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: Justin Clark
Previous Political Experience: None
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Involved with AYSO and LGLL
Occupation: Associate Principal of Building Operations, Richards High School
Education: Undergraduate: Family Consumer Science/Business, Secondary Education/English; Graduate: Masters in Ed. Leadership, Masters in Literacy, Doctorate in Ed. Leadership
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?
High schools should judge their success on students reaching their post-high school goals. Regardless if a student’s goal is college, the skilled trades, the military or a career, Lyons Township High School should offer rich, innovative and real world opportunities and experiences for all students both in and out of the classroom. As an LTHS school board candidate, what matters to me most is supporting a high school where dreams are realized.
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?
A school district hires a director of equity and belonging to examine student experience to better understand why a group of students are not achieving at an academic level deemed “on grade level” or above. The goal is to create systems and a general culture in the school where all students’ voices are included; therefore, each student has a fair chance to achieve the goal they set for themselves. I have not seen data on how students grow once they enter LTHS nor how they do once they leave LTHS, so I cannot answer that question.
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?
While I have been going door to door in every one of our communities, this issue has come up the most—especially regarding the homework. What for sure needs to be done is an evaluation of the grading policy through the lens of different data points, including but not limited to standardized test data post the policy change, homework completion data post the policy change, and stakeholder qualitative data post the change (MOSTLY graduated students and how it has affected them post high school). If all of these suggest that the policy change was detrimental to LTHS students’ academic achievement, it should be changed, immediately.
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?
The school is lacking in providing data that shows if students are growing over there four years as a student at LTHS and prepared to thrive post high school. There are “traditional” ways to examine student growth (e.g. growth through the SAT Suite of Assessments) and novel ways (student preparedness based on first year post high school surveys/focus groups). LTHS offers a wide range of AP (Advanced Placement) and Dual Credit courses, which is very beneficial for our 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?
If I was a sitting board member right now, I would vote no to the selling of the land. I would immediately work with school officials and other board members to create a process to gather stakeholders together from all of our communities to discuss the sale, understand their concerns, work towards a resolution, and move to sell the land based on the outcome of the conversations. Once the sale of the land is finalized, continue updates and meetings on how the sale of the land is contributing to the needed upgrades to LTHS.
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 204 and how should the school board address them?
- Grading Policy–especially regarding homework: Community members believe that LTHS is lowering the bar for both academic rigor and teaching students how to hold themselves accountable. As a school board member, I would ask to see data (both quantitative and qualitative) on its effectiveness and move forward on making changes based on the examination of the data.
- Sale of Willow Springs Property: Community members believe that the board and the superintendent have not been honest in their communication and advancement of the sale of the Willow Springs Road property. To remedy this, taking a step back by stopping the process in motion to sell the land, getting input from stakeholders, and then moving forward with selling of the land with a plan based on the conversations had with the various stakeholders.
- LTHS Facilities: Needing an upgrade of facilities–specifically air conditioning in the north campus and upgrades to classrooms. As a board member, I would ask for a group of school stakeholders to prioritize facility upgrades and then look for both short term and long-term budgeting sources—which can include the funds raised by the selling of the Willow Springs land.