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

Age: 44

Previous political experience: None

Previous community involvement: Daisy Mom (Girl Scouts), Indivisible West Suburban Action League, Moms Demand Action

Education Background:

Masters of Management, Higher Education Administration, Robert Morris University

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Columbia College

Bachelor of Liberal Arts, German Honors/Political Science, University of Michigan

Occupation Background:

Multimedia Designer/Team Manager, Harper College

Adjunct Faculty, Graphic Design, Harper College

Communications Manager, Northwestern University

Director of Marketing, Messe Duesseldorf North America

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As a working mother experiencing the hurdles of navigating the school system in real time, I want to bring a fresh perspective to the board and be a voice for parents.

Parents of new students all over the district tell me they feel thrown in the deep end of the pool when starting their children in District 102. I’m hearing from parents of older grade school children that they want more transparency around curriculum and opportunities for personalized learning. And teachers have shared that parental involvement throughout the journey is crucial to a student’s success.

I believe we need to improve how we communicate with parents and partner with them from the start of their children’s journey through high school. Social and emotional skills need to be developed alongside academic skills for students to be successful. We can improve every student’s test scores and experience by partnering with parents and community members and share with them simple ways they can support the great work being done in the classroom.

There is a lot to be proud of in District 102. The teachers are doing great work and the district offers many services to attend to all the different needs of its students. But many community members and taxpayers aren’t aware of all the student success stories and level of support and services that make our schools the reason people move here. The district and board members should reach out to the local community and demonstrate the value of the work being done.

I firmly believe that board members should serve as a conduit between the community and school district. They should relay feedback from the community to the district as well as relay what’s going on in the schools back to the community. In this way, everyone is informed but also invited to engage in shaping the school experience for our children. I don’t believe this flow of communication currently exists, which is why the last referendum in 2016 passed by a narrow margin. We cannot talk to each other only when there’s an election or referendum. We need to establish open channels of communication and continually reach out to community members to build a strong relationship. With a strong relationship with our stakeholders and surrounding community in place, we can more effectively tackle the complex issues.

If elected, I plan to continue my Facebook page as a source for information and channel to engage the community. Also I have already mentioned to Superintendent Schumacher that I think town hall meetings would be a helpful format to invite community feedback and inform about current district initiatives.

Lastly, I would encourage the Delegate Assembly to serve as a communication network within the community with regular meetings between members and school board members and not only mobilize around elections.

I think we can do better and I hope I will have the opportunity to work with other board members to make it happen.

How many school board meetings have you attended in the past year? What has been your impression the board’s effectiveness?

I have attended six board meetings over the past year. My overall impression is that we can do better. The mission of the board is to provide community oversight for the school district and in order to do that effectively, I believe board members need to ensure that they are informed and aware of the needs and interests of stakeholders and the community. I have seen an overall lack of knowledge of stakeholders’ experience in the district as well as lack of awareness of potential issues facing the district on this current board.

It has been my impression in the case of some board members that their only source of information is what is being presented to them at the board meeting and consequently that information is accepted as the whole picture. If this is truly what is happening, it is a dangerous precedent because it prohibits them from providing true oversight and being able to ask critical questions.

Some of the other candidates are saying that I am negative. I would say I am discerning and willing to challenge what I am being told when it does not match the reality of what I and others are experiencing. Asking critical questions is part of the job. It is the board’s duty to govern the district and monitor all policies of the district’s schools, as stated in the board manual. They are not there to rubber stamp whatever the district puts forward. As I stated before, there is a lot of good work being done, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement or excuse board members from holding the district accountable to the needs and interests of our stakeholders and community.

Lastly, I would like to see board members take a stronger leadership position, engage with the community more and reach out to solicit input/feedback. I have never heard  from any of the school board members since moving into the district.

Board members need to be conduits and champions for our community and for our schools on a continual basis, not just during elections or referenda. I’m not seeing that happen currently.

What is the most important issue facing the next school board, and what should the solution be?

I think the most important issue facing the next school board is the space constraints at the elementary schools. Capital improvements cost a lot of money.

