The News

Daily Herald Candidate Questionnaire

With growing concern around mental health and addiction, what should the district do to build mentally healthy students, support the mental health of students who have mental illnesses and help students avoid addiction?

The district should develop and promote collaborative relationships with community organizations that have had success in helping students and their parents to recognize, avoid, treat, and in the case of substance usage, recover from the mental illnesses and addictions that the schools are not adequately equipped to handle. Such community organizations include Naperville-based KidsMatter and its counterpart ParentsMatterToo, Samaritan Interfaith Counseling, Linden Oaks, Rosecrance, Hazelden, A Man In Recovery, Genesis Clinical Services, and dozens of others.

Research and a local opinion survey have shown there could be benefits to starting the school day later for junior high and high school students. What changes, if any, do you think should be made to the school schedule and why? How should the district adjust class periods, teacher preparation time, busing, student activities or other factors to account for any schedule changes?

Teenage students don’t function well when they’re made to wake up early. Younger students wake up early and function well. So common sense says that elementary school starting times should be switched with high school starting times. Morning and afternoon bus schedules and facility operations would need to be adjusted. Athletic and after-school activities would have to be scheduled differently as well. Board members should all do their homework on this topic and then come to a workshop to present their views, debate the relative benefits of such a change, and then make a prompt final decision in open session. Any change of this magnitude should be evaluated after one year to mediate negative consequences that may have been minimized or unforeseen.

How big a role do you think the board of education should play in setting the curriculum for students and what ideas do you have for changes to the current curriculum?

The board should study the facts and recommendations of the professional educators within the district, then adopt those recommendations best supported by the facts. Board members should not let their anecdotal experiences weigh nearly as much as the professional recommendations.

What budget issues will your district have to confront and what measures do you support to address them you believe cuts are necessary, what programs and expenses should be reduced or eliminated? On the income side, do you support any tax or fee increases?

With less than half of the district’s households sending their kids to public schools, our community will become increasingly populated with empty nesters on their way to senior citizenship. This trend will continue over the next 10-15 years as these empty-nest households increase in proportion to households with students in the schools. This trend will reverse around 2030, when most of the current empty nesters, mostly baby-boomers, will have left their current homes for homes more conducive to senior living. Meanwhile, young families will be moving into those departed homes. So in the near-term, the school board should avoid property tax increases and instead work with staff attrition. Approximately 80% of the expenses to run a governmental service organization, like the school district, is made up of staff salaries, benefits and deferred compensation (pension benefits). So the way to limit or reduce expenses is to manage headcount. The number of teachers should be set as an outcome of the annual budget process. However, when back office positions are vacated due to attrition, it should be used as an opportunity to “stress the system”. In this regard, the department in which the attrition occurred should be made to wait 3-6 months before filling a vacated position. Department heads should then be made to justify why the work formerly handled by the departed employee could not be distributed among the remaining staff members within the department. If then justified, the position can be filled.

What role can and should school choice play in your district? If Congress or the state approves a voucher system or other means giving students broader choices among public and private schools, how will that affect your district? What is the appropriate response for the board of education of a public school system?

Families should have a choice as to which schools their students should attend, whether public or private. A voucher system would obviously make it easier for families to send their students to private schools, while at the same time depriving the school district of funds otherwise available for operations. Since households with private school students benefit from having a high-quality public school system available to them, both in terms of enhancing property values and providing a backup option if the private school experience doesn’t work out, users of vouchers should pay a fair but limited amount to maintain the quality of the public school system. Also, if a student using a voucher decides to rejoin the public schools, the voucher amount should be prorated with the school district receiving back value for the remaining portion of the school term the voucher was meant to cover.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

Vocational opportunities should be made available to students in the upper grades who aren’t natural book-learners. Much of the school district’s attention has been focused on gifted-student and special-education programs. Vocational programs abound in our community, including union-sponsored apprenticeships in the construction, electrical and plumbing trades, as well as culinary and other programs for which a 4-year college degree is not required. College preparation, while important to many students, should not be the default for all students, particularly for those who aren’t suited to indoor desk jobs.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

Tim Ryan, founder of A Man In Recovery. After his son died of a heroin overdose, Tim dedicated his life to addiction recovery.

