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 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 feel as though I have an obligation to run for the school board because I believe in giving back to my community. From a very young age, I was taught that education is the key to many of the greatest things in life and that giving back is important and expected. While I typically like to serve my community quietly, I believe my experiences and talents make me an excellent candidate for the Lyons Township School Board, and it is time for me to serve more publicly. I am running for the school board to support our students, school, and community which I hold in the highest regard. I believe my 26 years as a social worker and administrator in many different educational environments will be an asset to our community. My dedication to my family and commitment to the service of others will always come first in my life. While I don’t like campaigning or discussing my accomplishments, I do feel it’s important for people to understand my motivation for running. I currently work for a district of 25,000+ students and it brings challenges and difficult conversations. My job is to empathize, work to build consensus, and sometimes deliver difficult decisions. While this can be challenging, I work to really listen and always try to do what is in the best interest of the students, school, parents, and community. I believe this will lend itself to being a strong and compassionate liaison to the community while working together with my board colleagues and administration to deliver an education that truly prepares our students for the future.
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.
Jill Beda Daniels
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.
I am the current LTHS District 204 school board president and over the last four years, we’ve accomplished so much. I’m excited about what’s ahead with the recent adoption of our Strategic Plan, an LT first. There are so many reasons why I’m running again, but at the core:
- I firmly believe in public education. Not only do I believe in it, but I am a champion for it.
- I support and admire our teachers and administrators. LT has an impressive reputation for retaining highly qualified teachers and administrators who care deeply about our students.
- I love our community and I believe the high school is the heart of it. This is the last stop on our children’s education journey before they launch careers or go on to higher education.
I have served on the LTHS District 204 board for the last four years, helped navigate through a pandemic and hired a new superintendent. I know it takes patience, dedication and collaboration to work with a team of seven. Together, we effectively implemented a 1:1 laptop distribution program; developed the first district equity statement; established the Director of Student Services and Director of Equity & Belonging roles; enabled the first live-streamed board meetings, upgraded 64 classrooms with air conditioning and recently completed a community-engaged facilities study to identify future projects/needs to improve our aging campuses.
I am running because I feel that the school has strayed from its fundamental responsibility of providing a safe, inclusive, and challenging learning environment for students- and that I can help guide the school back to those basic principles.
I have been self-employed my entire adult life. First as a floor trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, then as a financial advisor since 2002. I understand budgeting and finance along with the responsibilities of a business owner–such as meeting payroll and operating expenses.
A businessowners perspective would help the Board become better stewards of taxpayer funds.
My desire to give back is part of my DNA. I believe the Lyons Township HS Strategic Plan is sound and thought my previous school board experience might be a good fit for me to lend a hand.
The true motivator came about during college visits with my youngest daughter in 2021. One admissions counselor said to us, “it’s statistically impossible for that many Lyons Township High School students to have a 4.0 or above GPA. We know about the school’s retake policies on tests and homework not counting, its hurting kids coming from that school.”
This was totally a different take on LTHS than what I had heard during college visits in 2017 with my eldest daughter. When touring colleges that year, whenever we brought up LTHS, admissions counselors said she would be well prepared and that “Lyons Township High School was the equivalent of a college prep school”.
Continued lack of communication with their constituents over the years, lately with the Willow Springs property issues, has shown what can happen with an inexperienced board and superintendent.
Watching these things, I knew I wanted and could do something to help.
I believe my 12 years of previous school board experience would be an asset to the community. As a Board member, I will be committed and focused on working with the Board and administration and guided by the LTHS Strategic Plan to improve student performant, provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, teachers, and staff, and build trust, transparency, and cooperation within the communities of the Lyons Township High School District
I am running for the Board because I am concerned about the dip in academic proficiency and believe there is need for improvement on providing safe environments for all students. Mentoring for the school’s Incubator program has given me a hands-on opportunity to observe students in their environment. I believe this experience, combined with my background in business ownership and executive management, provides me with the skillset needed to solve problems and help create solutions to our current challenges.
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?
These initiatives are embedded in our Illinois State Standards. More importantly, they are important for teaching our students to be good humans. Many feel that by requiring this we are taking away from someone else. If you are a sports fan, sociologist, or naturalist, you know that organisms/organizations work better when they are together. These initiatives are not meant to make people feel bad for who they are. They are designed to make us all feel better by working together. These are the lessons our students need to be productive in their future work lives, family lives, and community lives.
