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: None
Previous community experience:
- Riverside Sustainability Council
- Frederick Law Olmsted Society, Board Member 2006-2011
Education: Master of Science, ETH (Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich Switzerland), 1995
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?
Based on review of publicly available financial reports, attendance of board meetings (2 so far this year), and conversations with superintendent Kevin Skinkis, it is my understanding that the financial condition of D208 is sound. Moving forward, it is anticipated that there could be some years with small deficit spending, but no referendum is planned for the next 5 to 6 years. Also in about 5 years, district financials will change as the remaining debt on the capital improvement bonds will be paid off in 2023.
My support for a referendum would be dependent on the quality of the long-term financial planning completed at that time, conviction that the considered educational offering is of high quality, broad, and balanced, and whether well-calibrated collective bargaining agreements with teachers and staff are in place.
Are there programs or areas of the curriculum on which RBHS needs to focus more attention or less attention? How would you rate the education being provided to students of all abilities at RBHS?
RBHS needs to focus more attention on the area of civics education to graduate more effective citizens. It is currently taught in freshman year through the Western Civilization class and in senior year through the Government class. My personal experience teaching college level students is that they lack a fundamental awareness of what it means to be fully enfranchised in our free form of government. Graduating high school and college students do not sufficiently realize that they are the bosses of their elected leaders, and that it is their job to hold them accountable on behalf of better futures for themselves and the community.
Personally, I would like to see greater commitment to RBHS arts education and would be ok with a reduced number of sports options. However, the debate over the proper balance of the educational offerings is to be reflective of the D208 community and ought to occur with as much public input as possible.
In talking with numerous D208 community members since I decided to run – parents and students – there appears to be consensus that RB provides a high to very high-quality education to high-achieving students and students with special needs, but that the education to students in the middle is mediocre. I am planning to reach out to teachers to get their perspective on this also as corrective action will require much feedback and understanding.
RBHS is becoming a more diverse place in terms of student demographics. What is RBHS doing to address those changes? What more can be done?
It is my understanding that the Board of Education will be announcing changes that address this question in March, however, I do not know the nature of what is proposed.
In my research of the District, I noticed that RBHS hasn’t required teachers to indicate their ethnicity on State Board of Education annual teacher surveys since 2013 while the ethnicity of all students has consistently been tracked. Going forward, this ought to be corrected since tools that accurately represent district diversity are key.
In general, clubs and activities that celebrate diversity should be encouraged, not criticized. In particular, the events surrounding RBHS Tolerance Week from the fall of 2017 come to mind. At that time, the Board of Education missed a big opportunity to be open-minded and to show leadership on a sensitive and complex topic that clearly requires it.
Explain your views on the relative advantage of assessments and using them to measure proficiency or growth.
Proficiency assessments measure knowledge and skills in absolute terms, while growth assessments measure relative advancement – the rate of improvement over a certain period.
In general, I am a big believer in the value of growth assessments because they are specific to individuals and represent a more level playing field given factors such as prior achievements and socio-economic background. The work of Carol Dweck comes to mind for a comprehensive view on the benefits of a growth mindset.
Of course, proficiency assessments like the SAT are important for an absolute determination of achievement. It is difficult to improve that which cannot be measured.
What I do know for sure, based on my experience as a college teacher, is how difficult it is to write great exam questions. Teacher training and awareness surrounding the preparation of any proficiency assessments is of high importance, and the professional and personal skills of each teacher in the classroom, and his or her ability to connect with each student to encourage growth, make all the difference in the end.
What other issues are important to you as a school board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?
My campaign slogan is “A Citizen and Architect with a Vision”.
I touched upon one aspect of my citizenship focus in question 2. About 10 years ago, I became very aware of the possibility that my own children might ask me one day why we – my generation – didn’t do anything to stem the existential threat of climate change while there still was time. It changed my outlook on everything I do.
Through our work on the Eisenhower Memorial Competition at around the same time, I discovered Dwight Eisenhower’s insight on the true purpose of education, namely for young women and men to become effective citizen’s in a free from of government. I think this has never been more true than today. Faced with the latest UN IPCC Climate Report published on October 8 2018, which gives us 10 to 12 years to cut our emissions in half unless we might reach a point of no return, we have to take responsibility much more quickly and start acting decisively. We are facing an emergency, and our students know it – are we preparing them well enough to face it? I don’t think so.
If elected, I will encourage students to speak up more, to stand up for their beliefs and values, and to participate in the community in the broadest sense possible. Specifically, I will advocate for the addition of 2 advisory student members on the board of eduction, similar to what has been done very successfully at Leyden High School District 212. This would be an acknowledgement by the board and community that is it committed to giving the students a voice.
My vocation as an architect means that if I am elected, I will be able to bring expertise related to prudent and long-term thinking to the board, especially if issues with facilities, design and construction are evaluated. Taxpayers should know that over the life of our school facilities, we spend about twice the amount of money maintaining and operating them compared to the cost it took to build them in the first place. For instance, energy-efficiency measures and on-site renewables would require a first cost investment that would pay for itself many times over the life of the property.
On the board, I will advocate for responsible use of taxpayer money by highlighting the benefits of sustainability in all things.
A 10-12 year vision, which I am proposing, is an opportunity for RBHS to frame how it will re-claim a leadership position in times of massive change. I believe our school should aim to become a national leader in the debate about how best to educate our young women and men. This will require as many D208 stakeholders to participate and buy-in as possible: students, teachers, administrators, parents and taxpayers. To start, a school board retreat ought to take place that outlines the process for the creation of an ambitious D208 Vision enabled and co-owned by the community.