Rebecca K. Zoltoski

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

Age: 53

Previous political experience: Current board member (4 years)

Previous community experience:

Girl Scouts: Troop leader and School Organizer and Coordinator

Volunteering in the classrooms in various programs, especially science areas.

Involved in the Parent organizations in the district.

At St. Louis de Marillac:

Religious Education teacher for 4th and 5th grade

BEDS program laundry and food assistance

Volunteered at the Greater Chicago Food Depository 

Occupation: Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Illinois College of Optometry, Chicago, IL

Education:

B.A. (Biochemistry), University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1985

Ph.D., (Pharmacology / Neuroscience), Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 1989

Why are you running for a seat on District 95 school board?

The most important thing we can provide for our community is a strong educational foundation that occurs at the K-8 level.  I can provide insight from the field of advanced education in preparing out students for being successful at the university and professional school level.  I am interested in the use of technology and providing opportunities for the students and teachers to be successful when they move onto their futures.  Also, the district has been doing a great job financially and watching for future needs of the community.  I want to continue to monitor and support that process.  I have been part of the planning for the expansion and renovation of the schools and I want to see that process through and want to then see how it improves the opportunities for the community. 

Do you support the plan to expand Brook Park School and renovate S.E. Gross School? If so, why? If not, why not?

I do support the expansion and renovation.

After reviewing the predictions of the economy and housing markets in our area as well as seeing the impact of that in the past few years, we have a need for more space.  We cannot continue to education student without space. 

The process of planning these changes was very intensive but done in a very logical manner.  The financial concerns for the community were an important component of decision made.  Several plans were rejected due to scope of the projects being too intensive to be supported by what was available.  The architects were sent back to the drawing board to revamp and revise within certain limitations. 

The spaces being changed considers not only main subjects, such as the need for more classrooms so that class sizes do not become to large but also electives, such as the growing interest in Spanish and band.   New spaces were created so that sporting and fine arts experiences could be provided.  In these days of testing overload, there is a need for these extracurricular activities to give the students different outlets for their energy, as well as prepare them for these experiences in their future.  Additionally, the community was considered by the addition of new gymnasiums that can be accessed during non-school times.    

What do you think about standardized (PARCC) test scores and academic performance at schools in District 95? What areas do you believe could be improved and what action can the school board take to help improve student achievement?

Standardized test scores in District 95 are acceptable and using tests other than PARCC, overall improvement is occurring.  The PARCC test scores are difficult to assess since it is early in that process.  However, the District is always looking to pursue better learning opportunities in Mathematics, Language Arts, and Science.  They have investigated and adopted new programs in these areas that incorporate technology with new teaching styles.  The district actively pursues new programs and test pilots them very effectively. 

How does District 95 integrate technology into the classroom? What can be done to expand the integration of technology at the classroom level? Is there a wish to implement such initiatives as a 1-to-1 program? Why or why not?

The district currently has laptop carts that contain 30 computers per grade level in the K-5 building, while in the 6-8 building, the science classrooms have 1 cart each as well with the 25 iPads for the STEMScope programs.  One of the goals for this upcoming year is to increase the number in the K-5 building to 2 carts per grade level.  One of the concerns for expanding is teacher training and support so that they can effectively incorporate the technology into their teaching as a tool, not as an exercise just to use the technology.  I am not in favor of a 1-to-1 program now, due to the cost as well as the need for the teachers to be prepared for that environment. 

Are there programs District 95 could be providing to students that it does not already provide? If so, how might those programs be implemented?

All day kindergarten is a program that is needed in our community.  Research supports the advantages to this type of a program and currently students will start at one school in an all-day program, only to then switch to another school to continue into first grade.  I think this is disruptive for the educational and emotional growth for those students.  The board’s current plans for the reconstruction at Brook Park will allow for this to occur.  This will be a challenging process in the current space, if the reconstruction does not occur.

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

The teachers need more support in obtaining the hardware and learning new programs that are available.  There needs to be a better program for assisting teachers in transitioning to these programs. As a board member, I would support more training and/or personnel to make this process a better one.