I believe this administrator’s role is to ensure that the district’s strategic plan is being implemented with integrity. Specifically, goals two and three are where I would expect this position to play an invaluable role. I would expect that the Director of Equity and Belonging would be ensuring the professional development of the staff providing a vision for how to engage all stakeholders in creating a positive school climate while working with both students and staff to support all students’ sense of belonging to the LTHS school community. This role must ensure our school community feels listened to, safe, and free from hateful speech and actions. My role on the board would be to ask questions and ensure the voice of the students, staff, administration, and greater school community is heard, creating opportunities to have hard conversations while ensuring all voices are heard through respectful dialogue. Through these questions, I would be looking for data and actionable plans to reinforce the vision of this role in collaboration with the strategic plan. I believe there has been a good start in this role from a professional development point of view, however, I see this role beginning to have a more actionable impact directly on our student body as the position continues to evolve. This role is critical to creating a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning community.
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.
Jill Beda Daniels
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.
This is a position that I was instrumental in helping to create and I am passionate about the importance of this role. Dr. Rowe has been a valuable addition to the LT team. In her role, she is responsible for assessing and addressing disparities and barriers that prevent marginalized groups from achieving their full potential. The role seeks to ensure historically underserved groups will get the supports they need to have the same opportunities as student groups who are not underserved.
With this role, we’ve implemented professional training and begun evaluating our processes, procedures and policies. We have a lot more work to do, but I am committed to making LT a welcoming space for all to feel as though they belong. It is with that focus, that we can affect true learning.
As a board member, I will continue to support these initiatives and look forward to evaluating our progress along the way.
I feel that every student regardless of race or socio-economic status should have support and access to every resource available to help them learn and succeed. Has this not always been the case at LTHS?
I don’t know if they have achieved “equitable” outcomes. What I do know, though, is that there have been several high-profile incidents/fights at LTHS- reported in the media- that have resulted in significant monetary payouts to those affected. I would advocate for an analysis of what has changed the in culture of LTHS to allow such incidents to become commonplace and find a solution to stop this unacceptable behavior.
I believe that all children and staff have the right to be treated equally with respect, dignity, and kindness. As a Board member, I would not tolerate any behavior that led to any discrimination, bullying or any other inappropriate behavior directed at anyone due to their race, sex or sexual orientation and insist that the administration ensure that every student has a safe learning environment that is intimidation free. The administration needs to ensure that policies are in place and enforce policies that help deliver a safe, discrimination free and bullying free equitable environment for every student and staff member.
Equity in education is ensuring that students with the greatest need are receiving the services and resources to help them reach their academic and social and emotional developmental goals. Based on the performance of LT’s tier 2 and tier 3 students, LT is falling short and the administration needs to develop plans to significantly improve differentiation in the classroom to help this group of students close the achievement gap. At the same time, we need to insure we are providing resources and opportunities for our highest achieving students. Additionally, I would like to see the district work with the communities with students that have the greatest needs to put in place programs to meet students in their communities to assist with social, emotional, and academic needs.
Recovery from Covid has led to significant decline in social and emotional health with our children. Over the next several years additional resources will be needed to continue to help get our children back to where they need to be emotionally. An improved social and emotional environment should also help improve an equitable outcome with student achievement.
Every student should receive an equitable education. People with special academic and learning needs should have the resources they need to succeed.
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?
I was very pleased that the changes that were made. While this philosophy of “not yet”, meaning we don’t move on to the next lesson until everyone understands the material, is good in philosophy, it did not work. Homework has value. It is through the required practice that learning occurs. Once value was placed back on homework, I’ve seen firsthand how learning became stronger. The newest debate is on retaking assessments. While I do think students should have an opportunity to retake an exam, there must be requirements put in place to take them. You must have skin in the game. This means before you are allowed to retake an assessment, all of your homework must be turned in and you should either complete another study guide so teachers know you are prepared or meet with your teacher to ensure you are vested in the process. While some may say there aren’t redos in life, we have all been given second chances when we make mistakes. But we need to earn them. Failing and moving on isn’t helping our test scores, or, most importantly, our students.
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.
Jill Beda Daniels
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.
A review of LT’s grading processes began in 2014 to streamline and provide a consistent education experience for all students regardless of who was teaching their courses. These improvements were rooted in a research-based methodology that has been in practice nationally for more than 20 years. The process included a review of course content and grading policies within each division, which took several years and included input from student/parent surveys. The rollout was then applied across the entire system.
