Christopher Trzeciak, Homer School District 33C BOE election questionnaire – Shaw Local

Full Name: Chris Trzeciak

What office are you seeking? Homer CCSD #33C School Board Member

What is your political party? Republican

What is your current age? 36

Occupation and Employer: Risk Management – Financial Services

What offices, if any, have you previously held? Homer CCSD #33C Schol Board Member (April 2019-Present)

Evergreen Park High School District #231 School Board Member (May 2007-May 2015)

City: Homer Glen

Campaign Website: https://www.ctfor33.com/

Education: Masters of Science, Threat & Response Management (MScTRM), University of Chicago 2021 Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA), Saint Xavier University (2009)

Community involvement: In addition to my volunteer work with the school and school board. I have also coached youth soccer. I also serve on the corporate social responsibility board through my employer and participate in and lead multiple service projects every year.

Marital status/Immediate family:

Currently married to my wife Nicole Trzeciak and we have two daughters. Hannah age 7 and Kailey age 5. Hannah is a current student at District #33C. Kailey will be a student of District #33C beginning next school year.

Why are you running for office?

I am a big proponent of public education. As a parent, I want to ensure that our schools do all that they can to provide the best possible environment for our children. Our fantastic school district is one of the main reasons many families choose to live in our community. I would like to ensure it stays that way. As a taxpayer, I also want to ensure we continue to spend our money efficiently in ways that benefit students most directly.

What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?

I have nearly 12 years of direct school board leadership experience, including both the high school and elementary school levels. I have a strong background in finance and business. I am also an engaged parent and community member. I also serve on the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) Division Board as the Resolution’s Committee Chairman. Our committee is focused on supporting legislation that fights against unfunded mandates and supports local control of schools.

Have you sought and/or received any training to run for your local school board? If so, from whom?

I have received a great deal of training over my many years of board experience, primarily from the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB). I received the designation of Master School Board Member from the IASB. In addition to the required training, I have completed dozens of additional training courses covering a huge array of educational topics. As a current board member, I am well-versed in the many topics and issues presently affecting our school district.

Would you propose any changes to the curriculum? If so, what?

There are several opportunities for us to enhance our curriculum and currently, I would like to prioritize adding more time (and additional course offerings) for STEAM education. At the Jr. High level, I would like to expand the amount of time each day that students spend in science or technology-focused classes. At the elementary level, we are currently exploring the addition of an art education program that I fully support.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

I believe so, we are a district and community with a strong set of core values. I believe those values emphasize inclusion and respect for all.

What is your assessment of how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is handled in your school district?

There are always ways for students to learn more about other cultures and in many situations, our differences generate opportunities to expand our knowledge. I think our district has many programs aimed at teaching students the value of diversity.

Do you believe the district needs to make any changes to improve DEI in your district?

I don’t know that we need to make any changes, however, I think there are always opportunities for our district to grow in this area. I believe that parents and families also play a key role in imparting the value of diversity and inclusion to their children. I also believe the most effective inclusion efforts need to happen organically and need to be the result of respect, understanding, and appreciation.

Are teachers in your district paid adequately now and in retirement?

I believe our staff are compensated fairly, however with recognition of recent changes in the economy, inflation, and market competition – wages are a key factor that needs to be continuously evaluated. There is a constant need to evaluate circumstances as we must continue to seek a delicate balance between the responsible spending of public funds and the critical need to attract and retain top talent. Retirement pay and benefits are generally established for all teachers and staff by the Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS) and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), any changes to those systems require action at the state level.

Would you support changes to teacher pay scales? If so, how?

Our teacher pay scales are driven by contract. Changes to pay scales would necessarily have to occur during our next scheduled contract negotiations. With that in mind, I would like to standardize step and lane increases to be consistent across the district to the extent possible. In order to deal with market competition and impending teacher shortages, we also need to do all that we reasonably can to increase our starting wages. All school districts must work to maintain a delicate balance that allows us to attract and retain staff while respecting the use of public funds.

What is your assessment of the district superintendent’s compensation?

