Mike Backer, St. Charles School District 303 Board of Education election questionnaire

Election 2024
St. Charles School District 303 Board of Education election candidate Mike Backer

Full Name: Mike Backer

What office are you seeking? D303 School Board

What is your political party? Democrat

What is your current age? 62

Occupation and Employer: Coordinator of Community Partnerships; Valley Sheltered Workshop

What offices, if any, have you previously held? NA

City: St. Charles

Campaign Website: sites.google.com/view/mikebacker-d303schoolboard

Education: BS Special Education and Social Studies

MA Educational Psychology

MS Educational Administration

Community involvement: D303 Parent volunteer at Davis and Ferson Creek Schools

Parent volunteer Special Olympics

Marital status/Immediate family: Married to Colleen Backer

6 children; 4 who have graduated after K-12 programs in D303

2 at Davis and Ferson Creek Schools in grades 1 and 3

Why are you running for office?

We are at a critical moment in education. As students, parents, teachers, staff and community members have now returned to our schools, they all need our support more than ever! As a parent, educator, and community member; I believe I have a vital level of experience, empathy and understanding of where we are and where we need to as a school district. I would like to work together with fellow Board members to address the important issues we face. With the recent selection of a new superintendent coupled with a forthcoming school board election, I believe there is a perfect opportunity to reaffirm a positive, productive working relationship in the district office. The benefactors will be the children of D303!

This school district has given so much to me, my family, and my community. I’d like to dedicate myself to contribute back.

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

The school district is the cornerstone of a community. Over the past 27 years, I have been immersed in the progression of our schools. As a parent, I have participated in numerous PTO functions, district forums, and community events. Additionally, I have volunteered numerous times in the classroom, at lunch and for enrichment programs. Having been a Principal, Assistant Principal, teacher and coach in D303, I have unique experiences in every aspect of school functioning. I understand the importance of listening to the needs and concerns of various stakeholders, building relationships, seeking common ground collaboration, strategizing positive interventions and honestly evaluating outcomes. As a community member and taxpayer, I also understand clearly the need to remain fiscally responsible to the public we represent. The School Board must work to match resources to the effective successful school programs.

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

I have not yet received training

However, there is mandatory School Board articulation and training that is planned and scheduled as members are seated for the office on the School Board. Obviously, I plan to participate in those professional development sessions as soon as they are set.

Additionally; in my past role as an educational leader, I have presented at, participated in, and observed numerous School Board sessions. I fully understand the protocols for membership and the procedural aspects and responsibilities of the meetings.

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

The best school districts are those that provide students with innovative learning opportunities and experiences; with an eye on preparing our graduates for their futures. Each of the curricular areas are reviewed on a regular basis. During that review, the School Board relies on the professionally generated assessment data to determine effectiveness.

I am aware that a number of areas are going through a close review and the answer is not in necessarily replacing or changing curriculum; but instead monitoring the review process with integrity so that we can ensure that our students are receiving the best possible education program.

As a Board; we want to support curriculum that “personalizes” the experience for each child-- so that EVERYONE has access to learning; so that the learning opportunities are authentic to what they may encounter in their future careers, so that teachers may differentiate instruction based on student ability level and so that students have a means of demonstrating their competency in the tasks presented.

So, as a Board member, I will review the current curriculum and determine if programs need to be supported or changed based on the review system described.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

Our school district has supported the LGBTQ+ community in numerous ways. This message comes from the kids themselves. I have attended meetings where LGBTQ+ students have presented their perspectives, fears, concerns and celebrations of current interactions and practices within our school district. The students stated that staff members were working hard to create welcoming and supporting environments in the classroom, hallways and all settings.

However, some recent surveying has indicated that there remain some concerns regarding interpersonal relations with other students; where harassment and / or bullying has occurred.

As a potential School Board member, I am committed to continually listen to and being responsive to the needs of this group of students at all levels. One of the areas I would continue to inquire about: are our LGBTQ+ students aware of the mental health networks --both within and outside of - the school available to them. I want to support policies that help our LGBTQ+ students to feel welcome and supported.

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

I believe that the School Board made an excellent decision in creating the department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in D303! And, I believe they have created a smart plan to address the associated issues.

Their initial task (directed by the School Board) was to carry out an audit of current student progress to learn where inequities exist in our schools. Their initial findings are that there are achievement gaps across Hispanic and Black/Afro American as well as socioeconomic status. Also, there is a gap between scores on SAT assessments; with females scoring higher in language arts and males higher in math...

I think this was a great first step; to establish a baseline and having a starting point for what positive interventions can be implemented to address the issues.

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

When areas of concern and need are identified; it is imperative that the School Board examine ways to support meaningful, effective interventions to respond to the challenges.

The School Board should now honor the audit by first and foremost-- ensuring that the findings become part of the overall strategic plan of the district; so that the information is addressed in similar manner to all of the school improvement focus areas. This step will not only go a long way to to ensuring more effective use of our resources to meet needs in ALL areas; but it will also help us better align our initiatives.

