The candidates running for the county’s regional superintendent position both say they’re interested in improving the visibility of the educational office.
Republican Derek Avery and Democrat Amanda Christensen are running for the regional superintendent of schools position in the Nov. 6 election.
Among other things, regional superintendents act as liaisons among local school districts and the state board of education, and make sure buildings are up to code, enforce truancy rules and check for testing obligations.
Avery was appointed to the job in July, when former Regional Superintendent Gil Morrison retired. He had been the assistant regional superintendent since July 2011.
Christensen was caucused in by DeKalb County Democrats in August. She currently works as a humanities teacher at DeKalb High School.
Avery, who taught math at Sandwich High School for 15 years before working in the regional office, said his decision to pursue a career in education was heavily influenced by his grandfather, who was an administrator.
Avery said he’s passionate about working with truant students and families and providing necessary services.
“One of my major goals right away is to improving the truancy rate in this county,” he said.
More than 600 students were identified as truancy cases during the 2011-12 school year, close to double the amount from the previous school year.
This is partly attributable to a statute change that requires fewer unexcused absences before a student is considered truant. But there’s value in that, he said.
“The earlier we identify them, the better chance we have to help them,” he said.
Avery also said the office needs to do a better job of keeping the public apprised of the issues it deals with.
“It seems that this job kind of flies under the radar a little bit,” he said.
Avery cited his experience on the job and said he’s committed, pointing to five months spent working without compensation after Gov. Pat Quinn decided in 2011 to zero-out funding for salaries at regional offices of education.
Christensen touted her experience as president of the DeKalb Classroom Teachers Association, which involved tracking legislation and understanding how it would impact the district.
“And that’s a large part of the regional office’s job,” she said.
Her passion for serving and helping others led her to a career in education. Though she loves being in the classroom, she said it’s time to serve on a larger scale.
Christensen said it’s critical that the regional superintendent be able to assess districts’ needs, provide necessary resources and support districts as they respond to mandates and new legislation.
“That really comes through communication,” she said.
To improve the public’s awareness of the office, Christensen said she’d network heavily with other government agencies that deal with children and provide information on educational issues through town hall forums and school board meetings.
Christensen said she’s detail-oriented and cares about things like certification, bus driver safety and building inspections, “but I also have the big picture in mind, of curriculum, instruction and assessment.”