The Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The Landmark’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses are below.
Name: Carolyn Lach
Previous Political Experience: Member, Komarek School Board, 2015-2021
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Current member, Riverside Brookfield School Board; Parent Committee Chair and Den Leader for local Cub Scout Pack 120, 2009-2016; Parent Committee Member and Summer Camp Coordinator, Local Boy Scout Troop 24, 2014-present; Youth Soccer Coach, Fall 2011
Occupation: Director of Financial Aid, North Park University
Education: B.S. in Education with focus on math/science, Eastern Illinois University; M.A.Ed. with focus on human services and counseling, DePaul University
1. Why are you running for the board of Riverside Brookfield High School? What motivates you and what experience and perspectives would you bring to the job? How would these be valuable as an elected official?
I am running for a seat on the Board of Ed for RBHS because I feel as the parent of a current student, I have an understanding of the day-to-day activities within the school. I also understand how difficult it can be to motivate students at this point in their life to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them and want to help RBHS bridge that gap. In addition, in my career, I interpret federal regulations and guidelines on a daily basis and that experience is applicable at the school board level. As board members, we need to stay abreast of changes in state and federal policies that affect schools and pivot to implement changes with minimal guidance and often a lack of funding. Finally, as a resident of North Riverside, I feel it is important our village have a voice on the board; I want to be sure that the students and families of Komarek, the smallest feeder school into RB, have someone who can advocate on their behalf.
2. Do you believe it is necessary for Riverside-Brookfield High School to do more to better serve all students? If so, what areas do you believe need improvement? Do you believe that the high school focuses too much attention on one area in particular? How can RBHS better prepare students for college and/or career?
I believe Riverside Brookfield provides many services to its students, but there is always room for improvement. One area that needs improvement is with the community at large. If you have a student in the school, it is easier to stay informed of the happenings at the school. However, before my own children attended RB, it was not easy to find out about events the high school was sponsoring or the services they offer. In addition, ensuring that the information is readily available to Spanish speaking families in the area is important too. The school has made some recent improvements in this area, but should continue to take steps to maintain that progress.
I also feel my experience as a college administrator provides me with some perspective on what high school graduates need to be successful once they leave the halls of RB. Whether they decide to attend post-secondary education, enter the trades, or join the workforce, I have practical experience in working with 18-22 year olds and helping them navigate those first post-high school steps. I look forward to finding ways to work with RB faculty, administrators and staff to prepare students for lives of significance once they graduate.
3. Between 2006 and 2021, RBHS’ student demographics changed significantly, from 14% Hispanic, 2.8% Black and 79.4% white in 2006, to 39.3% Hispanic, 5.4% Black and 50% white in 2021. Do you believe that it is important for a school’s faculty to represent the diversity of the student body? Do you believe RBHS has made progress in recruiting teachers who reflect these changes and, if not, how can it do more in that respect?
While a long-term goal may be to increase the diversity of a school’s faculty, recruiting and retaining quality faculty that are not only experts in their subject matter, but also respectful of diverse cultures is important too. RB has quality faculty and staff, is recognized as an academically strong school within the region, and should strive to maintain these standard of excellence. I believe RBHS has tried to be thoughtful in its hiring process of both faculty and administrators, and should continue to hire qualified candidates that also reflect the changing demographics of the student population
4. In 2021, RBHS adopted a new mission statement that included equity as one of the values it was committed to achieving. How do you think the school has done regarding implementing initiatives that promote equity? What more can or should it do?
There is no doubt that during COVID it was difficult for the school to implement many changes, as we emerge from the COVID haze, equity will need to be at the forefront. There have been some opportunities to level the playing field for all students, including having student advisors as part of the Board. In my recent experience, these student advisors provide thoughtful comments and ensure student voices are presented to the Board. The Board should continue to look for opportunities to empower RBHS students to do their best in and out of the classroom.
5. As a school board member, you will play a significant role in budgeting. How will your values inform your approach to budgeting and fiscal planning?
Fiscal responsibility is a strong value of mine. From my experience as a Komarek School Board Member, I learned first-hand how important it is to utilize every dollar in the most cost-effective way possible. Many people might not realize how dependent our local schools are on property tax dollars and that the timing of those bills directly affects schools. In addition, making cost effective choices might not be the popular choice, but are necessary to maintain the fiscal health of the school. As a board member I will continue to make choices that are cost-effective without giving up the quality education the community has come to expect from RB,
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 208 and how should the school board address them?
I believe one of the biggest challenges facing District 208 is helping students deal with pressure and anxiety. Students today face many pressures, pressures to fit in, to achieve, social media, etc. Unfortunately, many lack the skills to process these things and start to shut down. Helping students deal with these emotions is important across the board.
Another challenge RB faces is improving the academic achievement of struggling students. Preparing students for successful lives and careers beyond high school is a priority. Taking into account socio-economic and technological gaps, and the job of preparing students for life beyond high school is tougher than ever. The Board must keep equity at the forefront of its decisions and policies.
Finally, one cannot overlook keeping schools safe; the RB school board and administrators needs to continue to keep communication lines open so students feel safe reporting threats to prevent situations from escalating into something tragic.