Election 2013: Dennis Brennan
Dennis Brennan is one of eight candidates running for the District 86 Board of Education in the 2013 election.
Name: Dennis A. Brennan
Position sought: Hinsdale Township High School District 86 Board of Education
Email address: Brennan@d86vote.com
Family: Wife Mary; son Michael, 23
Education: Bachelor's degree in mass communication from St. Xavier University, law degree from The John Marshall Law School.
Occupation: Managing Member and General Counsel, Illinois Energy Aggregation LLC
Years in District 86: 18 years
Previous elected offices: District 86 school board, two terms, six years as president; District 60 school board, one term, two years as board secretary; Merrionette Park village trustee, one term; Alsip-Merrionette Park Library District trustee, one term; DuPage County Board of Health, 14 years.
Applicable experience qualifying you for the position: I have been an attorney and businessman for over 25 years. During the course of that time, I’ve been involved in the community volunteering as a manager in the Burr Ridge-Willowbrook baseball organization and then as a school board member. I’ve served both at the elementary school district level at Maercker District No. 60 and for the last eight years on the District 86 Board of Education.
Over the course of those many years, I’ve had the pleasure to work with fine dedicated administrators, parents, community members, board members, students, and teachers to maintain and build upon the excellence in District No. 86.
What is the primary reason you are running for this office?
Our school district has an excellent reputation. While a lot of work has been done to build on the excellence of the district over the last eight years, the board has additional work to do during the next four years. There are some people that want to “change” things at the school. For many years, the Skoda/Barrett group has attempted to fix what isn’t broken. I represent the views of the majority of the people in the district that moved to the area for the excellent schools and who do not want to see the district lose its academic standing.
What will be your single most important priority if you get elected?
My priority has always been to maintain the academic excellence at District 86 in a fiscally responsible manner. The academic indicators during my tenure have risen and the district maintains a very rare “AAA” Credit rating that few governmental agencies, not alone school districts, earn.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Experience is the first word that comes to mind. I’ve been on the board for eight years and I’ve had to make both easy and tough decisions. Secondly, my view of the school board is that we set the policy and ask the professional administrators and teachers to carry out the policy. Others disagree with this philosophy and would seek to run the day to day operations. I don’t agree with those that seek to micromanage the schools from the boardroom rather than continuing the process that has worked so well for our children.
I view the job differently than my opponents. I don’t want to micromanage the schools. I believe that the school board has three main responsibilities:
- Maintain and improve academic excellence at both schools
- Provide our students and staff with safe and functional facilities.
- Provide academic and extracurricular programs within a fiscal responsible manner
I believe that board members have to be reasonable in their approach to issues that may arise in the future. For the last 8 years, I’ve tried to be reasonable and work toward solutions. The board has accomplished great things during the last four years and I would like to be part of the process for the next four years.
What do you believe is District 86’s biggest strength?
The district’s greatest asset is its students and their families. Most of us moved to the area because of the outstanding educational opportunities available for our children. District 86 has a supportive family structure that ensures that the students that are enrolled in our schools have the distinct advantage of knowing that people care about their futures. The students are motivated by their parents and teachers to reach their full potential. At the same time, our students are also self-motivated to succeed.
During my tenure, we’ve reduced costs by $1.6 million dollars and we’ve maintained eight consecutive balanced budgets eliminating deficit spending.
What do you believe is District 86’s biggest weakness?
The greatest weakness is the fact that our district must depend almost solely on property taxes for its funding. The State of Illinois provides only $218 per student for our school district, while providing Chicago Schools and some other districts as much as $6,300 per student. Despite the disparity, District 86 is recognized as the second highest performing school district in the state while its funding per pupil ranks twelfth. We are doing more with less.
Do you support the district’s ruling in favor of Hinsdale South staff on a parent’s curriculum objection last year of the showing of American Beauty and Brokeback Mountain? Do such movies have a place in high school classrooms?
The board acted correctly and courageously in supporting parental control of the curriculum. Mr. Casini and his running mates sought to substitute their judgment for the parents of each and every student in this elective class. As board members, we should not be interfering with a parent’s decision. In this case, every parent, including Mr. Casini signed a parental consent form for the movies. Every parent had the right to withdraw their son or daughter if they found it objectionable. It is unfortunate that some people, with the support of outside organizations, have chosen to make this an issue.
In terms of a school district, how would you describe a board that is fiscally responsible? Does District 86 currently have a fiscally responsible board?
The definition of fiscal responsibility includes balancing budgets, creating reserves for emergencies, actively improving the facilities through long-term financing while adjusting to ever increasing federal and state mandates while producing a quality education for the students at a reasonable price for the taxpayers. Absolutely, the board majority is fiscally responsible. We’ve maintained reserves at a level of about 25% while providing necessary mechanical improvements, security improvements and air quality improvements to both campuses at a cost of about $27 per household for three years. The board instituted cost containments in the amount of $1.6 million during my term while improving test scores, academic growth numbers, and AP exam participation. 96% of our students go to college. This election truly is a story of “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”.