I had the pleasure of working closely with Patrick Patt over the 2015-2016 school year during which Pat was an interim superintendent at Riverside District 96 and I was School Board President. Over the course of the year I was deeply impressed by Pat’s character and values. He’s honest, fair, thoughtful, perceptive, articulate, and he cares deeply about kids. Pat’s exemplary character, his child focused values, his deep knowledge of how schools work, and his many personal and professional skills make Pat an ideal school board candidate. If he lived in our district, I would be trying to recruit him to run for our school board.
When evaluating a potential school board member, the first thing I want to know is why they are running. The main reason ought to be to ensure an excellent, well rounded education for the community’s children. Pat has devoted his life to educating children. Over the last year, I saw Pat’s commitment to students on a regular basis. Whenever there was a difficult decision – one that might not be popular with the staff or with some members of the community – Pat’s guiding question was always “What’s best for kids?”.
Communities need their school board members to be fiscally responsible. Pat understands the fiscal constraints under which schools operate and the necessity of both keeping costs under control and ensuring that spending is aligned with a district’s core educational mission. I could give a number of examples where Pat saved our district considerable amounts of money without in any way compromising the quality of our educational program, but let me just give one.
Our custodial contract was up for renewal and Pat volunteered to negotiate a new contract for the board. The teamsters’ union wanted to double the custodians’ health care premiums from around one thousand per month per person to over two thousand dollars per month per person. Obviously that was a non-starter for the district. Pat convinced the custodians – who trusted and respected him – to switch from the teamsters’ unaffordable plan to our teachers’ HMO plan with the provision that they could individually upgrade to the PPO plan if they paid the difference in premium out of pocket.
By providing them with affordable heathcare, this switch was a good move for the custodians and also for the district, which will save a lot of money. Pat also did something innovative in this contract which will help to keep our district’s costs under control in the future. Rather than treating salary and health insurance separately, Pat negotiated a contract that put a cap on the total compensation package – salary plus benefits.
In practice this means that if heath care costs grow faster than four percent per year, the custodians have to pick up the extra cost. Pat did all of this with minimal assistance from our law firm (saving the district even more money) and while retaining the good will of our custodians. Pat’s negotiating skills, which are based on fairness and respect, would be extremely useful to any school board.
Pat is committed to transparency. To give an example, our district did not have any substantive FOIAs while he was at District 96. Pat believes in actively providing information on important topics to the community. Pat’s view is that the board’s business is the community’s business and so the board should be as open as possible (subject of course to privacy concerns and so forth).
Because Pat is a retired superintendent you may be concerned that he might be inclined to get involved in the day to day operations of the district. I don’t believe that would happen. Pat clearly understands that the role of the board is to develop a vision for the district, set long term goals, hire and evaluate the superintendent, and exercise oversight of district finances and overall district performance in providing the kind of education that your community wants.
That said, Pat’s deep knowledge of how school districts operate would be an invaluable resource for your board.
On a personal level Pat is easy to work with. He has a great sense of humor, he’s articulate, and he has a somewhat rarer quality – he’s very good with numbers. On several occasions when we were looking at quantitative data Pat was able to see immediately that something was wrong in a calculation or presentation.
Given the sheer amount of quantitative material that board members must read, this is a useful skill. Pat’s also good at quickly seeing what’s truly important in any situation and what’s a minor detail and is able to leverage this ability to generate creative but practical solutions to problems.
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