Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey the Wednesday Journal sent out to all D90 candidates running in this year's elections. Candidates full, unedited responses are printed.
Previous elected experience: I was on the local school council (LSC) at Agassiz Elementary in Chicago from 2002-2003
Previous community experience
%u25CF I led an effort to encourage D90 to offer a full day kindergarten option in 2015-16
%u25CF I am a member of the Inclusiveness Advisory Board, D90 -2016 to now
%u25CF Two-time RFYS Coach
Occupation: Director, Growth and Support, Illinois Network of Charter Schools
BA Sociology, UC Santa Cruz
Teacher Certification, Cal State Dominguez Hills
MA Public Policy, University of Chicago
1) Why are you running?
Working in education my entire career, I want to be part of ensuring D90 continues to be an education leader in the state by serving all families well and preparing students to be successful in the 21st century economy. I want to ensure that spending is happening in the places where it can have the greatest impact on children's' lives and futures.
I started teaching on my 22nd birthday. I spent seven years in the classroom and since then have worked in both municipal and state government as well as in non-profit organizations. I attended public schools until I went to the University of Chicago for graduate school. I am excited to bring my commitment and experience to District 90.
Through my different roles in education, I have been able to visit and observe in hundreds of schools from traditional to the most innovative. Like all parents, I know children learn differently, and I believe it is the role of board to ensure the conditions are right for teachers to create the best learning conditions possible for every child.
2) River Forest District 90 schools have adopted several equity initiatives over the past few years. What do you think of this work?
State data shows that students from low income families do not do as well as students from non low income families in D90, and there are also gaps in achievement between white students and students of color. This is a gap that has been acknowledged by the current board. It is my belief that in a district with significant resources, these gaps can and should be decreased.
The board hired the National Equity Project to work with teachers and staff on issues such as implicit bias. From what I understand, teachers have welcomed this training and, while the work, at times, can be uncomfortable, teachers have embraced this challenge. Smaller initiatives, such as creating more diverse classroom libraries, have also be implemented.
Personally, I have taken part in the Inclusiveness Advisory Council which puts out an Inclusiveness Survey every other year which asks parents many questions about the levels of equity and inclusion they feel in the schools and at related events. The data shows that there are families who don't feel included, and I believe the district needs to think about how to engage all types of families.
3) How would you describe D90's relationship to the community? What does the board currently do to engage residents and what more, if anything, do you believe should be done?
In a school district like ours, many people move to the community for the schools. People see the test scores and have faith in the schools, teachers and leadership. Therefore it can be a challenge to engage parents in an ongoing way. I think the role of the board is to represent the community in its decision-making, and this is impossible unless there are myriad opportunities for board members to talk with the community about relevant issues.
This could look like more events for parents with day care provided or more events on the weekends. Currently we have regular communications both from the school and from the district, but we should look at how it can be more focused and narrow so people know where to go for what information. It could also be more targeted. Current parents, for example, are likely interested in different information than older residents who no longer have children in the district schools.
Having attended a fair amount of board meetings and committees of the whole, I would support more engaging, relevant and time-bound meetings; perhaps the number of meetings could be reduced to cover more in each meeting. I believe elected board members should be available to meet and talk with constituents (within reason).
4) Staff at Roosevelt Middle School are tweaking a block schedule that's current iteration would add math minutes, at the expense of foreign language time for students. What do you think of this measure?
First of all, in the meetings I have attended, it appears that the new block schedule has been in the planning phases since the summer so I believe there was a lost opportunity to engage the community earlier. Having looked at the district's PARCC scores, math does seem to be a place where improvement is needed. I understand the rationale for the change to the block schedule is so that teachers have enough time to teach the current math curriculum. I agree that it is essential that math is given enough time so that teachers can cover it comprehensively.
The loss of foreign language that is a result of this change is deeply felt by the D90 community from what I have seen in the two meetings the district has held on the topic. I also think that learning a second language is critically important and, as a nation, we do a pretty terrible job teaching our students fluency in a second language. I think we should think of this as an opportunity to reexamine the district's foreign language program and how might we improve it. Maybe with increased opportunities for immersion experiences, technology and other innovations.
The D90 board voted to postpone implementation of a schedule change at a regular meeting on March 5.
5) What do you think about standardized (PARCC) test scores and academic performance at schools in District 90? What areas do you believe could be improved and what action can the school board take to help improve student achievement?
On every PARCC measure, District 90 exceeds state averages. This is not surprising as we live in an affluent and well-educated community, and many communities around the state do not look like ours. However we definitely have gaps that need to be addressed; I believe there needs to be focused strategy to support students who aren't achieving at grade level.
One problem with building curricula and an education program around the state assessment is that it frequently changes. The PARCC is being replaced, and we don't yet know what will replace it. It is critical that the curricula reflects the state standards which reflect the Common Core State Standards. At this point, this is what students are expected to know and be able to do.
The district should also be using data to figure out which teachers are having the strongest outcomes in math and reading and try to learn from them. There is so much talent teaching in D90, and I believe with greater voice and sufficient training, the teachers will ensure the district continues to be a bright spot in the state for academic achievement.
6) What other issues are important to you as a school board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?
Most important to me as a candidate for the River Forest school board is to ensure that all students are provided the opportunity to achieve at their full potential and that all students are prepared to succeed in life and in the 21st century workforce. As a board member, I will work to ensure that students have opportunities to develop skills that are demanded by employers: resilience, flexibility, problem-solving skills, ability to work with all types of people and organizational skills.
Secondly, there's a strong case for the provision of a full day kindergarten option. With the advent of the Common Core Standards, it is impossible for kindergartners to get what they need in less than three hours per day - the current kindergarten program. In addition, the kindergarten program has little time for play which research shows is critical to social-emotional development. The kindergarten teachers also support a full day program. I am committed to exploring the viability of a full day kindergarten option in River Forest.
Finally, the district needs to look at more creative solutions such as the school providing lunch. There are many providers of healthy lunches for which parents who want it could pay for it, and it would improve the quality of lunches for the students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The district should also look at more options for extended after school programs that don't exclude working families who can't pick up their children until 6 pm.
Answer Book 2018
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.
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