D97 candidate wants to empower parents

D97 graduate Cheree Moore hopes to improve schools' engagement efforts

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

A graduate of Oak Park's elementary schools is hoping to win a seat on the District 97 school board in the April 2 election. Cheree Moore said she's running in order to improve how the district communicates and engages community members, particularly with families that have been historically marginalized. 

"There's a strong lack of engagement, specifically with low-income families and families of color," she said. "I think that contributes to the opportunity gap." 

Moore, whose three children now attend D97 schools, said the district can leverage technology to increase engagement.

"There is a desire among families to get involved, but the district has to [help] from a different perspective," Moore said, "even if it's livestreaming board meetings on district's website. And if we can't stream on the website, then on Facebook. That's not that complicated." 

Moore said she also wants the district to streamline information that goes out to families. 

"As a parent, I get so much paper every day and I feel like there's information coming from everywhere," she said. "Sometimes it's overwhelming." 

The district should also improve its capacity to produce and analyze racial equity-related data, she added, an improvement that could be critical to district officials' ability to implement the pending racial equity policy that the board is poised to vote on this month. 

"I support [a policy] that will help us identify where we can improve the opportunity gap and the policies that harm children of color — particularly black and brown children," Moore said. 

Other ideas that Moore wants to push her board colleagues to try if she's elected include providing childcare at board meetings, particularly for working parents, and surveying families to find out what is prohibiting them from getting involved in district affairs. 

Moore said she helped draft the initial equity policy that was presented to the board last year and is active in a variety of commissions and organizations — including Oak Park's Community Relations Commission, the Diversity Committee at Longfellow, and the Suburban Unity Alliance. She said the racial equity policy in its current form still needs some improvement. 

"We need to look at the discipline numbers," she noted. "How are we testing? How are we identifying students for the gifted and talented program? How are we advancing students? How do we say something is or is not working? We need more data and more benchmarking to know that programs are successful. I didn't see that in the proposed racial equity policy language." 

But the HR professional emphasized that the "strongest piece for me is community engagement." The realization is personal, said Moore, who recalled moving to Oak Park at the age of 12. Her mother wanted better schools. But the family quickly realized that betterment would not happen simply by virtue of a move. 

"You have to do more than move to Oak Park for the good schools," she said. "You have to be engaged, develop relationships, show up and advocate for your child."

Moore said the most effective kind of engagement is the kind that's ultimately sustained by parents and families themselves. 

"I want to empower parents to be accountable," she said. "Engagement doesn't just fall on a board or a school principal. I really want to help empower parents and guardians to advocate for their children." 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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