Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Previous political experience:
- University of Dayton, Class Senator 2015
- Suburban Vice-Chair, Cook County Young Democrats
- Chair, Brookfield Democratic Organization
- Precinct Captain, Lyons Township Democratic Organization
Previous community experience:
- Parishioner, St. Louise De Marillac
- Frequent attendant of Village Board Meetings
- Supporter of library initiative
- Supporter of Go-Green Brookfield
Occupation: Insurance Producer
Education: Nazareth Academy ’11
University of Dayton, BA
Northeastern University, MPA
Why are you running for a seat on District 95 school board?
I am running for SD95 because I want give back to the community that helped shaped me and provide strong leadership as the district transitions to a new and exciting era by providing all-day kindergarten, concluding the expansion and renovation project, and launching new STEM field courses for students.
As a lifelong resident Brookfield having grown up on Prairie Ave. (where my parents still reside), I currently live on Blanchan Ave. and been passionate for public service and government since I was a student at Nazareth Academy. This community has presented me with enormous opportunity to learn and grow. When I was informed that three sets were open this election with only one incumbent running, I thought that it presented a great opportunity to not only get involved civically in the community, but allow me give back to the community that help shaped me.
While the expansion and renovation project and launch of new programs will benefit this district and students for years to come, the changes will demand strong leadership from the board as the district tries keep pace with the ever changing environment of technology while ensuring the district remains fiscally solvent moving forward. As a graduate of Northeastern’s MPA program and having experience working in both the private and public sectors collaborating with key stakeholders in our community and state, I believe I possess the knowledge and experience to be an effective, diligent board member that will be trusted to make key decisions which will not only impact the district, but Brookfield as a whole.
Are there any specific issues you would advocate the school board address, change or implement?
I will be an advocate for fostering collaboration between the board and SD 95 administrators and staff as we pursue and implement district initiatives, such as maintaining the district’s fiscal solvency. Additionally, I will be an advocate for pursuing measures to further engagement from residents of the district and ensure input is received and decisions are made with transparency
Over the path month, my slate-mate and I, Meaghan McAteer, has had the opportunity to meet with Brook Park principal Mike Sorensen, S.E. Gross principal Ryan Evans, SD95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski, and T.A.B. president Lynda Nadkarni. One of the main takeaways we had from these meetings was the board traditionally has had a strong working relationship with SD 95 staff and admin. Meaghan and I will continue that working relationship, collaborating and receiving input from key stakeholders (such as admin and staff) prior to any key decision being made.
Meaghan and I will also continue engaging and informing the entire community about projects and initiatives concerning the district, such as the current renovation and expansion, to help spark civic engagement. As I said in a prior interview with the Landmark when Meaghan and I announced our candidacy, school districts play a salient role in the economic well-being of our community whether you have a child who goes to the local public school or not because it impacts your property taxes. For those who do not have a child in the district, there sometime may be a tendency to disregard contemporary issues surrounding SD95. For example, when knocking on our doors for petitions, there was a trend of misconception on what S.E. Gross was actually building. Some expressed dissatisfaction about the possibility of the school building a second gym and viewed this possibility as a waste of taxpayer money. Upon explaining that the new gym will be complemented with a full, state of the art STEM lab for students, where students will be trained in key skills such as 3D printing and coding, tone quickly positive and the construction was then viewed favorably. Meaghan and I will continue to engage the community as a whole and inform residents the status of SD95 initiatives, projects and programs.
By the beginning of the next school year, the renovations and expansion projects at Brook Park and S.E. Gross schools will be completed. What does the next school board need to do to ensure that initiative provides educational value to future students?
To reiterate my key points from question number one above, I believe the next board will be challenged with making key fiscal decisions and ensuring the district continues to adapt to the ever changing environment in technology.
Making important financial decisions is one of the primary functions of the school board. This includes making hiring decisions to allocating and approving district money and negotiating union contracts. Moreover, the board approves the Fiscal Year Budget of the district (which begins July 1 of each year until June 30 of the next). Although, this is a primary function it is nonetheless a challenge because at use is taxpayer money. Any misallocation of revenue could be detrimental to the fiscal status of the district moving forward and the new board member must have a good understanding of public finance and management.
