Ramona Towner

District 208 School Board Candidate

Age: 52


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 re-election because I want to continue the good work that we are doing. We need to continue to ensure that RBHS remains financially stable while continuing to offer the educational programs and services we are known for providing to our students and their families. I also want to continue the work we are doing to ensure that all District 208 students will have many post-secondary opportunities to explore. I have been a public school educator for 31 years. I believe all children deserve a fair and equitable education.

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?

As 1 of 7 school board members I must look at the big picture. As a group we set policy, review the financials and look at what is best for students. We also rely on the expertise of the Superintendent, Dr Skinkis and his administrative team to guide our thinking. They are the experts. As a member of a not-for-profit board that dealt with Big Pharma it was important for us to always put our members interests first.

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?

Our diverse learners and those students who receive related services have been in school 5 days a week since August. Our special education staff went above and beyond to meet the needs those students. We were able to give students and staff all of the PPE required to return to in-person learning. 

We need to remember to continue to listen to the concerns of our families and staff. Now that we have been through the ultimate pivot during a pandemic, creating contingency plans and timelines for what might come next should be easy for the staff and administration.

How do you define equity? How has your thinking around the subject of equity evolved and what should District 208 do to address that subject?

Through the education lens equity is defined by me as, every student getting what he/she/they need to be successful during their high school years. During their time at RBHS all students should also gain the skills necessary to make them success after they leave high school. 

I have learned that addressing equity issues something that schools should be reviewing on a regular basis, so that changes can be made to address deficit areas. The administrative team had listening meetings last summer, and quickly formed an equity committee that meets on a regular basis. 

The community requested that the RBHS staff make up be representative of the diverse backgrounds of the people that live in our community. We have increased the amount of diversity in our administrative team. We hired a female Business Manager, a Hispanic School Principal, a female Dean and a Hispanic Dean. 

Another opportunity to improve equity for all students would be to move away from traditional grades and implement standards-based reporting.

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

As a Board we continue to look at where we have been, and forecasts for the future in order to budget properly. We budget conservatively, we make sure expenditures are rounded up and revenues are rounded down. 

Eighty percent of our expenditures are in the form of salaries and benefits for the staff. The majority of our revenue comes from property taxes. The state and county are notoriously late with their payments every year. The state of Illinois does not fund schools at rate at which they have promised.

What are the biggest challenges facing District 208 and how should the school board address them?

Given the poor financial climate of the State of Illinois, the biggest challenge facing District 208 is to remain financially stable while continuing to deliver the top-notch education and services to our students and families that we are known for providing. 

Second to that would be supporting the innovative practice that will come, post COVID. History has shown us that when in crisis, most organizations do not innovate, but post crisis many changes take place. The educational landscape has been forever changed by the last 12 months. 

It will be exciting to see what comes next.