Full Name: Jonathan Meshes
What office are you seeking? School Board
What is your political party? Democrat
What is your current age? 42
Occupation and Employer: Professor of Math, Harper College
What offices, if any, have you previously held? None.
City: Fox River Grove
Education: B.S. in Mathematics, Northern Illinois University.
M.S. in Mathematics, Northern Illinois University.
PhD in Mathematics, Northern Illinois University.
Community involvement: I help with Cub Scouts.
Marital status/Immediate family: I am married to Theresa Meshes, going on 17 years. We have three children, all in district 3 schools.
Why are you running for office?
I am concerned about teacher retention. I think that a healthy school has a mix of new and experienced teachers and I worry when our good teachers leave the district. The school board has a duty, along with the administration, to make sure that teachers feel respected and supported.
I also don’t like the current policy of raising property taxes by the maximum amount every year, and abating back unused funds. Our school district makes up the majority of our property taxes, and increases should be justified, not automatic.
What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?
I have been a board member to the Illinois Articulation Initiative for the past six years. I have also served on Fox River Grove School District 3 Facilities Committee in 2017-2018. I am also currently on the Shared Governance Finance Committee at Harper College, where we make budget recommendations to the college’s Board of Trustees.
Have you sought and/or received any training to run for your local school board? If so, from whom?
No specialized training.
Would you propose any changes to the curriculum? If so, what?
I do not have any immediate concerns about the curriculum. However, I think that it would be helpful to include more diversity in our curriculum as a whole.
Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?
I think that LGBTQ students are currently treated fairly, but this is not something that can be solved. We need to constantly watch to make sure all our students are respected and treated well.
What is your assessment of how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is handled in your school district?
We do not have very much diversity in our community, which makes it difficult to foster an inclusive environment. My observations have been that the staff is very respectful. I think that it would be helpful to include more diversity in the curriculum.
Do you believe the district needs to make any changes to improve DEI in your district?
I think that there is room in the curriculum for the students to be exposed to more cultures and perspectives.
Are teachers in your district paid adequately now and in retirement?
No. Our teacher pay is lower than most of our peer districts. Low pay is certainly a contributing factor to our problem keeping good staff.
Would you support changes to teacher pay scales? If so, how?
I think that our younger teachers are paid especially poorly and I think that bringing up the low end of the pay scale would help.
What is your assessment of the district superintendent’s compensation?
In 2021, our district superintendent made 224% more than the median teacher salary. That is a massive difference. In 2022, a different superintendent made 94% more than the median teacher salary, which is a little more reasonable. This year we are bringing in another new superintendent, and I do not know what the compensation is as that has not been made public yet. I think a good teacher makes more of a difference to the student body than a good superintendent, and the pay should reflect that.
Would you make any changes to how the district superintendent is compensated?
This is difficult to answer because there hasn’t been much consistency in the last few years, and I do not know what the compensation package is for the incoming district superintendent. My focus is more on bring up the base teacher pay.
Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.
A brand new superintendent was just hired, and I don’t have any basis for judgement yet, good or bad. I hope that Dr. Matthew Mayer is an excellent fit for this district and I wish him well.
Should schools in your district adopt and teach sex education according to the National Sex Education Standards? Please explain.
The National Sex Education Standards provides clear, consistent and straightforward guidance on the
essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate
for students in grades K–12. For example, in K-2, students should be able to find healthy ways to express feelings, know that all people have the right not to be touched, and identify trusted adults. They learn why bullying and teasing are wrong and how to respond. They also learn that all living things reproduce and they learn proper names for body parts. This level of education is important to helping our kids to stay safe by being able to know when they are in a bad situation and knowing who they can talk to when they need help. We should absolutely be education our kids in this way.
What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?
The decisions about the most impactful changes due to the pandemic were out of the hands of our local district. I think that our district did a good job of implementing the state mandates, keeping the schools clean, and trying to educate our kids remotely when schools were closed. I don’t think that most students learned much during the quarantine period, but that was not due to a lack of effort on the part of our district teachers and staff.
What did you learn from the pandemic?
I learned just how much I can miss my friends.
Are voters that support your district taxed at an appropriate level?
The property taxes in our area are far too high, and the school district is the largest taxing body. Our district should avoid tax increases.
Would you support any plans to raise taxes in the district? If so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?
I do not support increasing taxes in our district.
Would you support lowering taxes in the district? If so, what programs or services in the district would you cut?
While I think that taxes are too high, I would rather we keep our tax level and not cut programs or services. The one part of our district budget that seems high is the transportation budget. For a school district that is 2 miles across we probably shouldn’t be spending 11.6% of our budget on transportation.
Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?
What is your position on open, transparent government?
I think that transparency is crucial in a democracy. I fully believe in the government (including the school district) being very open and transparent, and including the community in its decisions.
Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?
I certainly do.