The second challenge will need to be addressed by having a good understanding on modern technology, what ways it can benefit the students, and how to budget it appropriately. I believe the decision to provide students with chrome books will have a strong and positive impact improving skillsets while providing a new and innovative way of learning in the classroom. However, as technology continues to only improve, it is only a matter of time until the next best thing arrives on the market and the board begins deliberating how such technology can benefit the students. When this occurs, the new board will need to budget appropriately on implementing such technically and maintain a strategic plan on phasing out older technically and replacing with the newer versions. Additionally, when making such decisions the new board must deliberate “how” such technology can specifically add value to students and improve their lives. For example, a new technology might offer a “cool” and “interesting” way of performing a task, but if it fails to yield positive outcomes and achieve certain goals, it should be reconsidered. At the end of the day it’s all about adding value to students, putting them first and helping them succeed.
What do you think about 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?
I believe our district maintains stellar academic performance and it will only improve as the STEM lab presents future opportunity to help students learn and develop key skills in an innovative way. Our chronic absenteeism rate is nearly 10 percentage points lower than the state average and our teacher retention rate is roughly 5 percentage points higher than the state average. Most importantly, our district is also strong when it comes to academic performance. For example, 55.7% of district students as a whole in 2018 where ELA proficient compared to the state average of about 37%, meaning our students maintain a deeper understanding when it comes to English literacy. Moreover, 37% of our students in 2018 where fully proficient in mathematics, compared to the state average of 31% and also has a greater growth rate in math proficiency on average. I believe this will only improve with the introduction of STEM programs and initiatives. However, the new board will be responsible with hiring the right people to administer these programs and such a decision should be made with input from admin and staff as well as a deep observation of the candidate’s background, credentials, and experience.
Are there programs District 95 could be providing to students that it does not already provide? If so, how might those programs be implemented?
My education and experience has taught me that the growth in jobs and our economy revolves around the STEM field. In effect, I am a firm believer and supporter that our district must continue implementing and improving STEM fields courses. Aside from the demand in jobs, I also believe the STEM programs will provide students with the skills necessary to establish a well-compensated career, even for those who chose to not pursue post-secondary education.
What other issues are important to you as a school board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?
On a more personal level, I have a strong passion for personal finance and budgeting practices. Throughout my long span of attending school, I feel as though I did not become fully educated and financially literate until living through personal experience, as opposed to learning about key practices in the classroom. I often joke that I learned more about finance and money through my experience of living by myself in Boston, MA trying to make rent, eat, and pay for books, than my all two years of actually in the classroom. This experience demanded sound financial budgeting on my end to survive.
Although the experience cannot be taught in the classroom, I firmly believe we can still implement certain personal finance programs (i.e. budgeting 101, the impact of credit, etc.) to help students be better prepared for the “real world” and maintain future financial stability and growth. In effect, I would like explore the possibility to implement such a program, whether through a course or after school club.
At the end of the day, residents of SD95 will be faced with the choice to vote for the best candidates who have strong experience with public management and an ability to foster relationships with our community’s elected officials and leaders as well as D95 staff and admin. Moreover, the main function of the board is to make decisions, so it would be in the best interest of the community to elect someone who posses this strong track record of public management and coalition building. Since we have announced a run, Meaghan and I have made substantial effort to seek input from key SD95 admin and staff (such as Superindent Kuzniewski and T.A.B. President Lynda Nadkarni) to ascertain the needs of the district, the challenges facing of the board moving, forward, build coalitions, and help us be better candidates. If we are fortunate to be elected in April, Meaghan will continue this initiative by meeting consistently with SD95’s key players, learning from their work and experience, building relationships, and feeding information on SD95 projects and initiatives to the community to help us make better decisions as board members. Meaghan and I are already making such an effort, hosting “Coffee with the Candidates” every Sunday at Loca Mocha to meet with residents and share our talks with SD95’s key players. This is just one of many ideas we have to increase community engagement and transparency. We look forward to serving if we are elected as your voice on the board.