What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?

It’s not the setback, it’s the comeback.

If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?

Serving in the military upon graduation from college. The military would have hastened my becoming a man.

What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?

Spanish. I became fluent by the time I graduated high school and now speak Spanish every day in my work and every-day life.

If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?

It always works out.

NACPACEndorsementLogo-20170306

Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Candidate Questionnaire

Candidate Name: Robert W. Fieseler, Sr.

Office Being Sought: Board Member, Naperville Community Unit School District 203

Current Office / Profession: Patent Attorney & Founder, Corridor Law Group, Naperville & Chicago

Current Hometown: Naperville, IL

Campaign Contact for follow-up: Bob Fieseler

Email: BobForNapervilleSchools@gmail.com

Phone: 630-417-7553

If offered, would the candidate accept the endorsement of NACPAC?

  X   Yes __ No

Has the candidate worked or served in public service?

  X   Yes __ No

If yes, please indicate the most recent three positions:

Office: Councilman

Entity: City of Naperville

Years Served: 8 years (2 terms)

Professional Background:

Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Engineering (1977), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Master of Science, Operations Research & Statistics (1978), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Juris Doctor (1984), Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Charitable, Volunteer Background:

KidsMatter, Board Member (2009-2017); Naperville Development Partnership (2011-2015); DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, Regulatory Issues Committee (2011-2015); Naperville Public Library, City Council Liaison to the Board of Directors (2007-2015); KidsMatter Board of Asset Trustees Naperville Heritage Society, Board Member (1998-2007); School District 203, Education for the 21st Century Task Force (~2003); Friends of Fermilab Science Education Foundation Board Member (1985-2005), Naperville Central High School, Band Boosters President (1996-2002); Elementary, Jr. High and High Schools, Lecturer and Program Leader (1993-1999); Boy Scouts, District and Troop Leader (1990-2000); Youth Sports Coach (22 seasons); Religious Education Leader; Church and Youth group musician.

Essay Questions:

Please briefly describe your professional experiences, both in the private sector and within the community. What have these experiences taught you, how do they strengthen your viability as a candidate? (300 words or less)

With less than half of the district’s households sending their children to public schools, our community will become increasingly populated with empty nesters on their way to senior citizenship. This trend will continue over the next 10-15 years as these empty-nest households increase in proportion to households with students in the schools. This trend will reverse around 2030, when most of the current empty nesters, mostly baby-boomers, will have left their current homes for homes more conducive to senior living. Meanwhile, young families will be moving into those departed homes. So in the near-term, the school board should continually seek to provide tax relief on the revenue side of district operations and to reduce expenses via staff attrition. Approximately 80% of the expenses to run a governmental service organization, like the school district, are made up of staff salaries, benefits and deferred compensation, of which pension benefits are a major component. The way to limit or reduce expenses is to manage headcount. The number of teachers should be exempt from district headcount management during the school year, being set instead during the annual budget process. However, when back-office positions are vacated due to attrition, it should be used as an opportunity to “stress the system”. Specifically, the department in which the attrition occurred should be made to wait 3-6 months before filling the vacated position. Department heads should then be made to justify why the work formerly handled by the departed employee could not be distributed among the remaining staff members within the department. If then justified, the position can be filled. When this practice was instituted by the City during the recent economic downturn, a 15% headcount reduction was achieved (160 out of 1070 positions).

You are running for office, if elected what do you think is the greatest public policy challenge you will face and how will you work to be a leader on the issue? (300 – 500 words)

Mental illness and related substance abuse among junior and senior high school students represent the greatest public policy challenge facing Board members. Mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental illnesses, affect a large portion of families with students in the schools. Parents are mostly unable to assess that their student has developed a mental illness and, if they are, they are understandably slow to seek professional help because of the concern that doing so will deprive their student of opportunities, such as disqualification from military academies and college varsity sports, law enforcement, airplane piloting, and increased insurance rates for their entire lifetime. Families need to know that there are Naperville-based organizations like KidsMatter and its affiliate ParentsMatterToo that equip parents to step in at the right time before their student is in crisis. The recent suicide of a Naperville North High School student after being interrogated by school administrators about alleged sexual wrongdoing is one potential example of the need to be better aware of student mental health conditions and to seek the assistance of outside medical professionals and mental health counselors to provide guidelines and training to teachers, administrators and support staff on how to handle delicate and potentially dangerous incidents involving students whose mental health has been compromised.

