RB Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The candidates’ replies are as shown as they were received by the Landmark. For more on a candidate, click their name or photo.
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?
Dr. Bessie Emerson Boyd
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.
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.
Serving as a D102 board member is a way to contribute my knowledge and experience as a parent in the district and as an educator. Over the last eight years, I’ve seen positive change happen within the district as a whole, and being an active participant in a governing group that brings about continuous change fuels my passion for education. Being part of the D102 school board is a great way to work with a team of experts who share a vision to improve all students’ academic and social/emotional achievement.
For the past 23 years, I have dedicated my professional career to education. My expertise as a practicing educator brings a valuable perspective as a board member. Educational equality and accessibility are my top priorities; my extensive work with diverse learners, in addition to being a parent, has provided a broader perspective on education. I know the importance of teamwork to ensure voices are heard respectfully, and being a parent in the district for the past eight years has provided many experiences related to academics and school climate.
Additionally, the most valuable experience is having the privilege of serving on the D102 school board since 2021. As a current D102 board member, I see the importance of collaborating with the community and district administrators to ensure that the needs of students, faculty, and staff are considered. This experience has allowed for authentic and valuable first-hand experience on how our school board governs La Grange D102. During this year and a half, I’ve been tasked with making decisions that directly affect the district and all its stakeholders. I’ve learned to review school policies, listen and ask questions objectively, and respectfully have conversations with school administrators regarding concerns. In this short time, I believe I have been an effective voice for our community and would be honored to have the opportunity to continue learning and growing as a board member on behalf of La Grange D102.
Kathryn “Katy” McQuiston
I am running for D102 school board because I am passionate about public education. I am a working mom with a 3-year-old son, who will eventually attend D102 schools, so it is also very personal to me. I enjoy being a part of the decision-making process and want to have a seat at the table and serve as a voice for all parents and advocate for the students. I believe education is a public good and all children should have access to high-quality education. I am motivated by the desire to make a difference and serve my community.
For the past 15+ years, I have worked in various sectors– including higher education, non-profit associations, and business. I have experience working with a variety of stakeholders, I have a keen ability to listen and have also been described as someone who has a ‘bias for action’.
I have attended the majority of the board meetings for the 2022-23 school year. This has helped me understand the role of the board, the issues they face and the questions they ask of the administration.
I’m running to help improve the quality of education in the community and help make a positive impact for all students. Serving on the school board would allow me the chance to help shape the educational landscape of children in our community to best prepare them for a successful educational future.
In addition to my passion for fostering the education system for all children, I also want to help children who have challenges or need extra support. I want to help them have a voice in our community and receive equal opportunities by helping schools meet the needs of all students.
I believe my diverse experience and background can be valuable as a school board member. My leadership and management experience taught me the importance of collaborating with others and overseeing projects, including timelines and budgets. In addition, my experience in community organizations demonstrated my commitment to projects and a cause and illustrated my ability to understand and prioritize the needs of others.
I’ve also had years of experience in advocacy through my involvement with Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Texas Children’s Hospital of Austin, demonstrating a commitment to public service, utilizing my time and experiences to help others.
Most importantly, my experience being a mom of two kids, one who’s had severe special needs, has taught me patience and the skills needed to effectively advocate for their needs. I also have a unique background of experience with both the public and private school system in our community.
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?
Dr. Bessie Emerson Boyd
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.
- 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: https://www.dist102.k12.il.us/page/equity
It is my belief that as the District continues this focus, it will become 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.
District 102 is a leading school regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I’m extremely proud of the work all District 102 stakeholders have put forth to ensure all students feel a sense of belonging in our school district. From 2019-2021, I had the pleasure of being part of District 102’s Committee of Equity and Minority Achievement (CEMA) as a parent. During my time on the committee, I participated in a subgroup that focused on the underrepresentation of students of color in accelerated classes and the overrepresentation of students of color in the multi-tiered system of support. Through this subcommittee, the need for change was determined, and initiatives were created to address underrepresented students. The CEMA committee also created the current equity policy that ensures the district follows a set of guidelines. In addition to CEMA, the district is committed to creating a culture that focuses on equity by providing staff with quality professional development and equity-centered practices that align with the Social Justice Standards for Teaching Tolerance.
Additionally, the district’s efforts to promote inclusivity have resulted in more students with disabilities being included in the general education classroom. With every successful organization, there is always room for growth, and DEI should always be a priority. The district is challenged to continue to ensure that all students are meeting or exceeding expectations and continue to feel a sense of belonging in every aspect of their school experience. The efforts put forth towards DEI are continuous.
Kathryn “Katy” McQuiston
Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are important because it improves student learning and outcomes. I support these initiatives and if elected, will continue to advocate for them in D102.
All students should be able to see themselves, their families, and their culture represented in books and curriculum at all D102 schools. I believe in providing the students of D102 with a full and robust education which can sometimes mean challenging discussions on difficult topics.
In my opinion, the value of pursuing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at schools has many benefits to the students, teachers, and our community. This promotes a more inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Studies have also shown that students who feel more valued and respected perform better at school academically. Socially, it can teach students to be more accepting of others regardless of their differences, leading them to be more compassionate of others.
