October 01, 2023


Narcisco Puentes, Sterling CUSD 5 Board of Education election questionnaire

Sterling School Board candidate Narcisco Puentes speaks before the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce hosted candidate forum Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

Full Name: Narcisco Puentes

What office are you seeking? Sterling Board of Education Member

What is your political party? Non partisan

What is your current age? 68

Occupation and Employer: Retired from Sterling Public Schools

What offices, if any, have you previously held? Current member of Sterling School Board

City: Sterling

Campaign Website: No

Education: Sauk Valley College- Associate in Arts degree

Northern Illinois University- Bachelor of Science in Education

Western Illinois University- Masters in Educational Administration

Community involvement: N/A

Marital status/Immediate family: Married to Bj Puentes

One daughter Carynn Howell

Why are you running for office?

One reason I’ve decided to run for re-election is because of my extensive forty year background in education. My unique classroom experience provides a helpful and important perspective as we move forward with making decisions that serve the best interests of all students attending Sterling Public Schools. I also believe it’s important that the Sterling School Board reflect the diversity of our student population. Finally, I strongly believe community service is important for the betterment of a community. I have the time, interest and experience to continue being a member of the Sterling Board of Education.

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

I believe it only makes sense that the Sterling School Board should include someone who has spent forty years in local education. My classroom and committee experience provides a unique perspective that is well suited to provide input as we provide a quality educational vision, mission and goals for our community. I have served on curriculum, teacher evaluation, school improvement and safety committees to name a few. I have also worked on several teacher contract negotiations with the Sterling School Board.

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

My training to run for Sterling School Board has come from training courses, power point presentations, webinar sessions and recommended reading material provided by the Illinois State Board of Education.

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

The last two years I have served on the Sterling Education Committee focusing on two goals. One goal has been researching a K-12 Science curriculum to begin the 2023-24 school year. Another goal is creating pathways for Sterling High School students in the areas of Education, Manufacturing, Health Science, and Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. During the 2019 school year the K-5 staff implemented a new Ready Math curriculum and during the 2021 implemented a new Wonders ELA curriculum. These additions to our curriculum will provide students with developing critical thinking skills.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

Students who have identified as LGBTQ are treated fairly within our district. Students and their families have the opportunity to meet with building principals to ensure their needs are being met. Any LGBTQ student who has a concern or an issue can also meet with the district’s Nondiscrimination Coordinator.

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

The issues of diversity, equity and inclusion for our students is and always will be important in meeting the needs of our student population. Equal educational opportunities are available for all students who attend Sterling Schools. It’s in the best interest of the Sterling School Board to be aware of any issues regarding diversity, equity and inclusion and be prepared to address any related concerns. During the last two years of being a member of the Sterling School Board I have not been made aware of any concerns regarding these issues.

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

In my opinion currently the initiatives of DEI within our district seem to be addressed. However, as we better understand what can be done to make DEI more effective, improvements may be needed.

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

I have personal experience knowledge regarding local teacher contract negotiations. Teacher salaries for Sterling Schools are comparable with local districts. This year a new teacher hired has a starting salary of $41,528. with annual increases I believe our district is meeting the financial needs of our teachers. The Sterling School Board also includes a TRS contribution towards teacher retirement. Since teachers do not pay into or receive Social Security upon retirement this contribution is accommodating. It’s also important to remember that the early retirement benefits for teachers who qualify can receive an additional 6% increase for a maximum of their last four years of employment.

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

I’m not familiar with any changes that would be need to be made to teacher pay scales. Any changes made to teacher pay scales would need to be discussed and agreed upon during contract negotiations between the teacher’s representation and the Sterling School Board.

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

I believe our district’s superintendent receives a fair and comparable salary. There are several factors that are included when addressing a superintendent salary such as education, certification, experience and additional skills. Many school districts in Illinois are fortunate to have a quality district superintendent. We are fortunate to be one. There are currently school districts in transition that are willing to pay top figures to hire someone to oversee their entire school system so it’s imperative that we also be competitive.

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

I don’t believe at this time any changes to how the district superintendent is compensated. Superintendent earnings do not only include salary. Other benefits include insurance and annuity contributions. Illinois superintendents are also eligible to receive the same early retirement 6% bonus as teachers.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.

I fully support our current superintendent, Dr. Everett. I have seen him provide leadership and guidance not only the past two years while I have been a board member but also during my time in the classroom. He should be commended for his efforts to improve student achievement. Guiding our district during the recent pandemic is just one example of his leadership. The development of the district’s Covid Back to School Plan he created was completed with discussions with both local and state agencies.

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

My previous classroom experience would lead me to believe that I would not be comfortable teaching sex education standards to young students. The last information I received was that Illinois schools were not required to teach sex education. I believe the classroom presentations made by our local YWCA explaining the difference between good/bad touching is more than sufficient for our students.

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

The COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult time for everyone. Many schools were placed in a position of making difficult decisions while gathering important information at the same time. Mitigation measures made at the local level were adjusted depending on school health data. Unfortunately some of these adjustments lead to confusion. Adding to that, the recommendation of wearing a mask became a political issue that divided some parents. I would like to think parents should have input regarding issues that involve their children.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

One lesson I learned from the pandemic is what can we do better in meeting the academic needs of our student population. Many students and parents struggled with remote learning. Every effort should be made to keep students in an educational setting for learning to be achieved. Having discussions with classroom teachers would provide additional insight on what could we have done better.

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

At this time I believe voters are taxed at an appropriate level. It’s important for a community to have a quality school district. Locally 38% of the district’s budget comes from local taxes.

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

It’s always a difficult decision to raise local taxes. The Whiteside County 1% sales tax has been helpful in improving the district’s schools. Before any additional revenue is spent there should be discussions with stakeholders on where there needs to be districts improvements if any.

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

The idea of lowering taxes would probably be met with approval by voters. However, the idea of having to make program or services cuts would be difficult conversations. Possibly taking a closer look at facilities management. With the rising cost of heating, electricity and water utilities perhaps taking a closer look at these areas would be beneficial.

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

I would undoubtedly accept the voters’ decision and the election results. I believe I have served as a trustee for our community and would be humbled and honored to continue serving on the Sterling School Board for another term.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

I believe there is no better option to having an open and transparent government. Community citizens should be provided information that may be used to make decisions. Also, transparency provides accountability for elected officials.

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

The Freedom of Information Act provides an important avenue for citizens to have access to information and documents upon request. Community members who pay taxes to fund schools should be able to know how their taxes are being spent.

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