Regarding substance abuse, junior and senior high school students are exposed daily to recreational drugs and partake frequently. Opioids are available in the medicine cabinets of many, many Naperville homes. Every weekday afternoon, students can find a home in which no parent is present, and at-risk students will troll the medicine cabinets for opioids, other pain medications, and psychotropic drugs. Adults need to make use of the prescription drug drop-off boxes at all ten of Naperville’s fire stations to rid their homes of opioids so as not to become accidental drug pushers. Study drugs, like Ritalin and Adderall, are also rampant among junior and senior high school students. These study drugs are readily available from students already diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, to whom these drugs are legitimately prescribed (overprescribed in reality). Up to now, student drug use has not been adequately addressed by the Board. The recent incident at Naperville North High School, in which more than a dozen students ingested THC-infused Gummy Bears, is only one sign of many that drug usage in the schools during the school day should be a top priority for Board consideration and action.

Please describe in your words, if elected how you will provide support to the business community, job creators and entrepreneurs? (300 words – 500 words)

Vocational opportunities should be made available to students in the upper grades who aren’t natural book-learners. Much of the school district’s attention has been focused on gifted-student and special-education programs. Vocational programs abound in our community, for which students not on a 4-year college track would be ideally suited. College preparation, while important to many students, should not be the default for all students, particularly for those who aren’t suited to indoor desk jobs.

The way to promote vocational opportunities for students is to provide opportunities for them to visit community colleges with culinary and hospitality programs, technical schools with programs for developing skills in computer software and hardware design and installation, computer numeric control machinery and additive manufacturing (3D printing) programs, union apprenticeship programs for professional training in electrical, plumbing and pipe fitting, construction. Programs in website design and coding, photography, visual arts, landscape design, and dozens of other career pursuits are available within reasonable distances from Naperville. To introduce students to these vocational opportunities, community colleges and technical schools should be encouraged to visit junior and senior high schools, perhaps in career-fair setting during the school day, and visit with students who may not have yet decided to be on a college preparation track.

The benefits from the greater emphasis on vocational opportunities will flow naturally to the business community, job creators and entrepreneurs. A diverse portfolio of local talent in the trades will provide businesses with more and better options for putting the necessary talent to work for them, both in terms of the recruiting skilled employees and hiring the best tradespersons for expanding their businesses and when taking on renovation projects. An important added benefit is the cultivation of a home-grown workforce that is invested in our community and that has a sense of accountability such that their reputation for good quality work is continually reinforced.

vote

League of Women Voters Candidate Questionnaire

1.  Bio - Please describe your personal and professional background and offer examples of how you have been involved as a community contributor. Why are you running for BOE and, why NOW?

Family:

  • Born June 1, 1955 (New York, NY)
  • Married to Mary Ellen Gryzbek (April 19, 1980)
  • Four children: Bob Jr. (age 36), Lauren (age 34), Bill (age 32), Anne (age 27)
  • Two grandchildren: Riley (born February 2, 2017), Josephine (expected February 20, 2017)

Education:

  • Norwalk (CT) High School graduate (1973)
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Engineering (1977),
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), Master of Science, Operations Research & Statistics (1978)
  • Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Juris Doctor (1984)

Community Contributor:

  • KidsMatter, Board Member (2009-2017)
  • Naperville City Councilman (elected to two terms; 2007-2015)
  • Naperville Development Partnership (2011-2015)
  • DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, Regulatory Issues Committee (2011-2015)
  • Naperville Public Library, City Council Liaison to the Board of Directors (2007-2015)
  • Naperville Heritage Society, Board Member (1998-2007)
  • School District Elementary, Jr. High and High Schools, Lecturer and Program Leader (1993-2008)
  • Friends of Fermilab Science Education Foundation Board Member (1985-2005)
  • School District 203, Education for the 21st Century Task Force (~2003)
  • Boy Scouts, District and Troop Leader (1990-2000)
  • Naperville Central High School, Band Boosters President (1996-1998)
  • Youth Sports Coach (22 seasons)
  • Religious Education Leader; Church and Youth group musician

Professional:

  • Intellectual Property Attorney (33 years; Partner in major Chicago IP firms)
  • Corridor Law Group, Founder and Attorney (offices in Naperville and Chicago; three lawyers, one technical specialist, one senior paralegal, one financial director; in total, I provide employment to six local residents)

Why are you running for BOE and, why NOW?

