Casey Miller

Central Street Neighbors Association School Board Questionnaire



Casey MillerName: Casey Miller

Candidate for: District 202

Voting address:
2419 Lincoln St.


Years lived in school district: 20

Campaign website:

Campaign phone: 847-733-7415

E-mail address:

Other websites on which you post campaign statements or positions:

Campaign Chair: David Campbell

Treasurer: Julie Simpson

Campaign manager or consultant(s):

Elective or appointive public or party offices previously held including dates:

Member/President City of Evanston Board of Ethics (2003 - 2005)

What is your primary occupation? Attorney, ret.

Breifly list your past civic activities. If numerous list here the five most relevant:

  • President/Commissioner/Coach -- Evanston Baseball and Softball Association
  • Coach, AYSO
  • Member/President, City of Evanston Board of Ethics


What subjects have you studied and what experience have you had which will be most helpful to you as you serve on the school board?

In both my professional life, which includes wide experience formulating public policy in Congress,  and in my volunteer work, I have shown an ability to bridge disagreements, to build consensus and to work towards practical solutions.  I have faced difficult adversaries and dealt with contentious issues.  But whatever the outcome of a particular issue, I always tried to maintain the respect of my opponents and the ability to work together on future issues.  Bad ideas are not necessarily the result of  bad motives.  Perhaps not incidentally, I have been fortunate to work for extraordinarily smart people who reminded me regularly that I can learn a lot from others.


Please list all endorsements you have received so far.  You may also use this space if desired to indicate what you consider to be your principal base(s) of support and why you want voters to consider your endorsements or support base.

My objective is to ensure that each individual child, whatever his or her background, has the opportunity to approach his or her potential as a student.  As a consequence, I view my "support base" to be each individual parent, on behalf of their children.  I do not consider access to educational excellence or resources as a spoils system.  Pitting groups against each other in a competition for access to educational success seems pessimistic and unnecessarily divisive.  I do not accept the notion that there will be winners and losers, hence constituencies to be courted or marginalized.  To the extent that I would advocate on behalf of any group, it would be for those students who have been marginalized, are without any advocates, have been overlooked in the discussion of "Excellence" and who are in danger of dropping out entirely.


Essence of Campaign. Briefly, why are you running and why should a voter give you one of his or her votes? How will electing you make a difference?

I am running for the 202 Board because I believe ETHS is the place where I can have maximum impact on the well-being of Evanston.  Everyone in town has a stake in the school's success.  Education is not the only answer to our challenges, but the health of ETHS is crucial to the health of the community.  Someone who votes for me can expect me to be open-minded, non-ideological and realistic.  I try to approach problems analytically, not emotionally.  I have learned that I do not have a monopoly on good ideas.  I believe in the value of rational, robust debate because (a) it forces me to listen carefully and (b) it forces me to test my own assumptions and arguments.  I'm not afraid to admit I am wrong or to change my mind.  I will try to bring the same analytical approach to every issue that confronts the board.  I am not on a crusade or mission on behalf of one single issue or any particular point , other than the notion that a public high school has a moral and legal obligation to educate every child to that child's potential.


Educational philosophy. American education, and sometimes that in Evanston, is variously criticized as culturally biased in favor of dominant or privileged classes or groups and their culture, as too relativistic, as too coddling and mushy, as failing to prepare students for the 21st century economy, or as failing to teach basics, among others. What principal deficit(s) in American or Evanston education do you see, and what will you do as a local Board member to address this?

The problem with Education in Evanston is that too many of our students fail to graduate from high school and too many of those who do lack the skills to succeed in the world.  Demonstrably and without question, ETHS does an exceptional job of educating a segment of the student population.  There is nothing wrong with the "educational system" for these students.  There are many reasons why other students fail to reach their potential; no high school can address all of these issues.  BUT…educators, especially those at a public high school, have an obligation to address matters they can control.  The Board has to encourage educators to be bold, give them the resources and support necessary to implement their plans and hold them accountable for success.  And if they fail, they must be required to try something new.