The timing of the rollout during the pandemic, had a direct influence on the success of this initiative and like all significant process updates, needed some adjustments once applied. LT listened to feedback from teachers, the students and the parents, which resulted in the grading system currently used today:
Teachers agree to a common syllabus and gradebook, coursework can account for no more than 10% of the final grade, course teams may choose to limit retakes if applicable, and every course culminates in a final exam experience as defined by the instructor.
The current system provides teachers with flexibility and autonomy while keeping the experience for each and every student consistent.
LTHS needs to tighten the requirement for homework, testing and attendance. Multiple test retakes, late homework acceptance and lax attendance requirements are unacceptable. So, yes- it needs to change. Back to basics.
The tweaks are an improvement from an unequivocally poor decision made by the Board and administration that hurt children, left them unprepared upon leaving LT and left some children out of the running of their college of choice. However, I think they need to go much further. Homework needs to count more towards a student’s final grade, homework should not be allowed to be turned in weeks late. Test retake policies should be evaluated and targeted to promote additional learning, not just a regurgitation of what the student missed and learning that content to get an A. Retakes should be different from the first tests so students can truly master the materials they did not know. The number of retake options should be minimal
Additionally, staff should come up with other ways to help encourage learning and improve student performance for those kids that need it most with things like extra credit. If students want to put in the work, they should be rewarded. The biggest reward will likely be improved academic performance which can lead to better outcomes in many areas of a student’s life, not just education. With the past and current policies, the district is failing to teach and enforce accountability, quality of work and preparing students for the next step in their life.
I would like to see the administration perform a curriculum audit and ensure that their curriculum is aligned with the SAT tests. If changes are needed to align to the college aptitude tests, I would like to see those happen as soon as possible. Standardized tests can’t be the only tool that analyzes student performance, but with lacking test taking and homework policies, it is unfortunately one of the few tools we have to evaluate student performance.
The deficiencies in student performance, some of it driven by the pandemic, requires a different approach than we have done historically in education. We need to have a team that is dedicated to constant evaluation of data from staff and other evaluation tools around student performance to triage our greatest areas of need. Our teachers are our best resource to understand student achievement deficiencies, we need to leverage them to help make rapid response decisions on where we deploy resources or alter curriculum to help our students close the achievement gap and be better prepared for their next steps.
It’s highly concerning to see math levels at 53% and reading at 49% as provided on Illinoisreportcard.com. The bottom line is we need to get back to basics, and be willing to change tactics in real time as often as needed to reach our goals.
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?
These discussions have been about a singular assessment: the SAT or DLM. We know that there is a faction of students who do not perform well on tests. We also know that, for the past two years, colleges weren’t requiring an SAT score for admittance (and still today), and the value for students to take the test was very low. While many colleges and universities have let the SAT go by the wayside, this doesn’t mean that these assessments aren’t valuable. This assessment provides the district with valuable information about how prepared our students are for postsecondary learning. They also provide a data point for colleges and universities to allocate scholarship opportunities. While there are downfalls to these high-stakes assessments, including the struggle for students who aren’t good test takers and racially biased questions, it is important for the school to recognize these challenges and work to eliminate these barriers. This can and should be done by ensuring the curriculum pacing is aligned with the PSAT and SAT exams, teaching testing techniques, vocabulary development, and offering test prep courses. There also needs to be continued education for the student population and families as to why these assessments are so important so they can find value in them. What is unique to Lyons Township students is the various level options for courses. Many high schools have honors and AP classes; however many don’t offer a step between traditional courses and honors courses as LTHS does with excel courses. There are options for strong academic rigor in our school. Our responsibility (staff, administration, board, parents, and community) is to ensure our students are prepared for these high-stakes tests.
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.
Jill Beda Daniels
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.
I personally believe that standardized tests are just one metric out of many that tell the story of student success. That said, this is an area that LT continues to work on. Specifically, this year the new testing coordinator has been instrumental in collaborating with the academic divisions to identify standardized test areas where LT students need improvement and ways that instructors can help students better prepare for that content. We are also looking at strategies to improve the outcomes for historically underrepresented groups through co-teaching and partnering with Equal Opportunity Schools.
According to ISBE, students at LTHS are performing at a 49% reading proficiency, 28% are chronically absent yet LTHS graduates 95% of students?? How can this be? Colleges and universities see this and know that a LTHS diploma is not the advantage it once was. Students are not prepared, and this is unacceptable.
