Thomas W. Cushing

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

Age: 55

Previous political experience: President, LTHS School Board, 2015-present; Member of LTHS School Board since 2012.

Previous community experience:

In 1994 and 1995 my wife Jamie and I served as presidents of the Phoenix Society, the fundraising arm of the Community Family Service and Mental Health Association, which later became part of Pillars. 

My other community service includes:

Lyons Township H.S. Bd. of Education, Member since 2012, President since 2015;

Legacy Guild, Founding Board Member

LaGrange Little League, President, Treasurer and Manager

St. Francis Xavier: School Board President; Parish Council Chairman; Capital Campaign Steering Committee;  Pastor Transition Committee; School Auction Co-Chair; Basketball and Cross-Country Coach.

Park District of La Grange Basketball Coach

University of Notre Dame Law School Board, Member since 2003; President in 2010-2011;

University of Notre Dame Law Advisory Council, Member 2010-2011

Notre Dame Club of Chicago Board, Member 2002-2008

Chicago Volunteer Legal Services  

Occupation: Attorney 

Education: B. A. University of Notre Dame, 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?

LT has an excellent AAA credit rating.  The LT School Board and its members both currently and historically follow fiscally sound policies and have acted as responsible stewards on behalf of the residents in District 204.  The long-term financial outlook for District 204 is excellent.  We have appropriate reserves and the Board continues to act responsibly when budgeting and negotiating contracts.  While there is uncertainty that exists for all school districts in Illinois as to how pension costs might be shifted and how revenue sources might be impacted, there is not a need at this time for LT to go to referendum for additional revenue.

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?

The students at LT receive an excellent education.  There are course offerings across different strata of difficulty and a broad range of course subject matter.  The learning environment at LT is vibrant and constantly evolving and adapting.  LT’s Special Education program is excellent.  LT surveys its students, parents and teachers every other year and takes to heart the responses received.  In recent years, that has resulted in the board eliminating class rank to encourage students to take courses they are passionate about.  The school day was altered to provide each student with a 30 minute study hall to help reduce stress.  Support rooms for struggling students and drop in centers have also been added.      

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?

LT’s composite score for the ACT exam is at an all-time high.  Yet we recognize that there is work to be done regarding the test scores and course level placement of students of color.  We continue to work diligently to narrow the achievement gap.  LT’s Equity and Achievement initiative is designed to help our low income students get placed in higher level classes and seeks to progress the development of those students so they are able to take one AP course and receive college credit.  The new study hall, support rooms and drop in centers mentioned above help students learn and master course content. 

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

We must and we do assess the progress, development and achievement levels of our students.  As a Board, we receive data regarding student performance and growth.  We analyze students’ performances on standardized tests, in the classroom and on AP exams and compare that data to historical data at LT and in some categories, we compare it to our peer institutions.  Our teachers have worked very hard within Professional Learning Teams (PLTs) here at LT to develop and implement, among other things, effective assessment techniques and practices.  

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?

We are constantly reviewing technological applications, innovations and needs.  LT recently purchased and put into use a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows our teachers and students new modalities for interaction and instruction.  Students can be part of classroom discussions with their classmates online at night for a homework assignment.  Teachers can make comments on student essays online and the students can revise their works online.  We are currently reviewing LT’s wifi capacity and the likely need to upgrade and improve wifi at LT.  We built in additional capacity for bandwidth and tied in our computers between the North and South campuses. 

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

I am very proud to be a member of the LT School Board and it is a privilege to be selected by my fellow Board members to be President of the Board.  We are collegial and we work very well together.  We take our responsibilities very seriously.  While we don’t always agree on all issues, we treat each other with respect as we strive to reach a consensus decision.  Our collective wisdom is our strength.  We do not have individual agendas.  We have a common goal:  to be good stewards with the finances of the District as we provide our students with a safe learning environment and access to excellent teachers, programs and facilities so each student can seek to realize his or her full potential.  For these reasons and more, I wholeheartedly endorse my fellow Board members for re-election.