Our Superintendent is appropriately compensated based on his experience, responsibilities, and the Superintendent salary market. I do believe that some school districts allow Superintendent salaries to get out of control – I do not believe our district is one of them. All administrator salaries are publicly available on the district website. If one chooses to research this further, one should find that District #33C administrative salaries are well in line with state averages and place our district right where it should be.

Would you make any changes to how the district superintendent is compensated?

No, not at this time.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.

Yes, Dr. Schoppe is one of the most professional, communicative, and ethically guided school leaders you will find. He makes himself fully available to anyone in our district and is receptive to feedback in all forms. I have extremely high confidence in his ability to lead our district and keep us on track for continuous improvement.

Should schools in your district adopt and teach sex education according to the National Sex Education Standards? Please explain.

I believe that elementary school sex education needs to focus on health, anatomy, and well-being. I believe parents and families play a vital role in informing their children about sex. As a parent, these are not conversations I look forward to with my own children, however, I believe it is my job as a parent to talk about sex with my children when I decide it is age appropriate to do so. It is also my responsibility as a parent to impart my beliefs and values about sex to my children. Children are naturally curious and adults (especially parents) have a duty to acknowledge that curiosity and to impart correct information to our children – if we do not they will seek the information out on their own. I do believe the school has a role to play in sex education, however, that should be in partnership with parents and should be determined by local control and not by state or federal mandate.

What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?

COVID was a very difficult time for everyone – not just our district. I prefer not to overly engage in hindsight. As a board member, I firmly believe that individuals and families should have the greatest autonomy to decide how best to protect themselves. In general, I do not support state and federal overreach that impedes local control of schools. That said, COVID represented an unprecedented threat and my primary concern as a board member was to ensure that all our students and staff were as safe as possible. Given our resources and what we knew at the time, I think our district made every effort to get as many kids back in school as quickly and safely as possible.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

I think the pandemic taught us many things. The additional time closer to home reinforced the importance of family. I think the most important lesson is to be as prepared and organized as possible. We never know what tomorrow holds. I also believe it is more important than ever to be adaptable and that coming together in difficult times is highly preferable to pulling apart.

Are voters that support your district taxed at an appropriate level?

As a property owner and taxpayer, I fully understand the desire for lower taxes. However, I also believe we have the highest obligation to ensure that our schools are the best that they can be. High-quality education is not cheap, and we live in a growing district that faces many headwinds. Given my deep knowledge of the IL property tax system and a thorough understanding of our community, I do not believe it is prudent to cut funding to our schools. Our community has a growing residential population that is not adequately offset by commercial real estate – this leads to higher residential property taxes. I am highly confident that upon close inspection, most citizens will find that our district is extremely thoughtful and cautious about how we spend money. Further, I think that most people would find that we are dealing with aging facilities and insufficient space and that to address those challenges we need to provide sufficient financial resources. In my opinion, it is preferable to pay a steady and consistent tax as opposed to significant bumps based on referendum increases. I also believe that our property taxes are an investment in our community and our children.

Would you support any plans to raise taxes in the district? If so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?

No, I would not seek to raise taxes. Further, I would not seek a tax referendum at this time. I would support maintaining our current tax level based on CPI.

Would you support lowering taxes in the district? If so, what programs or services in the district would you cut?

No, it is not financially responsible or prudent to reduce taxes currently. Reducing taxes would absolutely require increasing class sizes and significantly cutting programs. There is no way for our district to cut taxes without directly impacting students and I do not support that. Our children deserve the absolute best education possible and cutting taxes would negatively impact that.

Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?

Absolutely, I believe in democracy. Voting is a fundamental right and at the end of the day, we are all Americans and more importantly, we are all neighbors. We are all part of the same team even if we don’t agree on every decision. The success of our elected leaders is our collective success.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

I am an advocate for maximum transparency in all levels of government, I strongly believe that it is essential for our school board to operate as transparently as possible to ensure that all stakeholders – including students, parents, teachers, and community members – have access to accurate and timely information about the decision-making processes and actions of the board. Transparency promotes trust, accountability, and informed participation in the governance of public schools, and it also helps to ensure that the board is acting in the best interests of the students and the community. I will continue to support the live streaming and recording of all Homer 33C board meetings.

Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?

Yes, the public has a right to understand everything the government is doing. There should be no secrets and I support making as much information as possible available to the public.

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