Based on the statement that D102 has launched these efforts, I believe it’s a great step in the right direction. However, I do feel there are always opportunities for improvement as there would be with any new initiatives, and I’m excited to be a part of this ongoing process.
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?
Dr. Bessie Emerson Boyd
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 https://www.weareteachers.com/standards-based-grading/
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.
The switch to standards-based grading has allowed for a more tailored instructional approach that enables teachers and students to understand specific areas of mastery and areas of deficit. As a parent and educator, I believe that standards-based grading is an effective method to demonstrate student growth and mastery of skills. The change from traditional grading to standards-based grading has resulted in more consistent and objective ways to measure student progress and to ensure that all students are held to a high standard. Moving away from a point-based system has encouraged students to focus on learning and not just gaining points. The ability to make mistakes without risks and continue to practice these skills till mastery creates perseverance and promotes a growth mindset. Standards-based grading also supports the multi-tiered system of support framework. The process of targeting specific skills guides teachers to identify struggling students and address their learning deficits immediately. As a parent, I’ve experienced the benefits of this process first-hand and attribute my children’s growth to this process. Since this grading system depends largely on rubrics and other scoring guides, I believe specific, targeted feedback that clearly communicates where students are at and what they need to do to reach their full potential is essential.
Kathryn “Katy” McQuiston
I support the change to the standard-based grading system. I believe this grading system offers a more accurate assessment of the student’s progress and achievement. With any new system or policy, it is worthwhile to evaluate how it is working for all stakeholders including students, teachers and parents.
As with any issue, I try to understand both sides of the situation and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages to create a non-biased opinion. I believe this system can be a very effective way to rate each student’s academic achievement and identify the areas in which he/she needs additional instruction, allowing schools to focus on learning rather than grades. I believe in order to be most effective, there must be feedback from the teachers and parents about areas students struggle with the most in order to have educators be able to adequately address the deficiencies in these areas.
My concern with this system long-term as it relates to high school and college is the potential to inadequately prepare students for their educational success as it could present challenges with scholarship applications and admission processes with advanced education systems. There could also be a lack of motivation from students who thrive more on a standard grading system.
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?
Dr. Bessie Emerson Boyd
- 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.
- 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.
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.
The addition of new board members, along with the new superintendent, will create an environment for new policy initiatives. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to those initiatives which further improve the educational environment for all students in the district. Together with the superintendent, the D102 school board should review policies regularly to ensure that these policies are in compliance with state and federal regulations and are relevant to the district. Many school policies are important for the success and well-being of students. Continuing to pursue policies that prohibit discrimination and create a safe and inclusive environment is essential. The D102 school board needs to ensure that things are done with fidelity and that processes are put in place to monitor implementation and success.
Kathryn “Katy” McQuiston
I support the policies of the current board and hope the new superintendent prioritizes learning about our district before proposing major changes. I think initiatives and policies related to diversity, equity and inclusion should be retained.
This is a very exciting time for our schools with the transition of a new superintendent starting this year. I think while Kyle’s dedication has been admirable and his efforts appreciated, it’s important to view this as an opportunity to have a new viewpoint, different set of skills, and background to our community. I think the biggest focus should be on improving communication within our schools and families, including collaborating with the community. I think it’s also important to help foster a caring and inclusive school environment in which the needs of every child matter and are met. Lastly, I think the primary focus should always be ensuring student achievement.
Beyond these efforts, I would welcome the opportunity to learn more about the Superintendent’s opinions about our policies, and what they feel should be the top priorities for the schools in our community and develop a system in which we could all collaboratively determine what policies are most/least effective.
5. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 102 and how should the school board address them?
Dr. Bessie Emerson Boyd
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 https://www.isbe.net/iar
- 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 https://web.risd.org/mtss/wp-content/uploads/NWEA-MAP-Parent-Overview-English.pdf 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? https://www.dist102.k12.il.us/page/mtss 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. https://www.dist102.k12.il.us/page/assessment
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.
I feel fortunate to be a part of a high-performing, student-centered school district that is grounded in its strategic plan and has a solid foundation in equity work. Although the district has many wonderful initiatives, there is always room for growth. As evident by both state and district data, D102 continues to be challenged with closing the achievement gap. Guided by the strategic plan, the D102 school board ensures accountability by reviewing data and asking questions regarding initiatives that target this challenge. Additionally, with six schools and three different communities, communication can vary greatly. Having a unified communication plan that includes all stakeholders is essential for maintaining transparency. Furthermore, collecting and reviewing data is an ongoing challenge that forces the district to evaluate effective programming and determine its efficacy in achieving student growth. A critical responsibility of the D102 School Board is to approve curricula that will be implemented across all schools.
Kathryn “Katy” McQuiston
The current board has done a great job over the past several years. They faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic and they successfully brought the students and teachers back to the classroom.
One challenge facing D102 is revising and strengthening the academic programs to ensure they meet the needs of all students. I think the way to address this is to fully review the curriculum and ensure that it is peer reviewed and based in science. This is no small task, but I think it is important that we hold high curriculum standards.
The need to ensure that all students receive the highest-quality education possible, so they have the opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential. Some of these challenges can include meeting diverse students’ needs, recruiting and retention of quality educators, and providing a safe and healthy learning environment.
Therese O’Sullivan did not submit responses.