I am running for the Board to apply my skills and experience developed during my family, educational, community service and professional endeavors, particularly as demonstrated by my accomplishments during my eight years of service on the Naperville City Council.

I am running for the Board now because a two-year term will permit a former, experienced government official like me to immediately contribute to the carrying out of the Board’s function as set forth on the District’s website and quoted in my response to the question that follows here.

2.  What do you see as the Board’s role and responsibilities within the District? What are some qualities, qualifications and attributes to a successful board member?

Board’s role and responsibilities within the District:

As set forth on the District’s website, “It is the function of the Board to set general school policy and, within the framework of ISBE regulations, to establish guidelines that will ensure the proper administration of the District 203 program.” The role and responsibilities of the Board are to apply their best efforts to carry out that function.

What are some qualities, qualifications and attributes to a successful board member?

The qualities, qualifications and attributes of a successful Board member are the same as those for any elected official, namely:

  • To cast responsible votes by studying the facts presented by staff and seeking community input;
  • To serve as a contact (ombudsman) for the provision of governmental services that a constituent is having trouble receiving;
  • To promote certain priorities that the board member believes and has thought through the potential positive consequences of implementing those priorities, as well as the measures that should be taken to avoid potential negative consequences.

3.  Given the challenges the District has faced when working through sensitive topics like reassigning attendance boundaries to address capacity concerns and population shifts, how would you seek input to make informed decisions on sensitive community issues?

I would seek input to make informed decisions on sensitive community issues in the same way I sought and received input from the community while serving on the City Council. As set forth in response to question (1) above, my community involvement is vast, and I interact daily with many, many community members, as well as elected officials at the local, state and federal levels whose districts encompass School District 203. As a Councilman, I had regular office hours when community members could count on me to be available to discuss their viewpoints and concerns. I will adopt those practices as a member of the District 203 Board of Education.

4.  How might you suggest the District address the issues of under-performing schools? What considerations must be in place in order to properly evaluate an under-performing school? What factors do you believe to be of larger concern to an under-performing school? On a more macro scale, how might you suggest we reach and assist the academically challenged students district wide?

The concerns set forth in this question are ones of which I have, at present, only superficial knowledge. I have a proven track record as a quick-study on issues, particularly in orienting myself to the structure and operation of a governmental entity like the school district, then absorbing facts and opinions provided by staff, other Board members and community members.

Regarding how to reach and assist academically challenged students, one of my key priorities is to make available vocational opportunities to students in the upper grades who aren’t natural book-learners. Much of the school district’s attention has been focused on gifted-student and special-education programs. College preparation, while important to many students, should not be the default for all students, particularly for those who aren’t suited to indoor desk jobs. Vocational programs abound in our community, such as:

  • College of DuPage’s culinary and homeland security programs;
  • Technical schools with programs for developing skills in computer software and hardware design and installation, computer numeric control machinery and additive manufacturing (3D printing) programs;
  • Union apprenticeship programs for professional training in electrical, plumbing and pipe fitting, construction;
  • Programs in website design and coding, photography, visual arts, landscape design, and dozens of other career pursuits are available within reasonable distances from Naperville.

To introduce students to these vocational opportunities, community colleges and technical schools should be encouraged to visit junior and senior high schools, perhaps in career-fair setting during the school day, and visit with students who may not have yet decided to be on a college preparation track.

5.  While District 203 receives a small amount of funding from the State of Illinois, there are many factors that may contribute to additional or new pressures to the budget in the coming years, i.e. Pension Reform or Property Tax Freeze. What might you suggest to maintain a balanced budget? What repercussions / sacrifices do you see that have impact within the schools? What might you consider to be the most difficult change or changes that you would support in favor of keeping a balanced budget?

