What you need to know about the April 2019 election
Name: P. K. Johnson
Town: Caseyville, Illinois
Position Seeking: O’Fallon High School District 203 School Board
Campaign website: https://m.facebook.com/PKJohnsonForOTHSSchoolBoard/
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? My son, Kaden, is a sophomore at OTHS. I want to help make sure that he, and all the other students at OTHS continue to receive a quality education and are prepared for the next chapters of their lives. I previously served on the school board of Wolf Branch School District 113 in Swansea, Illinois. During my time on the board, I learned that in order for a board to be successful, the members must collaborate with each other and the administration to make decisions that are best for our students, without over-burdening the tax payers. At times, board members must question decisions, but they should do it with respect and mindfulness of the positions of all involved. As a practicing attorney for more than 20 years, I understand the importance of seeing all sides of a position, and making common-sense decisions after considering all sides.
What are the most important issues the school district faces, and how would you approach them? Finance is always an issue. The Evidenced Based school funding model recently adopted by the State of Illinois has helped place District 203 in the best financial position that it has been in for many years. However, we must be careful. We must not be wasteful, and must spend money only if it will benefit our students. We must also be mindful of the fact that you never know what the State of Illinois will do next, and our financial circumstances my change on a dime. Communication is also an issue. I have spoken with teachers at OTHS who are frustrated with the lack of communication between the teachers, the administration and the board. I would like to find ways to improve that communication. Communication between the board and the public also seems to be an issue. Since I announced my candidacy, I have heard from many different parents of students with regard to issues such as drug use, vaping, and school safety. Each parent seems to have a different perspective on these issues. I would like parents to be on the same page with these issues, and if there is a problem, figure out a way to solve them. Very few (if any) members of the community attend the school board meetings or the Conversations with Coffee offered by the board and the administration. We might need to rethink how the board and the administration communicates with the public.
Under what circumstances would you vote to raise property taxes? At this point, I see no circumstance in which raising property taxes will be necessary during my tenure on the board.
What are your goals for the district/what do you want to accomplish? In addition to what I have stated above, the district must have a long-term plan in place to prepare for the rapid growth of our community. Over the next several years the number of students in our district is expected to increase dramatically. We need to start planning for this now.
What is your position on the proposed increase in minimum wage for teachers in Illinois? The teacher shortage in Illinois is certainly becoming a crisis. I’m happy that the State of Illinois is recognizing that there is a problem and attempting to do something about it. However, my role as a District 203 Board member is not to solve the Illinois teacher shortage problem; it is to make sure that we hire highly-qualified teachers at O’Fallon High School, while remaining fiscally responsible. The minimum wage increase will affect each district differently. At this point, I do not know how I will affect our district. I can only hope that it allows us the opportunity to hire more highly-qualified teachers, without causing an increased burden on the taxpayers.