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: Jill Beda Daniels
Previous Political Experience: Current board member, District 204
Previous/Current Community Involvement: president, Ogden PTC; board member, Lyons Swim Club
Education: J.D., Loyola University Chicago
1. Why are you running for the board of Lyons Township High School (LTHS)? 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 a long time member of this community, this is the place we chose to raise our children. I am grateful for the support and opportunities the District has given to us over the years and I would like to give something back. That is why I originally chose to run two years ago and the reason I am running again.
I am excited about the progress we have made over the past two years and looking forward to seeing it continue. After a thorough process that involved a lot of community engagement, we completed a Strategic Plan that will guide LT for the next three to five years. We worked with the administration to improve our curriculum, incorporating a co-taught model and the continued improvement to the EL program as well as many facilities improvements including almost 7 million spent on air conditioning for 64 classrooms and many exciting things to come.
I am running as an incumbent, having spent the past two years serving on LT’s board. I am also the only attorney on the Board and no other attorneys are running. My experience as an attorney gives me a unique perspective on the challenges and issues Board members face.
2. For the 2021-22 school year, LTHS hired a director of equity and belonging and launched initiatives to address equity. What, in your view, is the value of pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives? Has LTHS started to achieve equitable outcomes for students? How can it do better?
Dr. Rowe in her position has pushed us forward to bring professional learning for the staff and oversees LT’s student and equity committee and help guide the administration and board in moving forward. This position allows us to stay current with things we should do to include all. It brings an innovative approach to creating a school where all students belong.
LT’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives are important because the data shows that marginalized students are significantly behind. This is the reason why LT lags behind its peer districts, like Hinsdale Central. We can close that gap by giving those students the resources they need to thrive.
3. During the past year or so, there has been much discussion about modifications to LTHS’ grading system. What are your views on the change/tweaks? Do you believe that there is anything else that needs to be done and, if so, what?
There has been a robust dialog on this topic among the Board, Administration and LT community. As a result, LT has listened and adapted its policies. This topic requires continuous evaluation and a spirit of flexibility as we evaluate what’s working and what isn’t with input from all stakeholders.
4. There has been some discussion in the District 204 community about whether or not LTHS is maintaining high academic standards and preparing students adequately for college and careers. Can you provide examples in which the school may be lacking or in which it excels in delivering a high-quality high school education?
Like students across Illinois, LT students are still recovering from the devastating impact of the pandemic. But, we continue to make progress in key areas. We are working hard to close the achievement / opportunity gap, in part by improving LT’s EL program. Additionally, a co-taught model has been implemented which is amazing for so many students. We are justifiably proud of LT’s ability to provide so many different opportunities through its many clubs and athletic programs. While we are happy that so many of our students progress to college to further their education, we recognize that this is not the best path for everyone. We are equally proud of our ability to prepare students for vocational training. There are so many opportunities for all students.
5. District 204’s board of education is planning to sell 70-acres of land it owns in Willow Springs, possibly before the next school board is seated. What is your view on whether or not the land should be sold? If you support the sale, what do you believe is the best use of the proceeds?
A potential sale can bring valuable resources to our district and community. As a board we are driven by our strategic plan which was implemented with the vision of all stakeholders (community, teachers, students and administration). A sale for this property would allow LTHS to make key investments in our facilities which is part of Goal Five of our Strategic Plan. Such improvements will benefit students in many significant ways, giving them opportunities and resources which our current facilities do not offer — the range of possibilities is exciting for all. Using our current resources to achieve this without a referendum is impactful for all in our District.
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 204 and how should the school board address them?
- Modernizing our aging infrastructure
- Maintaining sound financial management
- Carrying out the vision of our Strategic Plan
- Student Growth and Achievement: Provide a comprehensive, innovative education for every student to ensure all students grow and achieve.
- Learning Environment & Supports: Provide a safe, inclusive and engaging learning environment.
- High-Quality, Diverse Staff: Invest in staff and culture to ensure innovation, collaboration and accountability.
- Family and Community Partnerships: Partner with families and the community to support and expand learning opportunities for all students.
- Resource Effectiveness and Efficiencies: Allocate necessary resources to maximize educational success for all students.
LT’s strategic plan was developed in partnership with community stakeholders and provides our vision for the next five years or so. By staying focused on this plan, we will maintain the great aspects of our school while strengthening it in targeted areas.
Over the years, LT has maintained a sound financial position. At the same time, our facilities are in need of modernization and development. We must look for responsible ways to provide funding for needed improvements that will carry LT forward.