I would also like to see the district actively recruit teachers and staff from a more diverse network of candidates. And, we should look at further professional development and support for our current teaching and staff to meet needs of students in differentiated circumstances.</span>

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

This is a topic that is gaining momentum and rightfully so! With a national and local teacher shortage, the focus becomes: are our teachers receiving adequate AND competitive salaries? The starting, median, and near top salaries are very comparable and competitive with like size successful districts. Having stated that, it is critically important that we take a close look at those rates as we now enter into what will likely become a new three year contract at the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

I can speak to the Teacher’s Retirement System, for I am a member of that system! After having made contributions for the last 40 years, I now am being reimbursed as a retired teacher in Illinois. The system of payout is based on a fair, clear and appropriate scale.

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

The school district is currently immersed in contract negotiations. This is an area in need of continuous contractual awareness and review… The Board must look at neighboring, like districts and work to be competitive in salaries. And, we are not just focused on teachers’ contracts. The district support staff (assistants, receptionists, bus drivers, etc) are also groups we must focus on. There are shortages in those professions as well.

Beyond salaries, educators value the fair support of the cost of benefits, reimbursements for degree acquisition and professional development, stipends for coaching and activities/club advisories

All of this must be analyzed and calculated to determine a fair offer to the D303 Associations - contributing to recruiting AND retaining the highest quality staff possible for our students.

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

I believe that the superintendent’s compensation is fair and competitive compared to like size, successful districts..

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

Among the top factors in successful schools is : effective leadership.

Superintendent contracts are committed for three years… Generally speaking; the contract includes the base salary, retirement contribution paid for along with full health benefits coverage.

I believe that Dr. Gordon’s compensation package is comparable and competitive with like size, high performing school districts. As a school board member, I would take part in active, open and fair evaluation of the superintendent’s work and weigh that with the next three year compensation cycle to be determined.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.


Dr Paul Gordon impresses me as a man of great integrity. He is an active listener; genuinely concerned about and interested in the perspective of others. One of the very best activities a superintendent can do is engage all of the stakeholders (teachers, parents, community members AND students) in dialogue regarding the issues most pressing in our district. He is doing that while contemplating topics and issues-leading to informed decision making. And after hearing him speak; and describe the alignment of the district’s strategic plan with all other initiatives, I see him as a visionary for a renaissance in the schools in our D303 community!


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


Our school district made a well-informed decision to opt out of adopting the National Standards.

Sex education curricula and programming is controlled at the local level. Teachers will continue to present topics and lessons that have been utilized in classrooms ongoing. I personally believe that based on school responses across the state, there will be some adaptation or adjustment in standards for Illinois in the future.

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

When the pandemic spread across our nation, no one was prepared adequately with school policy to deal with the onset, ramifications OR aftermath. As a parent, former educator and community member, I truly believe that the district responded professionally, strategically and compassionately.

I experienced it in three ways:

- as an observer of my wife teaching remotely - and in person - from behind screens and with masks

- as a parent - observing my daughter in high school as she participated in an isolated manner over computer--losing sports, clubs, her prom, graduation

- and as a parent / teacher; as my son received his lessons from teachers (with me by his side) at home…

Each scenario was complex and challenging. But, I felt like the district was responsive. They were mindful of the experience of the teachers; providing supports at school and at home to help them deliver the best possible instruction. They provided parents with suitable information; helping us be aware of schedules, lessons and expectations-- as I sat next to my kindergartener. And lastly, they did the best they could to support the students... my daughter lost sport seasons, activities, prom, classroom functions and graduation. The district was compassionate in their communications and attempted to provide as much support as possible under the circumstances.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

We learned a lot!

First and foremost, D303 now has a clear and thorough mitigation guide in place. The plan describes the steps taken if any of the factors were to arise in the future.

We now have a more direct communication link with all critical agencies such as the Center for Disease Control, the Illinois Department of Health, the Kane County Health Department...just to name a few. We have a clear path for receiving information as well as places for question clarifications.

Lastly, and likely most importantly- our nurses and health teachers continue to communicate proactive steps for children to remain as healthy as possible.

One additional point- coming out of the pandemic -- The crisis was traumatic for many; including teachers, support staff, administrators and certainly our children. Addressing their mental health issues, will need to be a focus of social workers and counselors going forward.

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

Yes; I believe so. For the past ten years, our school district has received the Illinois State Board’s top recognition for financial stability. I believe that closely tied to this distinction; is an appropriate and fair tax rate in our community. Further, D303 has the lowest tax rate in Kane County. And, over the past few years, our district has actually reduced the tax levy.. saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

All of that while providing an excellent educational program for our children. .

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

One of the most important roles of a school board is to be fiscally responsible; utilizing provided resources effectively and efficiently to support working and successful programming for our students.

Again; documented trends over the past few years would lead me to believe that we would not need to raise taxes in D303.

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

In D303, we are already operating with the lowest tax rate in the Fox Valley. Even with that fact, there are times when it is possible to lower the tax rate and still pay for all programming without cutting.

As school board members, it is vitally important to monitor the budget while tracking the progress of student learning. As fiscally responsible stewards of the resources allocated, it is our duty to respond to any possibility to lower the tax burden - if that opportunity should arise.

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

I believe in democracy- ABSOLUTELY.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

A governmental agency that is open and transparent is critically important; especially when that agency is a school district! Openness and transparency - along with ethical behavior builds trust, respect and cooperation with community constituents. And, that leads to authentic engagement in discussion, collaboration and decision-making. I pledge to be open, transparent, and ethical in all of my actions and interactions as a School Board member.

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

I do - and I know that D303 has a clear FOIA policy established and followed.

As a government agency, we should continue to be an open and transparency school district in all actions and interactions.