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.

Bessie Boyd | Provided

Previous Political Experience: board member, District 102 since 2019

Previous/Current Community Involvement: La Grange Business Association, since 2022; West Suburban Chamber of Commerce & Industry, since 2018; Equity and Achievement Team, 2018; Committee for Equity and Minority Achievement (CEMA), since 2015

Occupation: retired elementary school principal; real estate investment broker, Bessie Sells, L.L.C.; educational consultant, Legacy 4 Family L.L.C.; founder, Women of Change, a nonprofit organization

Education: College of DuPage, bachelor’s degree in elementary education, University of Illinois at Chicago; master’s degree in leadership and administration, University of Illinois at Chicago; doctorate in educational leadership, Aurora University

1. Why are you running to be on the board of LaGrange-Brookfield School District?  What motivates you and what experience and perspectives would you bring to the job?  How would those be valuable as an elected official?  

After sitting on the other side of the table as an elementary school principal for many years, I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the responsibilities of a school board member. I have been a La Grange resident for more than 50 years, a proud graduate of SD102, where I learned to read, write and do “Arithmetic” as it was known in my day at Congress Park “Home of the Vikings” and from LTHS.  I received a solid educational beginning which gave me the building blocks to achieve a doctorate in education from Aurora University.  

In addition to my desire to continue to move the work forward of our current board, I choose to give back to the community that helped me become the person I am today.  I was, I am and I will continue to be passionate about “teaching and learning” and  “creating a plan of achievement for every student – learning is not a one size fits all”. To me, it is important that our students have what they need to succeed in order to become productive, well informed and problem solvers which will guide them into the future. 

2. In recent years, District 102 has launched equity initiatives and made them an important part of its strategic plan.  What, in your view, is the value of pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives?  Has District 102 started to achieve equitable outcomes for students?  How can it do better?

What, in your view, is the value of pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives?

When I think about the value of pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, I think of my beginnings with the Committee for Equity and Minority Achievement (CEMA) in 2016. I felt then and continue to feel now, “schools should ensure that all students have equitable opportunities to learn”.  The following statement comes from the district’s Equity Policy:  

“The District strives to ensure all students regardless of racial identity or skin color, receive a diverse, relevant, rigorous and integrated curriculum based on recognized standards that provide the skills necessary to thrive in elementary school, secondary school, and beyond.”

Has District 102 started to achieve equitable outcomes for students?  

As the district continues to stive toward improving outcomes, we should also celebrate what has been accomplished.  

The District:

  • is actively working to diversify the administration, teaching and support staff as identified in the CEMA.  
  • seeks to become more efficient and effective when monitoring how decisions impact groups of students, based on data results. 
  • has developed a Student Climate survey that provides more explicit student voice
  • has crested intentional structure to infuse diversity across grades
  • has used grant funds to provide explicit outside tutoring resources.

How can it do better?

As District 102 reports improvements for many students, we are not alone in continuing to show marginal to no growth for the following groups:  Individual Education Plan (IEP), Low-Income, Black, Hispanic and English Learners.  The District has begun its focus on achieving equitable outcomes for students. I further believe that we, the board, should continue to inquire of the district’s superintendent and district and building administrators:  What are our students learning? How do we know that have learned?, and What are we doing when they are not getting it?   

Following is an Equity Policy Goal –  Student Development Goal: We commit to closing existing achievement gaps by developing instructional models based on student interests and needs. In order to achieve this goal we commit to maintaining high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction that are clearly conveyed to students and families and are free of discrimination. Click for district’s equity policy:

It is my belief that as the District continues this focus, it will become better.

3. In recent years, District 102 implemented a standard-based grading system.  What are your views of the change?  Is there anything else that needs to be done and, if so, What?

The goal for making this shift in the district was to help students, parents and staff know what the learning outcomes are for each course or grade level in order for the District to become better aligned with instructional practices and expectations across grade levels.  Using teacher developed common assessments and prioritizing what learning is essential for students,  teachers gain a deeper understand of where students are in their learning.  Following is an article based on a teacher’s experience in switching to SBG

Is there anything else that needs to be done and, if so, What?

Although the District began this practice in the upper grades, it is new to teachers in K-2.  Therefore, there is a need for continual support and transparency to continue teachers’ learning. Teachers are meeting in their grade-level teams to discuss the standards and identify common sources of evidence that will inform them of a student’s progress within a standard.  

4. The newly elected school board members will start their terms in a time of transition with Kyle Schumacher exiting as superintendent on June 30.  Do you believe that this represents an opportunity to seek new policy initiatives and, if so, what would you support pursing?  What policies do you believe should be retained?

  • One of the opportunities that presents itself with a new superintendent, is creating the district’s strategic plan.
    • The strategic plan is a working document created to guide the direction of the district.  This document should continue to promote our work on equity, identify the needs of students with special needs, measure, monitor and develop a plan for student achievement based on student data outcomes, gather feedback from district and school leaders, staff, students and effectively present the plan to all stakeholders.
  • Policies
    • At this time, the board continues to review our current policies on a regular basis.  Although, things may change, there are not any new policy initiatives being considered.  I remain in support of our current policies.  However, just as COVID 19 caused many changes within school districts worldwide, as a board, we were faced with multiple parent, student, staff along community concerns as well as state and federal must dos. With this being said, I must be open, prepared and ready to do what’s best for the district. 

5. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 102 and how should the school board address them?  

Due to my continued passion to maintain a focus on equity and student achievement, I believe that we need to understand how to effectively use student data to improve student achievement.  

  • Using Data Results to improve student achievement
  • Illinois Assessment for Readiness (IAR) – IAR is the current standardized test administered every year in Illinois to grades 3-8. The IAR is fully aligned to the Common Core State Standards and uses the same test questions from the PARCC exam. The IAR is taken on a computer and is designed to provide information about student progress toward the long-term goal of college and career readiness. In addition to the student’s individual results, the district also receives  a demographic breakdown:  Ethnicity/Race, Gender, Low Income, English Learners, with IEP’s, Youth In Care, Migrant, Military and Homeless and it measures
  • Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) – Map Growth as it is known is administered twice a year to students in grade 2-8 in District 102. The Map Growth is a computerized assessment that adapts itself to the student’s answers and identifies the student’s grade level proficiency Unlike IAR, the tests actually adjusts to the students’ performance—in real time. In other words, the more questions answered correctly, the harder they become and the more questions answered incorrectly the easier the questions become.  
  • Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) – MTSS is a data management system used in the analysis of data based decision-making about: What students have learned? and What students are ready to learn?  The District recognizes the need to leverage student data and information more efficiently and effectively to closely monitor the progress the impact has on a particular groups of students.  To further assist with this process, the  District has been building a data analytics tool through Frontline (5Lab).  This tool allows principals and the District staff  to create real-time data dashboards to help monitor student progress across many data points:  IAR, MAP, classroom and other assessments.