Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Office sought: Member Board of Education, District 95
Previous political experience:
- Member Board of Education
- District 95 2002; 2004-2015.
Previous community experience:
- Cub Scout Leader
- JD Chicago Kent College of Law 2001
The school district is experiencing overcrowding, particularly at Brook Park School and the board has taken steps to temporarily relieve that strain. How must the board approach this issue for the future?
The issues of class size and overcrowding, in general, are critical issues in elementary and middle school education. Studies suggest that smaller class sizes (18 to 24 students) provide optimal learning environments allowing for student development and achievement. District 95 has seen increased enrollments over the past several years. This is a function of the excellent community environment offered within the District boundaries and the wonderful work that our teachers and administrators have accomplished with our students consistently over the years. As a District, we constantly evaluate our class sizes and the crowding issues in our schools. We have commissioned demographic studies in an effort to assist in predicting class sizes in the future. Those studies had suggested increased enrollments. Within District 95, we have had conversations over the last several years concerning class size at the elementary level paying particular attention to Kindergarten class sizes. This past year, however, we found significant increases in enrollment in grades 1 and 2. As part of a comprehensive solution to the class size issue, the Board is exploring a number of options, including potential construction of an additional educational facility to relieve student-crowding issues. These issues will require community support and likely a referendum. In order to garner community support, we will need to strive to communicate clearly with the residents within District 95 so that our message is understandable.
The issue of student crowding is not one of government incompetence or wasteful spending, but addresses rather the fundamental needs of the District to allow us to continue to offer our children the best educational experience. I am confident that our community values education as much as the members of the board and will support our efforts so long as we communicate clearly with the community.
Should foreign language instruction be expanded in District 95? If so, how should that be done? If not, why?
Yes. The ability to communicate in languages other than English is critical to the education of our children. The earlier we can introduce foreign language education in our schools, the more our students will have an opportunity to master these skills. Implementation in an orderly manner is critical to accomplishing this goal. Our biggest obstacles are space considerations. It is my hope that our building initiative will allow for expansion of our educational space to allow for the implementation of foreign language education at all levels K-8.
How well has District 95 integrated technology into its curriculum? Has it been successful? How should the district approach technology in the future?
The use of technology in District 95 has been deliberate. While we have encouraged teacher sue of technology in the classroom, we have not committed philosophically to a one to one education model. The central reason for this is that the curriculum in this environment is significantly different from the curriculum we are providing today. Initially we have addressed facilities (do we have the necessary power supply and class room access to power to allow for the sue of technology). With these upgrades undertaken over the past several years, we are in a better position to begin implementing a greater use of technology into our curriculum.
The success or failure of our initiatives can be measured by student performance. District 95 students have consistently performed well on state examinations and have performed well in the classroom. It is critical to realize that change comes slowly in the public school environment. The board continues to discuss the philosophical distinctions of the one to one model with our current educational philosophies. Our role as board members is to provide the administrators and professional staff with the means necessary to accomplish the district’s education goals. The use of technology falls within this area of support.
District 95 changed its grade-reporting system to a standards-based one at Brook Park School but has not done so at Gross Middle School. What are your thoughts on the new grade-reporting method? Should it be continued and expanded to include Gross Middle School?
The new grade reporting method is one initiative that I am proud of as a board member in District 95. It was undertaken to provide parents and students a more comprehensive assessment of the student’s academic performance and achievement. I credit the administrators and professional staff with the wonderful way that this initiative has been implemented. I firmly believe that this should be expanded to the Middle School. I understand concerns that the high schools in the area do not employ this assessment method. However, the benefits of this method far outweigh the detriments. If elected I will continue to push for innovations such as this.
How should District 95 address and fund its ongoing infrastructure needs?
This question relates to the crowding issue discussed above. The solution is not the mere expansion of Brook Park School. Further expansion of Brook Park will eventually bring District 95 the distinction of being the largest elementary school in Illinois. This is not an honor I would be proud of during my tenure on the Board. As such, construction of an additional facility is critical to the District’s ongoing success. This will require additional funds and community support through a tax referendum to support the initiative. Tax increases are never popular; however, given the scope of such an undertaking, this poses the only feasible solution available to the District.
What other important issues do you think the next school board will face, and how would you like to see those addressed?
With the ever-changing landscape of public education, the Board has to be vigilant in making sure that we accomplish our central mission- the education of our children. As fiduciaries of the district, it is incumbent on the Board to continue to effectively and efficiently manage the District’s finances. Finally, we must continue to strive to provide our professional staff with the support necessary to allow them to continue to meet the District’s goals.