Melissa Obrock

District 94 School Board Candidate

Age: 41


Why are you running to be on the school board? What motivates you and what experience and perspectives would you bring to the job? How would those be valuable as an elected official?

I am running for a position on the school board because I believe in the importance of strong public education systems, and after 10 years as a Komarek parent I have come to be truly passionate about investing my time in our Komarek community. I feel that active community participation is vital to maintaining a great school district and want to apply the knowledge I gained while working on the referendum.

As a school board member you will be asked to balance what’s best for the district as a whole with what might be in the interest of specific groups. How will you do that? When have you had occasion to do something similar in the past and how did you accomplish that?

One of the best things about our district is the diversity of the student body. To determine what is best for the entire district, a member of the school board should be committed to understanding the perspectives of all the groups within the community. To achieve real success, we must address the needs of those who feel excluded or underserved.

As a Girl Scout leader, I guide a troop with diverse backgrounds. The goal is to build each girl’s individual leadership skills, while also developing strong relationships and learning to work together with others in the troop. To ensure that each girl receives the most rewarding experience, the needs of the individuals must always be balanced with those of the entire troop.

The past year has been a challenge from the perspective of balancing the social, emotional and academic needs of students with the need to ensure the health and safety of all in the extended school family. What could the school district have done better to achieve that balance and what succeeded? What planning is needed to respond more quickly to any future disruptions in the traditional learning environment?

As a current parent, I feel that this has been an incredibly challenging time for all involved – teachers, students, parents, and administrators. The information available has often been conflicting and has changed rapidly. The school district has done an admirable job of focusing on the health and safety of all involved. They have been responsive to the feedback from all parents, whether they want their kids in school or prefer to learn at home.

To respond quickly to any future disruptions in the traditional learning environment, the district should critically assess what worked during the current crisis (such as access to technology for all grade levels) and what could be improved. This assessment should be used to develop a formal plan for the future.

How do you define equity? How has your thinking around the subject of equity evolved and what should District 94 do to address that subject?

Equity refers to the fair treatment of all people, ensuring access and opportunity for all despite the barriers that might be in the way. My understanding of equity has evolved due to my experiences in our diverse school community. I have learned that it is vital to focus on equity to ensure a positive school experience for all students. Each individual student may need slightly different things to be successful, and while this may be difficult, it is an important goal to strive for. 

District 94 is making great strides in one area with the construction plans ensuring that all students will be able to move easily throughout the building. As a school board member, I hope to understand the experiences of other members in the community and participate in addressing equity issues that either exist now or arise in the future.

As a school board member you will play a role in budgeting. How will your values inform your approach to budgeting and fiscal planning? 

In my professional life, institutional budgets are a daily topic of conversation. Working for non-profits my entire career, I believe strongly in transparency and efficiency in budgeting.

Through my work with the recent referendum, I have become familiar with the district’s financial situation. Investment in infrastructure is important, as is continuing to invest in curriculum updates, strong teaching staff, and maintaining the types of programs that make Komarek special (Industrial Arts, daily Phys Ed, STEM, Art, etc.).

What are the biggest challenges facing District 94 and how should the school board address them?

One area where I feel I could make an impact as a member of the school board is to play a role in ensuring that the makeup of the student body is better represented in the faculty. In recent years, the diversity of the student body has changed rapidly, while the makeup of the faculty has changed more slowly. It would be my hope to support efforts to increase diversity in hiring while continuing to bring high quality new hires to Komarek.

An additional area in which I would hope to make a positive impact is funding the increasing need for technology. While technology is increasingly important in the classroom, the district’s limited funds must be allocated carefully. I hope to participate in identifying how funds might be allocated to continue to increase the quality of the district’s technology, while still meeting all the needs of the district.