Five people are vying for three seats on Northville's school board in the November election and Northville Patch is bringing you Q&A profiles with each of the candidates.
We asked the candidates about why they want to be on the board of education, their backgrounds, what they consider the biggest areas for improvement and more.
Below are the replies of Northville Township resident Matthew J. Wilk, who is an attorney.
Q: Number of years a resident of Northville school district?
I have lived in Northville for the last eight years and have been a resident of Michigan for 33 years.
Q: Number of children, if any, in Northville Public Schools?
My two children, Mark and Beth, are excited to have started at Winchester Elementary this year.
Q: What prompted you to run for a seat on Northville's school board?
I am interested in continuing to serve on the Board of Education to lend my financial and legal expertise, and experience within the educator community, to help resolve the pressing challenges facing the district. In an era of decreased funding and increased demands on students, parents, educators and administrators, continuous improvement must occur in order to provide what drew my wife and I to Northville in the first place – the exceptional school
experience provided to our children. As the father of 5-year-old twins, I am acutely aware of the parent's perspective, and will integrate those interests, and as the son of John Wilk, a 35-year educator in the Warren Consolidated Schools, and Anita Wilk, a 25-year educator in the Roseville Public Schools, I have experienced first-hand what our educators face every day, and can apply those experiences to improve and preserve the educational experience for all interested parties.
Q: What kinds of experiences – professional, educational or otherwise – make you an unique and qualified candidate?
My particular areas of expertise include both extensive legal practice, especially in business, transactions and real estate, and financial acumen as a result of being involved in over $4 billion in transactions over the last 15 years. In the past five years, the economy has ravaged the finances, both personal and corporate, of residents and companies in this area. It takes experience in turning around troubled businesses to identify what needs to be preserved, where investments need to be made, where financial savings can be found, and where efficiencies can be obtained. It is also a challenge that I have repeatedly faced to apply those rules in the context of preserving the enterprise value—in this case, a wonderful school district with some of the best educators, administrators and students in the state.
Q: What new ideas do you hope to bring to the table?
Over the last four years, the financial market calamity has led to severe economic difficulty, and school districts are not immune. My experience as an attorney working in the financial arena has, particularly in that period, revolved around restructuring and repairing business ventures. Some of the lessons learned, particularly about concentrating on core activities, can be applied to our school district. My experience as an existing board member allows me to immediately contribute to the operations of the district, especially in light of the difficult issues that the board and district will be facing in the coming year. And as the son of two educators, I understand the educators’ perspective and can view new ideas and challenges through their eyes.
Q: What do you foresee as the biggest issue facing Northville Public Schools in the coming school year? How would you address those issues, if elected?
The biggest issue for the coming school year will be continuing budget difficulties, especially in light of the renewal of our educators’ contract. The district faces two countervailing goals. First, we must remain financially solvent. For the 2012-13 school year, the district is operating at a structural budget deficit of approximately $1.2 million. That is clearly unsustainable, for a school district, a family, or any other organization. On the other hand, class sizes, especially in the middle school, are larger than we would like. So the district and we members of the board are challenged with coming up a solution for both. With my experience in similar financial situations, where businesses have to decide where to cut and still remain viable, the budget is constantly being reviewed by me and other members of the board for opportunities to focus away from ancillary goals, and toward our core business—educating our children.
Q: What do you regard as the district's successes? How would you continue or improve upon these areas, if elected?
Our continued academic excellence should not be shortchanged. Our district continues to produce intelligent, compassionate and well-rounded citizens, and sends an exceptionally high percentage of those students on to secondary education. As a part of the board, we strive every day to preserve that exceptional educational experience, for my children and beyond. We can continue that excellence by remaining laser-focused on that goal, especially in the face of the economic headwinds our district continues to face.
Q: Around the country, state and in Northville, school budgets continue to be an issue districts grapple with. What areas of the budget would be your biggest priority, if elected? Where do you see the most room for cuts, if needed?
As a Board Trustee, I am aware that the district faces a $1.2 million structural budget deficit, and this, like any recurring deficit, is unsustainable. In addition, previous reductions in educators has left some classes with pupil-to-teacher ratios that are larger than the board would like. The key to any successful economic restructuring is to focus on the core of the enterprise; in this case, that is educating our children. We want to the best educators, for example, not just the cheapest. All other services, be they internal or external, are subject to frequent review in our board meetings for efficacy. By focusing on the core, we can continue to provide the exceptional educational experience that we have today.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
I look forward to continuing to work with parents, educators, administrators and the community to maintain and improve Northville’s exceptional educational experience.
Which school board candidate do you plan to vote for in November? Take our poll here.