois? Teachers play an incredibly valuable role in the life of students. The impact teachers have lasts a lifetime. The effects that unfunded mandates such as an increase in teacher minimum wages have on the financial stability of organizations concern me, however. A school district isn’t like a business where the impact of higher wages can be passed along to customers based on market conditions. For District 7, the funding is set, and there is no easy way to get more. Pressure in one area of cost must be addressed by reducing in some other areas, and the impacts can be unintended and severe. I think it is best to allow the local districts working with the teacher unions to set the wage scales as appropriate for the area and deal with cost pressures using a systems approach, considering all the impacts and dealing with any increases in a holistic fashion.