Calvin Davis | Matt Heffner | Barbara A. Hickey | Carol Allison Jack
Hui Kang | Richard Moore

District 90 school board - 2 YEAR TERM (1 open seats)

Kathleen M. Avalos | Steve Lefko


Barbara A. Hickey

candidate for 2019 District 90 School Board

1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the Board of Trustees, and why would those contributions be valuable to District 90? What have been your most useful resources for information about pre-secondary education?

As a parent of five graduates of D90 and a 30-year resident of River Forest, I have deep roots in the community, and understand and appreciate the value of the excellent education my children received at Lincoln and Roosevelt. Based on many years volunteering in the schools, and using everything I learned in my first term on the Board, I can offer the Board a long view of the District’s history, a wide circle of contacts in youth-centered organizations, and plenty of hands-on experience in managing the district’s resources. I am experienced working collaboratively as a member of the Youth Network Council and the OPRF Workgroup for Positive Youth Development, of which I am a co-chair. I represent the Board on the PTO Council, and am a member of the Gender Inclusiveness Team for D90. I have put my Communication skills to work as head of the D90 Communications Committee, and am presently the Board Secretary. I read widely on educational issues, including the work of writers like Jean Twenge, Diane Ravitch and Erika Christakis, all education experts.

2. What steps will you take to improve and expand community engagement with the District and the School Board? What is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents?

Community Engagement has been an interest of mine since I joined the Board. During my first term, I helped to start the River Forest Subcommittee on Collaboration, a group that brings together representatives from each village taxing body to discuss ways we can work together to stay informed on each other’s activities, and to enhance the quality of life in River Forest. Our first project is the online community calendar rfhappenings.com, which is a customizable calendar merging the feeds from each organization so that residents can choose notifications of meetings, concerts, forums and programs. During my tenure, the Board has also instituted a Town Hall Forum format for meetings that offers residents presentations and opportunities to offer the Board feedback on educational and local topics. I believe that the whole community needs to know what is going on in the schools, and have helped develop improved communication vehicles for the district.

3. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the concerns and needs of residents outside your demographic group (specifically the demographic groups of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status)?

I have participated widely in groups outside of the Board, in addition to those that are as part of my Board responsibilities. I am a member of the Gender Inclusiveness Committee, which is investigating the challenges facing LGBTQ youth to guide the Board’s choices of policy and administrative guidance. As a Youth Network Council member, I have met monthly for the past four years, discussing mental health challenges facing our Oak Park and River Forest youth. I have also been involved in many conversations surrounding the Board’s focus on Equity, and have gone through Board training offered by the National Equity Project.

4. What do you think should be the three main priorities for the District over the next four years?

I believe the Board always needs to focus on thoughtful stewardship of property tax revenues. The Board must always balance fiscal responsibility with the growing needs of the district to provide a top-quality education for each child. I also believe that the Board needs to continually study the impact of technology on our children, both in the classroom and outside of it. Finally, I think the Board needs to be providing not only academic excellence, but also social and emotional learning to our children.

5. How can the District best assess the extent to which it is providing a quality education to the children of River Forest?

We need to constantly be assessing the quality of the education we offer. Standardized testing is only a small piece of this challenge. Administration needs to always be providing excellent curriculum, and observing and assessing teacher performance through observation in the classrooms. We also need to continue to strengthen our relationship with OPRF High School to evaluate how well-prepared our students are when they leave the district. The Board has recently held a meeting with D200, D90 and D97 to discuss data sharing and the sharing of best practices across the districts. The Board has also directed the Administration to begin the task of re-designing report cards to improve them as assessment tools.

6. If you could create a brand new elementary public school district from scratch, what would it look like?

If I were to create an ideal district from scratch, it would look very much like D90. River Forest has an extraordinary set of educational resources, including engaged and well-educated parents, outstanding administration, first-rate teachers, comfortable buildings, and a highly supportive community. More than 70% of River Forest residents do not have children in the schools, but they still enthusiastically support the work of D90. Our talented administration is committed to continually embracing change to meet new challenges and to improve the educational product we offer. Our PTOs offer incredible enrichment programming to our children, which is also a priceless asset. All of these would be part of an ideal district.

7. What is your opinion on Universal Design for Learning?

I fully support Universal Design for Learning. In our globally connected and ever-changing society, the mastery of a limited curriculum no longer constitutes a good education. Students need to emerge from our schools prepared to be flexible and collaborative, with the tools to become lifetime learners. We need to give them problems to solve instead of facts to master. We need to teach them in the classrooms to solve problems creatively. We need to teach them to fail, and then to keep trying. We need to teach them that they never know all there is to know about any subject. Universal Design for Learning and project-based learning can develop these talents in our children.

8. What is your position on providing a full-day kindergarten option in the district? What do you see as the primary benefits and challenges to providing full-day kindergarten?

I would love to see us offer full-day kindergarten in D90, but our most recent Board study of the issues concluded that we have space limitations, and that the costs of offering the program are high. We must always work with our limited resources as best we can, and if we offered full-day K we would have to cut back spending in other areas to afford it, or choose not to offer things like improved curricula that affect a wider group of students. Full-day K would offer the benefit of more time for our teachers to cover academic demands and more time for play, but we simply cannot afford the costs at this time.

9. Beyond measuring student academic achievement through standardized testing, how should District 90 measure its progress in improving equity and inclusion?

The Board needs to continually evaluate our progress on equity and inclusiveness using multiple assessments. We consider the results of the IYS survey, and have surveyed our school community in the past to evaluate whether each child feels at home in the school. The Inclusiveness Advisory Board is now a standing committee rather than being an ad-hoc resource. This group is charged with constant reassessment of our equity efforts. We also have the Advisory program at Roosevelt, which facilitates the input of the children in our assessment. We have brought in programming from the National Equity project, and will continue to offer training to new teachers, and to update it on a going basis to assess our equity performance.

10. The Board recently took a position against arming teachers/school staff. Do you agree or disagree with that position? Please explain.

I strongly agree with this position, and it was my honor to cast the district’s vote on the measure at the state convention, so I heard the full discussion of the issue. I believe that bringing guns into the school creates more danger than it prevents. Teachers are not generally trained to handle guns, and even a teacher who was a skilled marksman would be a danger in a school setting. Also, in River Forest we have the great advantage of having extremely short response times for our first responders to reach any school where they might be needed; we can get them onsite in less that 5 minutes. The Board unanimously supported this vote.

11. As of the drafting of this questionnaire, the current Board was poised to adopt a policy for gender inclusivity. What is your understanding of that work? Do you support gender inclusivity? Please explain.

I am on the Gender Inclusiveness Task Force, so I have been involved in recruiting the team from Administration, Members of the Board, the community and our social workers. The group is studying policies recently developed in comparable districts to learn from work others have already done well. In order to make our handling of gender inclusiveness as sensitive as it needs to be, we are making stated policy broad, and seeking ways to provide administrative procedures that are flexible enough to treat each child’s experience as an individual journey. I support gender inclusivity, and feel that it is an essential part of our initiatives on equity.

12. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.

So far, I am financing my own campaign. I have no campaign donors.

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[The above answers were supplied on 2/14/19. It may be possible to find more current financial information at the Illinois Sunshine website. Illinois Sunshine is also a useful resource for identifying past contributions by individuals to political candidates and committees in Illinois.]