My daughter is a freshman at the University of Kentucky, during her first week she called us in a panic saying, “I don’t get to retake tests here, LT did not prepare me for this”. This is the complete opposite of the experience my oldest daughter had just 4 years earlier when during her first year at Western Michigan she shared that she had students in college classes that didn’t know how to properly write a term paper and that LT had really prepared her for college.
In the last two years we have also heard about more students being deferred and or outright denied from colleges they qualified for, but for some reason were denied.
As one of nine members of my family to have graduated from LT, the one thing LT has been known for is preparing its students for the next steps after high school. Unfortunately, over the last few years the priority of providing an academically challenging curriculum with differentiation in the classroom to bring the best possible academic outcome for students has become a lower priority for the school, which shows in declining school rankings. We must focus our attention and efforts and reestablish LT as the high achieving and well-respected school it used to be.
I do believe there is a drop in performance levels, and we are missing the mark in post graduate preparedness. We have a reported 95% grad rate and a 28% chronic absenteeism rating – how can that be? It is also reported that 20% of students who go to Community College have to take remedial courses.
I have personally spoken to students that graduated last year and they said they weren’t prepared for college; they were shocked at the amount of homework, the penalties they faced for non-attendance, and that test taking had a major impact on their grades. The ownership is on the students at the college level – they are not prepared for this. I have also talked to students who never did/had homework, attended class less than 50% of the time and still graduated. How can this be?
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?
I understand that the board is looking to generate much needed revenue to support infrastructure for our school without having to try to pass a referendum. However, ultimately, it is up to the village of Willow Springs to change the zoning to allow the purchase. I believe the current board was looking for the most value, knowing the village will ultimately need to accept the proposal. This is an outsider’s point of view. With any major decision, thousands of smaller decisions must be made. I cannot begin to know all the questions that were asked, what variables were considered, and the results of the thousands of smaller decisions that were made to come to the point they are now. However, I do question how much transparency and communication there was with the community. I do appreciate the communication that was shared on January 26th, however, the community made it clear that they were not aware of the direction the district was heading. Whether the district felt it was open in their communication or not, doesn’t matter if the community feels disenfranchised. Currently, I am not a fan of selling this property to industry, however taking a definitive side without knowing all the information, I believe, is reckless and irresponsible.
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.
Jill Beda Daniels
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.
It is the school board’s fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to make decisions on behalf of the district that will benefit all students at the least expense to all taxpayers. The proceeds from a potential sale could dramatically improve the infrastructure of our campuses and would contribute to fulfilling strategic Goal 5.
LTHS owns the land, and it is their right to sell. However, I DO NOT support the sale of the land to an industrial developer. The land is not zoned for commercial property, it would decimate the property values of the surrounding community and negatively affect the health of students at Pleasantdale Elementary. Furthermore, the lack of transparency by the Board in the decision to sell is alarming. Such an impactful decision should have had significant involvement of the residents and surrounding communities. I feel strongly that a decision should WAIT until after the new Board is seated and community engaged properly.
I support the sale only under my previously stated conditions. If those conditions are met, only then will a discussion of which infrastructure or investment needs to support LTHS is appropriate.
I am not in favor of and would not support the sale of the land to an industrial developer in Willow Springs. The district continues to say they will use the proceeds on facility improvements as part of their strategic plan, but the board has yet to share any of those details.
The process the district has taken is completely backwards. Having done school facility improvements in a previous Board role, the first thing that should have been done is coming up with plans working with the district’s architects at a variety of price points and presented it to the community prior to engaging in conversations about selling the land. The next step would have been to engage the leadership of Willow Springs and let them know their intent, and finally should have had the property appraised for the zoning that is approved which is residential, then reviewed the value of that versus the facility improvements you would like to do and scale the project based on the money you might be able to receive. Finally, they should have presented their options to the community and the communities that would be most affected by the land sale prior to initiating any part of the sale process.
There’s been zero transparency on the sale of property till last November – a total disregard for the residents of Willow Springs. The property is already zoned residential, lite retail and senior living, but the only bids received were for industrial development, this I oppose. I feel the land should be sold maintaining the integrity of the community; especially with a grade school located so close to it. I would support selling to developers who would not have a negative effect on homeowners and/or quality of life. This timeline has made people question trust for the board. Closed door meetings promote the lack of transparency.
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 204 and how should the school board address them?