One solution presented by Dr. Schumacher is to extend the north side of Park Junior High and move all sixth graders over to Park to make it a true middle school. I like this solution for a few reasons. Firstly, it addresses not only the space needs of Forest Road School but all the elementary schools and appears to be a good long-term solution versus a Band-Aid. Also, while I’ve been canvassing, I’ve coincidentally heard from many parents that their 6th graders feel frustrated at the grade schools and are socially ready to move into middle school.

I think it would be very important to bring this issue to the community early, get input and feedback and build support. There might also be a possibility to partner with the community to include a resource in the new building addition that directly benefits community members, such as a maker space studio or a video production room open to community use. I am not sure on the feasibility of that but I think we should explore all options and be open to innovative ideas.

If elected, what changes would you like to have accomplished by the end of your term?

If elected, I would like to have the district have an onboarding and communication plan put in place for 1) parents and 2) community outreach.

Such programming already exists at Barnsdale, such as the Kindergarten Roundup, but I think we need a plan for grades 1-5. From a student’s perspective, starting at the home school is like starting all over and nothing like the experience at Barnsdale. Parents, and their children, need that outreach and guidance to get started on the right foot. From grades 1-3, students are learning how to read.

Starting in 3rd grade, they are expected to know how to read and need to read to learn. If they have not mastered reading by 3rd or 4th grade, they are in serious danger of disengaging from school and acting out. And there is a direct correlation between low literacy rates and future incarceration. The school district can help educate parents to the importance of literacy and the lasting impact it has on their student’s future success as well as provide information and tools on how to support literacy at home.

If elected, I would like to have the district pilot a community mentor program. This program would entail engaging members of our community to serve as mentors to students who are struggling in school, whether academically, socially or emotionally. The community mentor would meet with the student once a week at lunch. The mentor would need to pass a background check and follow all school regulations. This program has been implemented in other Illinois school districts and has shown to effectively help struggling students.

If elected, what changes would you most strongly resist?

If elected, I would strongly resist arming teachers and administrators with guns.

What other issues facing the school district are of interest to you? Why?

All the issues facing the district are of interest to me. Funding and where the money is coming from is always an important issue. Although our new Governor Pritzker prioritizes education, long-term I believe state funding will continue to be an issue for all school districts. Our district demographics are changing, we have a lot of young families moving into homes that previously weren’t utilizing the school system. As our district is mostly land locked, our tax base is staying relatively static, but our usage of the schools is going up, hence the space constraints. There are several K-12 districts starting foundations to help offset increased costs and reduced state funding. A K-8 foundation might be a hard challenge, possibly unfeasible, but I think we discuss the idea with the community.

And as I mentioned before, building and resources cost money. There may be the opportunity to pool resources and budgets with other community organizations and provide services that benefit both students and community members.

Another very important topic to me is the district’s goal of closing the minority achievement gap. This is another area that I believe would greatly benefit from stronger relationships with our parents and with our community. I’ve attended board meetings where community members have stood up and asked “how can I help these kids?” We need to take advantage of this initiative and desire for involvement from our community and employ it towards our goals. A community mentor program could help these students, without adding cost.

I also continue to hear from parents a desire for increased personalized learning. There are many definitions of personalized learning but the overall concept is to tailor instruction and rigor to the student’s strengths, needs and interests to ensure students challenge themselves to the highest possible standard achievable. This is an initiative I would like to explore further with the administration.

I think there are numerous opportunities for students in our district to participate in community service projects around curriculum and project-based learning.

Environmental topics could be paired with a community clean-up project. For history lessons, we can invite our seniors to share their childhood experiences and allow district students to interview them. Local businesses, such as restaurants, veterinarian clinics, car washes, could serve as live classrooms to teach nutrition, health, mechanics and automation. Programs such as these would integrate the local community with the schools and foster a stronger relationship.

I have endless ideas, but first things first. Let’s make sure we’re giving students the best foundation we can for them to succeed. To do that, we need to talk to each other and work together. I would like to work on building stronger relationships first and then we can tackle any challenge or new initiative together.