Molly B. Murphy

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

Age: 58

Previous political experience: none

Previous community experience: Current volunteer English language tutor for adults (4 years), BEDS Plus homeless shelter volunteer (6 years), St. John of the Cross Parish volunteer. Former board member: Grand Avenue Community Center, Western Springs Service Club, Lyons Swim Club.  School volunteer in many roles. 

Occupation:  Retired Attorney

Education:  B.A. Williams College, J.D. University of Notre Dame

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?

I am not aware of the need for a referendum at this time. On the revenue side, we have a strong property tax base and healthy reserves.  Local property taxes account for over 80% of our annual operating budget revenues.  We have an excellent credit rating. Although some caution is warranted because of the questions raised in our state legislature concerning school funding formulas, our financial outlook is very good. On the expense side, past boards have been careful stewards of taxpayer dollars, and that focus continues. Priority is given to programs with direct links to our student success and maintaining and improving our facilities to meet student needs. Currently, we are able to fund these goals without going to referendum.

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

We want all students to graduate from LTHS with excellent skills in language, math and science, and the arts. At LTHS, we are fortunate to have teachers who provide effective instruction at all levels. And we always want to improve. The faculty meets regularly within departments to share the most effective instruction methods. We offer over 24 AP courses, and we encourage students to take at least one; many students take several. We are also focused on providing nearly all-day support opportunities for our students. Incorporating the use of technology which can help target students in need of additional help is encouraged. The Board regularly reviews data to monitor performance of students in all class levels. Many students enter LTHS with excellent math preparation and skills. Some do not, and we recognize the need to help this group of students.

LTHS is a diverse place, and test scores show there’s an achievement gap between white students and students of color. What is LTHS doing to address those achievement gaps? What more can be done?

Narrowing the achievement gap is definitely a top priority. In September of 2015, I was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education. Since that time, I have learned the importance of making progress on this front from our teachers, administrators and colleagues, as well as from the data presented to us. Our Equity and Achievement program is designed to help low income students reach the more challenging college preparation courses. Our study hall requirements, resource centers, and tutoring rooms are designed to help students master course material by providing extra help. All these programs, as well as initiatives in other districts, are monitored to evaluate the best growth opportunities for LTHS students. This must be an ongoing mission.

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

The Board of Education relies on school wide data and student performance data as measures of student growth and achievement. Each year, we monitor standardized test scores, classroom grades, AP test results, and government mandated test results. We also receive less number-driven descriptions of program operations and success. As a Board, we often ask for additional information and data in our decision-making. Formal assessments, combined with teacher input, provide even more helpful information for students and parents. Some teachers are creative with assessments—providing for more individualized pacing of skill development and determining a benchmark for beginning a lesson. We want our students to master core curriculum subjects and develop life-long learning skills. Assessments are an important part of measuring that progress. 

How does LTHS integrate technology into its curriculum? How is it working? Do you feel there other ways technology can be integrated into the curriculum?

LTHS integrates technology with the purpose of improving learning opportunities for each student. Technology provides an enhancement, not a substitution for an effective teacher. The faculty is trained in our Canvas learning management system. The goal is more targeted, individualized learning for our students. In English class, for example, students may receive instant feedback while drafting essays. An introverted student may participate in online discussions about a short story. Math homework may be individualized to reinforce a particular skill. Sample science reports may be posted online to highlight the details expected in a lab assignment. The Board encourages innovative use of technology. This occurs in funded institute days as well as department meetings where best instruction methods are shared. Technology improvements are exciting, and the Board and technology staff are constantly monitoring ways to integrate these improvements in an affordable way. With respect to our physical plant, as we anticipate more traffic in our network, the administration and Board are evaluating the sufficiency of our cable and internet system.

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

LTHS is fortunate to have a dedicated faculty, excellent facilities, committed and professional administrators, a wonderfully diverse student body, as well as caring parents who deservedly have high expectations for our students and LTHS. We need to ensure that students are challenged and engaged in classrooms at all levels, that students have some opportunity to pursue their interests outside the required curriculum, that each student is encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities, and that we use resources effectively to help our students succeed in careers and college after high school, particularly our first-generation college bound students. I would like the privilege of continuing my service as a member of the Board of Education to promote these shared goals. These opinions are my own, and although we four incumbents endorse each other for re-election, I do not speak on behalf of the Board of Education as a whole.