Academic Rigor–We need to motivate kids to come to school and attend class on time. As students get older at LTHS, we see higher chronic truancy rates. Students who feel safe, welcome, and wanted in any environment do better. This is no different than us as adults. If we work in a supportive environment, we perform better. I believe this is already occurring at LTHS, however, it must always remain a focus for our school. Similarly, we must continue to maintain the academic rigor of our students to ensure they are prepared for high-stakes tests. This requires scheduled curriculum reviews and revisions to ensure our curriculum aligns with these assessments. Similarly, the school must continue to provide test preparation for our students to ensure performance on these assessments. Post Covid, we must continue to show students the value of doing well on the tests regardless of college’s requirements of these exams for admittance and scholarship opportunities.
Social Emotional Support for Students–I applaud LTHS for their increase in social workers and counselors over the past several years. We find comfort in data and statistics, however, the recent study by the CDC (USA Today CDC Article) and the warnings we are hearing from the Surgeon General (Surgeon General Warning) shows that students are experiencing more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), struggling with anxiety and depression more than ever before, and ultimately completing suicide at higher rates. This is far from comforting and schools have an obligation to intervene when we know this epidemic is in our schools. There is more work to be done to improve the social and emotional support for students and I believe that I have the knowledge, connections, and insight to help facilitate this change.
Facilities-In order for students to learn at a high level, they need to be in a comfortable environment that supports their engagement in class. While I love the historical aesthetics of LTHS, we need air conditioning. Students struggle to learn when they are overheating in the fall and spring. This in combination with older classrooms that need updating, facilities like locker rooms, bathrooms, gyms, and cafeterias need to be modernized and made more accessible. I know that this has been at the forefront of our school and board’s priorities as witnessed at Lyons Township Community Advisory Council meetings. This is a priority that our board needs to continue to support.
- 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.
Jill Beda Daniels
- 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.
- Academically. Providing opportunities to improve student learning. And that starts with our teachers. Late start days on Wednesdays give our teachers the time needed to enhance their lessons, evaluate progress, connect with division teams and students to improve academic retention and learning.
- Emotionally. We restructured our student services division and increased the number of counselors to align with national standards. We’re continually working to improve the ways in which we support our students and their families through resources beyond our school walls.
- Socially. We’re creating opportunities for our students to connect with each other and within the community through charity events, volunteer opportunities and working with local businesses.
Improving campus facilities while maintaining fiscal responsibility
Our buildings were built in 1888 and 1957. And in many areas, it still looks like it. It’s about more than just updating the aesthetics. It’s about function. To leverage new technologies and best teaching practices, we need learning spaces that are conducive to collaboration and co-teaching.
We need updates that will extend the life of existing facilities, address life/safety issues and improve accessibility. And many of our student and community athletic and wellness facilities need updating as well.
Fulfilling the goals of our strategic plan
The facility improvements are tied to Goal 5 of our strategic plan, but we have four other detailed goals we’re working on simultaneously. We have begun to make strides with Goal 1 of improving student growth and achievement – 2022 marks the highest number of students taking at least one AP exam. And we continue to work on closing the achievement gap through a partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools. We’re making strides on Goal 2 of providing an inclusive learning environment through professional development for staff and improving intervention systems and supports for our students. Goals 3 and 4 are evolving as we expand our hiring outreach to accurately reflect the LT community and find better ways to connect and build relationships with families and the greater community.
Guiding the school back to pre-pandemic levels of excellence, allowing transparency and developing community engagement. We need to restore our school rating to a 10, provide a safe learning environment for all students and become accountable for all social, fiscal and educational directives.
Earning the trust of the community back. From Covid back to school missteps, violations of the open meetings act, attempts to silence constituents and lastly the many failures and tone-deaf responses to the Willow Springs community has made this difficult to repair. The board needs to improve their lines of communication with the community. If elected, I will ask for and publish my LT email address so the community can reach out to a Board member, I will encourage other board members to do the same. I will ask the board to go on listening tours and town halls in our feeder communities to help improve communication. Finally, I will ask the administration to foster and improve relationships with village leadership from the municipalities that feed into LTHS.
I believe the Board needs three new members to help foster in an improved environment of trust. I believe my 12 years of experience as a Board member would go a long way to helping repair the trust barrier that currently exists. Even if you are doing everything right, if the community does not trust you, it is very difficult to govern. If we can rebuild the trust in the community, providing the tools to improve student performance should also be easier to achieve.
I believe academics and safety are the biggest challenges. Kids need to feel safe at school, safe from cyber bullying, social pressure and physical threats. They need to be able to feel they can speak and act freely without retribution from other students and staff, and they need to be held accountable for academics and attendance.