Donna E. Wandke

Candidate Name: Donna E. Wandke

Office Seeking: School District 203 School Board

Campaign Website: www.vote4wandke203.com

Subdivision/Neighborhood: Hunters Woods

Closest School: Madison

Occupation and/or Professional Training: My dedication to District 203 began in 1992 when I was hired to teach mathematics at Naperville North High School for eight years. I have a Master of Education with Concentration in Administration and Supervision from National-Louis University and Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Athletic Training from Elmhurst College. As a school board member, I attend district and state conferences for professional development. In January, I was hired in a legislative aide role to serve our community. In this role, I have meet with other local legislators and elected officials, researched bills, led interns, and assisted community members.  

How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? I have been a resident of Naperville for 29 years and have raised three sons who all attended Naperville District 203 schools.  

Number of school-age children? Our family resides in the Scott, Madison and Naperville Central High School boundary areas. However, my son also attended Steeple Run and Kennedy Junior High School.

Service on Boards, Commissions, Task Forces, etc. with dates served (nonprofit too): 

  • Naperville School District 203 Board of Education, 2013-present
  • Vice President of Naperville School District 203 Board of Education, 2017-present
  • Coach Cross Country Volunteer at Naperville Central High School, 2016-present
  • Cross Country & Track Volunteer at Naperville Central High School, 2012-present
  • Boy Scout Troop 75, numerous roles including Committee Chair, 2008-2019
  • Cub Scout Den Leader and Hiking Coordinator, 2005-2012
  • District 203 Home & School Committee Chair and member of 8 committees, 2004-2011
  • Chess Instructor at Scott School, 2004-2009
  • Naperville Park District Soccer Coach, 2002-2009
  • Hobson School Parent Board and Advisory Board, 2000-2008

The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.

1. Why are you running to serve the board of education? 

My passions all revolve around education and serving my community. I have been honored to serve on the Board of Education for eight years and have been Vice President during the last four years. I have represented our community by expressing their concerns at board meetings, while always prioritizing what is best for the education of all students. Many new initiatives have been implemented while I have served on the board but at the same time we were able to save taxpayers $32.7 million. It is my hope to continue to serve utilizing my experience and dedication.  

2. What is the school district’s most pressing need? 

My top priority is creating an environment that educates our students without compromising the health of our community. Now that we have begun to move students into hybrid learning, we have to focus on data that determines how much learning loss students may have endured and how we can best create opportunities for them to recover. This will begin to be addressed with additional offerings in summer school this year. We need to focus on getting students back into school. Then we can refocus our attention on how we can support all students to minimize achievement gaps.

3. What are strengths and weaknesses, if any, of the school district’s programs dedicated toward special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), students “in the middle” and gifted students?

District 203 focuses on all students, meeting their needs by focusing on growth. Our English Language Learners have options including our Dual Language Program that supports best practice and goes beyond what is required by the state. Gifted students have opportunities for enrichment, honors and advanced placement classes. Special education students are provided services from preschool age at Ann Reid Center, committed staff in K-12 and can continue through age 22 at Connections. The focus for every student should be individualized learning through a selection of courses, programs and activities to meet their needs and enhance their education.  

4. Name three District 203 policies that need review or immediate attention.

We are currently working on Policy 7:150 and a memorandum of understanding with the Naperville Police Department in regard to our Resource Officers.

Policy 7:280 refers to Communicable and Chronic Infectious Disease and in light of so much that has changed over the last year I am sure there will be a need to update this policy.

Policy 6:185 Instruction, Online and Blended Education Program will also need to be revised as much has changed in this area over the last year.

5. How often are you in touch with members of the current School Board? And how many years have you attended/watched school board meetings live or after they’re saved in the archive?

I am currently serving as Vice President of the School Board so I am in contact with other members of the current board about once a week and sometimes more often. I have consistently attended board meeting over the eight years that I have been serving. Prior to that, I attended meetings on a regular basis for about six months in preparation of serving on the board.

6. What up-and-coming City of Naperville development do you think will impact School District 203 funding the most? As a board member, where would you look to make budget adjustments?

The majority of the funding for District 203 comes from property taxes so the development of local businesses on the part of the City of Naperville will always have a positive impact on school funding as long as the properties do not include a property TIF (tax increment financing). The new Costco opening on Ogden Avenue will not only provide property taxes, but will draw other businesses to the area. Financial stewardship is one of my main priorities and has been as we have maintained the highest quality education while saving the taxpayers $32.7 million.

7. In a public relations role as a school board member, how would you orientate a new family to the school district? What engagement opportunities would you suggest for parents to connect with the school regarding volunteer activities, parent-teacher committees to oversee curriculum, etc.

Our schools all have a unique way to welcome families, including tours, coffees, meeting with staff and opportunities to volunteer with Home & School or our School Family Community Partnerships. Some families are trying to get oriented remotely, so the school and district websites is a place to start. I have encouraged many people to get involved as there are opportunities not only at the school level but at the district level. There are a number of district committees and the Naperville Education Foundation is also a place to volunteer to get connected with our greater District 203 community.

8. Consider K-12 core curriculum to include English (reading, language arts writing), science, technology, engineering, mathematics, arts (STEAM), foreign languages, computer science, civics/government/current events, economics, history, geography, physical education/health and social-emotional learning standards. If the school district were forced to eliminate a subject in order to add a new one, what would you eliminate? Any thought of what you would add at what grade level? What’s the parents’ role in monitoring curriculum changes and choices?

Curriculum is designed to create opportunities for students to learn and prepare them for any avenue they take in life. The kindergartners of today will enter the workforce in fifteen or more years. Think of how much has changed in the last year, yet alone fifteen years. How we teach students must be considered so that they are learning life skills for a modern world. Giving them more project based learning that develops critical thinking, problem solving and room to explore through questioning is important at all grade levels. Their education should be built around each students’ individualized needs.

9. Research reveals that high self-esteem and student achievement are closely related to positive parental involvement in school. Considering growing interest in school choice, home-schooling and private schools, what are your thoughts on school vouchers?

Public education is unique to all the other options for education in that it is all-inclusive and provides for every student that lives within its boundaries. All other forms of education are selective. Although public education provides for all students, I appreciate that some parents decide an alternative is a better option for their student and this is their choice. As a school board member, I cannot support a voucher system for schools that do not have the same standards, accountability, equity and levels of transparency as public schools. 

10. When was the last time you read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?

Within the last five years as my sons were studying U.S. History in school. We also read the documents in preparation for our trip to Washington D.C. where we made a point of visiting the National Archives Museum to see both of these original documents in addition to the Declaration of Independence. I have also just read the Illinois State Constitution.

11. Have you received any donations or endorsements from any organized group(s)? If so, which groups?

All of my campaigns have been fully self-funded so I have not taken any campaign donations from any group. I am seeking the support of all voters in Naperville and have a variety of supporters who are recommending me. I have not yet received any official endorsements.

12. Name the school teacher who most influenced you. Please include grade, school, city and state. (Parents/family are not eligible.)

Dr. Allen Rogers was my college professor at Elmhurst College in Illinois and was the first teacher I had that challenged me to think deeply. He would drive me crazy by answering every one of my questions with another question, but it forced me to think for myself at an entirely new level. His approach of discovery learning in mathematics was the foundation of the teacher that I would become. Dr. Rogers now lives in Naperville and I have had the opportunity to thank him for the impact that he had on me as student, teacher and parent.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank the community for supporting and electing me over the last eight years. It is my hope that I will have their continued support for this election. My dedication and passion to education and particularly to District 203 have given me the experience that is necessary to serve in the role of a Board of Education member.

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