District 94 School Board Candidate
Age: Not provided
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?
My name is Raul Jasso and I am running for a seat on the Komarek School District 94 Board. My family and I moved to North Riverside in 1987 when I was just six years old. I graduated from Komarek, RB, Triton and then graduated from Illinois State University.
After I returned from college, I bought my first home in Brookfield but after living there for ten years, I decided to move back to North Riverside in 2018. North Riverside is such a valuable town with such unique and stunning qualities that I knew I had to move back. I now have begun my own family here with my wife, Mary. We have two young boys who will eventually also be attending my alma mater, Komarek.
We were surprised to hear not much work had been done to Komarek since I graduated in 1995. Both my wife and I were disappointed to hear about the conditions and agreed something needed to change and we wanted to be part of the solution to fix it.
This community has such great roots. Our neighbors have become our friends and family and they are what motivate me. Education is something I am already passionate about but these neighbors, friends and family help motivate me to work so hard at making sure our school flourishes. We have this great base, a new state of the art school in our near future. That is such a positive step in the right direction but there is so much more that needs to be done.
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?
Every situation is unique, so I would evaluate and assess the situation and try to find the solution that would be in the best interest of the overall group. For our solution to work it will have to be differentiated and it may look different based on each group involved. Usually that involves changing policies and seeking new resources.
I have experience with this but a simple example of this occurred during my time volunteering at a youth program called Chill. Chill empowers youth through boardsports such as my favorite hobby, snowboarding. The youth we worked with came from foster care programs and underprivileged neighborhoods and were provided everything for free.
Once a week for seven weeks, we would bus the youth to Grand Geneva in Wisconsin. One the ride up we would do activities based on Chills core values then teach them to snowboard on the mountain, then take the bus ride home. We often returned after 10pm.
These were long days for these kids. They would be at school all day and then jump on the bus immediately after. After the first week, we noticed that several of the youth we brought did not pack snacks or food to get through these long days while some did. The next week we bought snacks, water and sandwiches for our group. This cost was adding up each week as I noticed other youth on the bus from other groups also did not have any food.
I began reaching out to a couple supermarket stores that were within the community of where the students were residing. To no surprise to me, after the stores heard the dilemma we were faced with, they were more than willing to help. These store owners donated all the food and drinks for our group and much more. For the rest of the program all the participants were well fed.
My wife and I love the difference the program made so much that we made it a goal to raise more money than we as a group used in participating in it. After our first year, we fundraised more than anyone else.
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?
This past year has been unprecedented. There was no perfect decision that would have fixed everything. I think the people involved did what they thought was in the best interest of everyone.
I feel the biggest problem was the people who allowed our school to get to the current conditions it is in. Now with the referendum we are on the path to where we need to be. 2021 will bring on different challenges and we will have to take our knowledge that we learned from previous years including this past year with Covid and make the best decisions we can.
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 to me is simple: it’s value or what something is worth. In district 94 the discussion of equity became a frequent discussion when the conditions of our school came to light.
Years of neglect and kicking the can down the road put us in a spot where we had to pass a referendum to access 20.8 million dollars in bonds. This scared a lot of people in our community but they knew we needed to do this and it will create much more value for our community.
Komarek and all elementary schools are so vital to their community. They provide the base for our children’s education. It is a meeting center for our families in the community. It’s where children develop academically and grow socially. It’s our future. As a school board member you would have to see where we see value. What expenses have the biggest return in our children or community’s 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?
My wife is a teacher and I am a sales consultant at a local beverage distributor. We have two small children. As a working class member of this community, we know how important it is to be fiscally responsible in order to best provide for our family. This goes back to equity. We need to make decisions that create equity and not liabilities.
What are the biggest challenges facing District 94 and how should the school board address them?
Covid has really put constraints on our classrooms. The upcoming construction is going to create even more constraints. We are going to have to get very creative to overcome these hurdles.
No one could have predicted the year we just had. I think we would have been better prepared if we had made smarter decisions in the past. We could have had a better building with much more up to date resources to have handled this.