Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.

Age: 38

 

Office sought: District 96 Board of Education

 

Previous political experience: None

 

Previous community involvement:  

  • Central PTO co-President (2012-present)
  • Active Member of the Central School PTO, including roles as room parent and chair of many PTO committees (2009-present)
  • Member of the District 96 Parent Leadership Team (2012-present)
  • Parent volunteer at the Riverside Presbyterian Preschool (2007-2011)
  • Regular attendee at D96 Board of Education meetings (2013-present)

 

Education:

  • Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University (1998)
  • Master of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2000)

 

Occupation: Stay at Home Parent for the past 4 years. Prior to that, I was the lead Data Supervisor for the Northwestern Juvenile Project, a federally funded longitudinal study in the Department of Psychiatry at Northwestern University. 

 

As a school board member, how would you approach the board-administrator relationship? What is your view of that relationship as it exists presently?

To be effective and productive, I believe the relationship between the school board and the administration needs to be a true partnership. The school board needs to foster a healthy and collaborative environment based on mutual trust, respect, clear communication, and shared expectations. The overarching role of the school board is to establish a vision for the district and then entrust their educational professionals to achieve those goals. Both parties should be teammates focused on the same mission, “To provide each student a challenging education which promotes academic excellence, encourages creativity, develops critical thinking, and fosters respect for self, community, and the environment.”

I feel that the relationship that currently exists between the school board and administration is not as collaborative as it could be. If elected, I hope to assist the board in building and enhancing the relationship with the administration.

 

What is your view regarding the performance of the current school board? What should change, if anything?

The District 96 school board is comprised of seven individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives who are tasked to act as one governing body on behalf of the entire community. This, in itself, is a challenge. I believe our school board can improve in this area.  I believe by creating a concrete shared vision for our schools and keeping a strong student focus, these challenges can be overcome. In the end, despite personal differences, the board needs to efficiently work as one to ensure that the students in our community are getting the best education in the most fiscally responsible manner.

 

  What do you think of the district’s 1-to-1 laptop initiative? Should it be changed? If so, how?

I believe the district’s 1-to-1 laptop initiative is a beneficial and progressive program. Our students are growing up in a digital age where technology skills and knowledge are a necessity. I believe the 1-to-1 program gives our students the opportunity to learn how to be responsible and productive digital citizens.

While I am a proponent of the program, I do acknowledge several shortcomings of the initiative since its inception in 2009.  Moving forward, we need to make certain that this program is headed in the right direction. The board will need to look closely at the review of the current program being done by the District IT department.  Many important decisions will need to be made. What device best meets the mission and student needs of this program while also being cost effective? How will the instructional technology guidelines to optimize rigorous and relevant learning be executed in and out of the classroom? We need to make sure that the technology incorporated is clearly supporting and enhancing student learning.

 

D96 has amassed a large budget surplus since its successful referendum in 2004. Do you think the district should continue to ask for the maximum annual levy it is allowed? Why or why not?

We live in a tax cap county. Under the cap, we can increase the tax collections by no more than the rate of inflation in the national CPI or 5%, whichever is less. Essentially, that is just asking for inflation. So, right now, yes, I believe we should continue to ask for the maximum levy to ensure we keep up with the rate of inflation. However, this should be closely evaluated every year.  We need to make certain that we are looking long term to avoid a future referendum.

We have many financial uncertainties facing our district – the consistent rise in enrollment, space limitations, pressing technology needs, Senate Bill 1 (former SB16), and the possible shift in teacher pension funding. We need to develop a long range strategic plan to get a better sense of what these issues will cost our district. Until we have a clearer financial forecast, I believe it is prudent to capture the current revenues available to the district. Once these uncertainties become more concrete, I would support looking into a possible tax rebate program.

 

How could the district’s gifted and special education programs be improved or changed, or are changes even necessary?

District 96 is moving toward a more inclusive model of education. This is a step in the right direction. However, moving towards inclusion means that all of our teachers and staff need additional professional development and training to support differentiated learners. We need to make sure that our educators are equipped to best challenge and support all students in the least restrictive environment, no matter their needs. We are not there yet. As a district, we need to make it a priority that the steps are in place to make this happen as quickly and successfully as possible. We need to support and engage our teachers and give them the needed training so that they can provide quality experiences to every student.

I have spoken with many parents about the gifted and special education programs and the two complaints I hear most often relate to communication and consistency. We need to increase our efforts in these areas. I look forward to learning more about how we can strive for continuous improvement in these programs.

 

What other issues do you believe will be important for the next school board to address?

There are many important issues facing the board in the near future. Here are a few that I feel are most pressing:

  • Increasing enrollment and a lack of space; including protecting small class sizes across the district
  • Continued challenges in implementing and improving the updated curriculum to meet the standards of the Common Core; including the challenges of the new PARCC assessment
  • Negotiating a new contract with the Teachers Union; including providing necessary professional development opportunities for our teachers and staff