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: Molly Knott
Previous Political Experience: Brookfield Beautification Commission; volunteer for many local and federal campaigns
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Volunteer, Moms Demand Action; Social Justice Story Hours at Brookfield Library; PTC treasurer at Congress Park Elementary School
Education: B.A. in Education, Bradley 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?
I have been a District 102 community member for over 20 years. Throughout that time, my children attended Congress Park Elementary and Park Junior High. I spent 9 years as a Talent Development and Fourth Grade teacher at Congress Park and Cossitt Elementary Schools. In these roles I learned a lot about the district and its students and families. Since I now teach in another district, I want to remain involved in the community where I live—I care about the students, families, and residents of District 102.
My experience as a teacher and parent in 102 has given me a unique perspective on the district that will inform my role as a board member and be a huge benefit to the community. Throughout the years, I was deeply involved in the life of the schools in my roles as a parent and educator. I was active in the Congress Park PTC, serving as treasurer. As a teacher, I worked to write curriculum, embraced new equity initiatives, and experienced the professional development made available to teachers. I have attended each board meeting this year, learning the current state of the district. I have a solid base of knowledge about where the district is and where it should be headed.
As a parent and teacher I developed the values I would bring to my role as a board member. Equity matters: All students deserve a rigorous education and opportunity to achieve. Student achievement: Student achievement can be measured in many ways, and it’s the role of a board member to recognize, support, and lift all the ways students achieve. Educators deserve support: District 102 should invest in highly qualified educators and programs that are research-based. Retaining effective teachers should be a high priority of the district. Teachers are the experts of the field and know the specific needs of their students.
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?
Equity is a huge priority of mine. When I was teaching in the district, I was proud to be an early adopter of the equity work and vision of District 102. My journey to understanding the inequities in our education system has been long and I understand how important it is to provide an equitable education for our students. There are many components to a student’s identity and it is the role of school to embrace and support those identities so all students feel safe at school. Only when students feel safe can in depth learning occur.
The initiatives in place now are a start, but we must continue to do the work. Continuing to pursue diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives is mandatory for all our students to be successful. We must understand that all of our students are not starting from the same place. Diversity, equity, and inclusion training for staff members should be further implemented. Hiring highly qualified staff members who reflect the student population should be a priority.
3. In recent years, District 102 implemented a standards-based grading system. What are your views of the change? Is there anything else that needs to be done and, if so, what?
In 2019 I was part of the first team in District 102 to implement standards-based grading. Standards-based grading provides the students, families, and educators with specific knowledge of which skills have been mastered and which are still in-progress . This data is imperative to best guide students through their learning.
Although the mindset shift was challenging years ago, I believe the students, families, and educators now understand how helpful standards-based grading is. Many LTHS feeder schools utilize standards-based grading, and LTHS has recently shifted to more of a standards-based grading system. Our District 102 students and families are prepared for the high school system.
Like all systems within a school, questions should continuously be asked. It is the role of the board to work to make sure our systems, grading and otherwise, are most effective for our students, families, and educators.
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 pursuing? What policies do you believe should be retained?
I would like to see an in-depth curriculum review in the near future. There are programs and resources that are based on the science of reading and writing that I would like to see in our classrooms. The district mathematics program is currently being reviewed and I want to see a program that, when implemented with fidelity, will improve the state standardized scores in math. Our students deserve a science program that provides transformative experiences. They also deserve an inquiry-based social studies curriculum that provides the power for students to know they can make an impact on their local and global communities.
As a board member, I will hold the newly hired superintendent to a high standard of growing the equity work that has been started in the district. I’m hopeful the new superintendent will bring in previous experience and expertise in this work.
I would also like to analyze the student use of technology in the district. I believe that technology can aid greatly in education, if used correctly. Our students should be using technology to create innovative presentations to share their learning. They should be using technology to connect with and learn from students around the world.
5. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 102 and how should the school board address them?
Retention of the highly qualified and passionate staff is a challenge. According to the state report card, 26.7% of staff left District 102 last year, more than twice the state average. Asking for exit interviews would be a way to understand why so many staff members are leaving. After understanding the causes, we can conduct a root-cause analysis to come up with solutions to retain staff. I want District 102 to be a place where staff members feel cared for, supported, fulfilled, and excited about their work. When that happens, everyone wins.
The social and emotional needs of students have shifted throughout the past three years. As a board member, I would strongly support research-based programs that meet the emotional needs of students. I would support staff training that helps them to reach the students in this ever shifting world. The students of District 102 need to feel empowered with knowledge, critical thinking, love, and compassion. Our teachers and staff can do that if we empower them with strong support.