Name: James “Jim” C. Wolfe
Occupation: Retired Air Force and management consultant
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Position seeking: Mascoutah School Board District 19
Campaign website: N/A
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I am fully retired after 26 years of active duty in the Air Force as a senior officer and 22 years as senior manager in a defense contracting practice. I have the time and desire to give back to my community. I believe my experience and critical thinking skills will help continue the legacy of educational excellence in the Mascoutah School District. My five children graduated from Mascoutah schools, and I was very involved with the schools and the children’s educations. I have no agenda other than enabling superior education for the children while maintaining the wonderfully skilled staff of teachers and administrators and ensuring the taxpayers experience the best use of their funds.
What are the most important issues the school district faces, and how would you approach them? To begin with, I am a responsible fiscal conservative. Mascoutah School District 19 is in growth mode with new homes and population increases. This will require more classrooms and additional staff to keep classes at optimal sizes to maintain excellence in education. Plans are in place to accommodate these changes with available resources. I will support these initiatives as long as they maximize the use of taxpayers’ funding, enhance the educational opportunities for all students and enable the school district to keep and hire top-notch teachers and counselors. I believe that sustainment of educational excellence will also require our schools to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs, Industrial Arts, standardized test preparation and a robust program of career counseling to establish student post high school goals.
Under what circumstances would you vote to raise property taxes? As I indicated in the answer above, I am a fiscal conservative. At this time, there does not appear to be a need to raise taxes in District 19. The School Board and the current Administration have been very conservative in spending and wise in building reserves for future needs, including population growth. Before I would support raising taxes, I would request that a bottoms-up cost cutting review and analysis be conducted to identify budget reduction opportunities. Subsequent actions might include a 360-degree look at the impact on students, teachers, administrators and taxpayers to determine the best course of action.
What are your goals for the district/what do you want to accomplish? I want to enable the growth of educational excellence in Mascoutah School District 19. That means providing every opportunity possible for the students to excel, for teachers to grow and for administrators to creatively manage. Status quo is only the baseline for improvement at all levels. I want to see student scores increase, greater emphasis of girls in STEM, a focus on the strengths of students, and moderate class sizes that provide the best atmosphere for learning. Last but of great importance, I want to see a competitive compensation program that attracts and retains the best teachers and counselors.
What is your position on the proposed increase in minimum wage for teachers in Illinois? The minimum wage for teachers has not been increased in Illinois since 1980. School boards in every community have had to establish their teacher wages based on tax revenues, competition for qualified teachers and negotiations with their teachers’ unions. It is my understanding that Mascoutah School District 19 has maintained competitive wages through negotiations with the teachers’ union and does not expect to be adversely impacted by the proposed minimum annual salary of $40,000 effective by the 2023-2024 school years. I am concerned when the state puts financial mandates on school districts without providing funds. I believe those mandates encroach on the responsibilities of the school boards and can increase local taxes.