With less than half of the district’s households sending their children to public schools, our community will become increasingly populated with empty nesters on their way to senior citizenship. This trend will continue over the next 10-15 years as these empty-nest households increase in proportion to households with students in the schools. This trend will reverse around 2030, when most of the current empty nesters, mostly baby-boomers, will have left their current homes for homes more conducive to senior living. Meanwhile, young families will be moving into those departed homes.

In the near-term, the school board should continually seek to provide tax relief on the revenue side of district operations and to reduce expenses via staff attrition. Approximately 80% of the expenses to run a governmental service organization, like the school district, are made up of staff salaries, benefits and deferred compensation, of which pension benefits are a major component.

The way to limit or reduce expenses is to manage headcount. The number of teachers should be exempt from district headcount management during the school year, being set instead during the annual budget process. However, when back-office positions are vacated due to attrition, it should be used as an opportunity to “stress the system”. Specifically, the department in which the attrition occurred should be made to wait 3-6 months before filling the vacated position. Department heads should then be made to justify why the work formerly handled by the departed employee could not be distributed among the remaining staff members within the department. If then justified, the position can be filled. When this practice was instituted by the City during the recent economic downturn, a 15% headcount reduction was achieved (160 out of 1070 positions). The same can be accomplished in District 203.

6.  There has been much discussion about stress and pressure felt by students, especially at the High School level, to achieve high grades while also participating in sports/clubs, volunteering and working part time. What does the District do, or should it do, to address the mental and emotional health of our students while ensuring their collegiate qualifications and high academic standing?

Mental illness and related substance abuse among junior and senior high school students represent the greatest public policy challenge facing Board members. Mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental illnesses, affect a large portion of families with students in the schools. Parents are mostly unable to assess that their student has developed a mental illness and, if they are, they are understandably slow to seek professional help because of the concern that doing so will deprive their student of opportunities, such as disqualification from military academies and college varsity sports, law enforcement, airplane piloting, and increased insurance rates for their entire lifetime.

Families need to know that there are Naperville-based organizations like KidsMatter and its affiliate ParentsMatterToo that equip parents to step in at the right time before their student is in crisis. The recent suicide of a Naperville North High School student after being interrogated by school administrators about alleged sexual wrongdoing is one potential example of the need to be better aware of student mental health conditions and to seek the assistance of outside medical professionals and mental health counselors to provide guidelines and training to teachers, administrators and support staff on how to handle delicate and potentially dangerous incidents involving students whose mental health has been compromised.

Regarding substance abuse, junior and senior high school students are exposed daily to recreational drugs and partake frequently. Opioids are available in the medicine cabinets of many, many Naperville homes. Every weekday afternoon, students can find a home in which no parent is present, and at-risk students will troll the medicine cabinets for opioids, other pain medications, and psychotropic drugs. Adults need to make use of the prescription drug drop-off boxes at all ten of Naperville’s fire stations to rid their homes of opioids so as not to become accidental drug pushers. Study drugs, like Ritalin and Adderall, are also rampant among junior and senior high school students. These study drugs are readily available from students already diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, to whom these drugs are legitimately prescribed (overprescribed in reality). Up to now, student drug use has not been adequately addressed by the Board. The recent incident at Naperville North High School, in which more than a dozen students ingested THC-infused Gummy Bears, is only one sign of many that drug usage in the schools during the school day should be a top priority for Board consideration and action.

7.  With the state mandate of Common Core, PARCC Assessments, Social Emotional requirements added to the District’s need and desire to remain globally competitive, what programs do we currently have in place you feel help create an advantage for our students? Are there programs for students that may be a better fit for our community, if so – what do you suggest?

As with question (4) above, the concerns set forth in this question are ones of which I have, at present, only superficial knowledge. I have a proven track record as a quick-study on issues, particularly in orienting myself to, in this case, the various state and federal mandates, that affect the structure and operation of the school district, then absorbing facts and opinions provided by staff, other Board members and community members.