Gina Sierra

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

Age: 45

Previous political experience:

Member of Komarek District 94 BOE until April 2017

Previous community experience:  

Komarek PTA Member, Cub Scouts Den 120

Occupation:  Elementary School Principal

Education:  B.S- Elementary Education-Northern Illinois University; M.S of Educational Administration- Loyola University Chicago

RBHS has completed or is completing a number of physical improvements to the school, particularly its athletic facilities. Now that the work is complete, on what other long-term projects – either physical, curricular or both — should the board focus its attention?

In order to provide a comprehensive answer this question, I would want information regarding action being taken on the already established district 16-17 goals.  While work is almost finished in regards to facilities, I would need to know where the district is in regards to their goals related to finance, school culture, academics, and communications.   After being privy to that information, I would be able to make an informed decision as to the area most in need of attention.    

What is the long-term financial outlook of the school district? Will there be a need to seek new revenues via a referendum, and would you support seeking such a referendum? 

While the district currently has a rating of Financial Recognition from ISBE, finding ways to decrease expenditures or increase revenue is essential given the continued uncertain financial situation in Illinois.   I would support finding innovative ways to decrease costs that do not affect student instruction before going to the community with a referendum. 

Are there programs or areas of the curriculum on which RBHS needs to focus more attention or less attention? How would you rate the education being provided to students of all abilities at RBHS? 

While I believe RB does a good job providing a solid education for those students who are intrinsically motivated, my concern lies with students who are not eligible for AP classes or do not become involved in sports or activities.  What is RB doing to help those students?  According to the school website, the student engagement rate (students who are involved in at least 1 sport/activity) continues to hover in the low 60% range (2016-62%, 2015-65%, 2014-63%).  What steps are the administration putting into place or can put into place to raise that number?

RBHS is becoming a more diverse place in terms of student demographics. What is RBHS doing to address those changes? What more can be done? 

As an educator, my interest lies in finding ways to close the achievement gap among different groups of students.   If elected to the board, I would be asking questions that pertain to how the district analyzes the data to look for gaps and then the steps being taken to ensure that all students are given equal and appropriate opportunities to succeed.    

The district instituted a Chromebooks program a couple of years back. How do you feel that is working out and are there other ways technology can be integrated into the curriculum?

If elected to the board, I would be interested in finding out what is being done to ensure that the devices are being utilized in a way where students are being asked to think critically, problem solve, interpret and synthesize information.    

Explain your views on the relative advantage of assessments and using them to measure proficiency or growth.

I believe in data based decision making.  Assessments are given to students so that the data can be utilized in a way that informs future instruction.  Given the number of assessments students are asked to take, if the data is not analyzed and used to specifically provide instruction that is differentiated to student levels, questions need to be asked as to why it is being given.   While it is good to ascertain information regarding a student’s proficiency level, I believe growth provides us with better actionable information.  One example would be if a student is receiving interventions and there is not growth, changes could then be made to the intervention.

What other issues are important to you as a school board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?

As an educator, my guiding question is always, ‘What is best for students?’.  My interest lies in making sure that the policies adopted by the board are in the best interest of students.  While it is important to ensure the facilities are up-to-date and pass all life safety standards and a healthy fund balance is maintained, we are here for the students.  Our actions should reflect that idea and drive our decision-making.