Superintendent. If elected this April, during your tenure you will have one or more opportunities to fire, hire, or extend the contract of a superintendent. What specific criteria, if any, including any quantitative performance criteria, will you use in your decision?

 Dr. Witherspoon's performance criteria already exist, at a minimum in the goals listed on the ETHS website.   A decision to extend his contract will depend largely on an evaluation of his success in achieving those goals.  Hiring a new superintendent would require additional criteria.  There are various aspects to a superintendent's work: personal qualities, relationships with the board, community relationships, staff and personnel relationships, educational leadership, and business and finance.  Any candidate would have to have impeccable credentials in these areas.  Furthermore, a candidate should probably have previous experience as a superintendent of a district at least as large as ETHS and with similar educational challenges.  Candidates must accept the singular role of ETHS in the community.  S/he is not just an administrator but also the inspirational leader of the school in the community.  Candidates must be committed to serving the whole population and elevating the achievement of all students.  I believe it is in the interest of ETHS to hire superintendents for multi-year terms.  With respect to specific goals on which the superintendent will be evaluated, these goals must be specific and linked to ETHS's mission, measurable, realistic, concrete (not aspirations, but outcomes) and subject to deadlines.


Expenditures. District 202's most recent posted total budget for all funds is over $72 million – which is over $23,000 per student. District median household income is less than $65,000. Is the current expenditure level necessary and sustainable?

We are fortunate to live in a community that values and funds education.  Because of community generosity, ETHS has many of the attributes necessary to academic achievement (such as smaller class sizes, resources for tutoring and training and so forth).  ETHS is also able to address many of the extraordinary impediments to achievement, challenges many other school districts do not face.   In the current fiscal climate, however, when state and federal support are continually in question, when extraordinary threats such as the pension shift pose a danger to local budgets, it is more important than ever to impose rigorous financial controls on all spending.  Expenses cannot be allowed to rise at a rate higher than the increase in funding, and property taxes cannot continue to rise indefinitely.  All spending must be measured against the benefit it delivers to students in the classroom.  


Tracking. State succinctly and specifically what ETHS should be doing the same, more of, or differently with respect to differentiated or mixed-level instruction, tracking, and the honors program, and why.

This question deals principally with the changes in the freshman curriculum since the junior and senior curricula are organized around an ever-expanding AP curriculum.  I would first distinguish two issues:  "earned honors" and "differentiation" or "de-tracking."  I favor "earned honors" regardless of the class make-up.  The "honors" designation and attendant grade bonus should reflect actual mastery of the subject matter.  They should be a result of achievement, not participation.  I am agnostic about the merits of "de-tracking."  That is, I don't know if the new system in Freshman Humanities/Biology will produce the sought-after improvement for all students.  Though I believe the community was poorly educated about the new curriculum, I believe the changes were a product of a sincere desire to increase student performance, not a result of ideological axe-grinding.  I hope the changes are successful, because I support the goal of higher achievement for all students.  But if the curriculum does not succeed, I will not hesitate to demand a different approach.  My judgment of success will not be based on anecdote, ideology or notions of privilege.  Finally, regarding the  sophomore curriculum:  IF the goal is to prepare all students to succeed in AP courses, it makes sense to align the sophomore curriculum to  achieve that goal.  I would nevertheless prefer to defer any changes until we have evidence about the success of the changes in the freshman curriculum.


Cost Shifting. What should the district be doing to prepare for the possibility that some or all costs of pension financing will be shifted to suburban and downstate districts, as they are for Chicago schools?

The pension obligation is not the only ticking time bomb, but it is the most visible.  Fortunately, or not, the breadth of the impact should help ensure a more equitable solution.  No one can predict what the "remedy" will look like or what the exact obligations will be.  ETHS must work with state legislators to shape that solution, to seek alternatives that do not shift the obligation in ways that affect classroom instruction.  If a shift does occur, ETHS should work to see that it has more than just a continuing financial obligation; it must seek control over its administration. Because of its overall fiscal health, ETHS is in a better position than many.  It goes without saying that cuts  should be kept as far from the classroom as possible.  But the size of the obligation in a direct shift, without any amelioration, virtually ensures that there will be no painless solution.