District 204 School Board Candidate
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 have been blessed with many things in my life. While I like to do service quietly, I know I need to share my experiences here. It should be noted that I am running for the Lyons Township School Board to be of service to our students, school, and community I hold in such high regard.
We all have a responsibility to care for one another. For me, I do this when I can, with the time I have, in the areas where I feel my experience can benefit others. I believe that it is important to always care for others.
While I feel the most effective board is one with diverse experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives, I also feel that a board should not lack someone with educational experience. While having community members with law, finance, or business backgrounds is beneficial, it is also important to have someone with inside knowledge about how districts are run and how decisions affect all stakeholders.
I believe my 24 years as a social worker and administrator in many different environments would be an asset to our community. I have worked in small and large districts; urban, suburban, and rural communities; group homes and residential facilities; wealthy communities and poor communities.
The one constant throughout all of my experiences is that kids need people who will care for them. While everyone has different needs, it all starts with someone who cares. I believe that all of my experiences will give me the perspective to make decisions that will ALWAYS put kids first.
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?
This is something I do on a daily basis at the administration center of the fifth largest school district in the state. There are many times when the decision that needs to be made is not good for the individual but good for the school.
This is often seen where disciplinary actions must protect the masses, which cannot meet the underlying needs of the individual student. Perspective is important when looking at what might be in the interest of specific groups because often, if you dig deep enough, you will find that supporting smaller groups is often better for the whole organization.
Often times these decisions can be made in ways where you don’t have to choose one over the other. This is where my educational experiences, social worker’s listening and analyzing skills, and patience in working with multiple groups will be an effective assist the LTHS school board.
There are also times when hard decisions have to be made. I can think of many instances where a decision I made was not in the immediate best interest of a student but was in the best interest of the greater school community.
Throughout these situations, it is vitally important to listen to the concerns, share my perspective as clearly, honestly, and directly as possible while empathizing with the opposing view.
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?
Moving from a traditional learning model to a virtual one is no easy task. That being said, some adjustments should have been made to both the schedule and instructional practices early on. Students needed a better balance of being on a screen all day and rigorous instruction.
While their initial proposed schedule allowed for less screen time, it lacked the rigor needed. The eventual block schedule worked well, but the instructional practices varied. Some students were expected to “sit and get” material while others were given breaks and more creative instruction.
What worked well was the decision to allow students to come in and out of remote learning as needed. The other positive move the district made was to allow struggling students to come in more often than just two days. This supported both the students who struggled academically and emotionally in the remote environment.
Now that the district has gone through this already, the plan to move to this new learning model should be more efficient. The fact that the district will have the technology (both hardware and software) required to move to the remote learning model, should there be a need in the future, will allow for a better remote instructional model. What made it especially changing this year is the guidance that changed daily by the federal, state, and local government agencies.
How do you define equity? How has your thinking around the subject of equity evolved and what should District 204 do to address that subject?
As an educator, social worker, and administrator, equity has always been a guiding principle in my personal and professional life. It must always be at the forefront of our decision making.
The common misnomer is that equity means everyone is getting the same thing. Equality means getting everyone what they need to be successful. Just like we do not hold it against people with poor eyesight and complain that having glasses is an unfair advantage, we should not hold it against those who need support in order to have the same access to their education because of their special needs, socioeconomic status, race, gender, or language barriers.
The old adage the devil is in the details is especially true in how equity must be addressed. When plans are made with curriculum, staffing, infrastructure, finance, and thousands of additional planning areas of any educational institution, there must be thought and consideration as to how this impacts any of our disadvantaged groups. Only then will we be able to lift up everyone so our entire educational institution can get stronger as a whole.
As a school board member you will play a role in budgeting. How will your values inform your approach to budgeting and fiscal planning?
Similar to what I said about equity, my values play a role in all decisions including financial ones. While we allocate resources, time, and energy into the average student’s programming, we must also ensure that our struggling, accelerated, and average students are all represented in the financial decisions we make.
This also includes ensuring that we are balancing our fiscal conservative tendencies with ensuring a safe and appropriate learning environment for our students and staff (infrastructure, air conditioning, etc.) and ensuring the teachers and staff we put before our children feel valued and supported. This is a balancing act that I am very familiar with.
What are the biggest challenges facing District 204 and how should the school board address them?
I believe the first priority of the school board is to ensure that the district is doing everything it can to support all learners. There are many struggles our students face every day. This involves the continuation of investing time, energy, and resources to close the achievement gap of our underserved populations. As a part of the LTCAC, I have seen the progress that has been made with this issue over the past several years. While incremental moves have been made, now is the time and opportunity to use resources to level the playing field for all learners. This can be done on a global scale but should also be viewed on an individual basis.
Secondly, we must also ensure that the social and emotional needs of our students are being met. Hospitalizations and suicide have increased at alarming rates. We need to be prepared to address these needs as students walk through our doors. I have extensive knowledge and experience working through this growing crisis and have many ideas to share with our school community. I’ve brought the Communities in Schools concept to the districts I’ve worked for to ensure we are providing access to supports for our students and families once the school doors close.
Additionally, we need to ensure that our teachers and staff have what they need to be successful. These people are the backbone of our school! Our teachers and staff have worked tirelessly during this pandemic. They have done, and continue to do, all that they can to ensure our students have what they need to grow and learn. Despite all of their efforts, we know that students will be missing important academic skills needed for future learning. It will be important that the district investigates where these skills need to be realigned so that our students will be prepared for the future. Our teachers and staff will also need resources and support to ensure the success of our students.