DISTRICT 97 SCHOOL BOARD (4 open seats)

Barika Grant | Gavin Kearney | Jung Kim | Cheree Moore | Holly Spurlock

Cheree headshot.jpg

Cheree Moore

candidate for 2019 District 97 School Board

1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the Board, and why would those contributions be valuable to District 97?

As an alumna of the district and parent of three students of color, I could not simply “hope” that the right candidates were elected. I recognize that a lot of change is happening at the district and I wanted to do everything that I could to ensure that someone of a diverse background is at the table when decisions are being made about the future of our schools. As a active member of the community, I have heard numerous stories about the treatment of students based on their ethnicity, income, ability and/or gender identification. Having this knowledge and experience working with community groups,I feel that I can advocate for those who feel like their concerns go unheard. I believe that my academic, professional and volunteer experiences have provided me with great experience as a researcher who has helped to create and implement program and policies that were well suited for the community in which I was responsible for serving.

2. What do you think makes an effective School Board Member?

An effective school board member is one who takes the time to engage with the community to learn the issues, is willing and ready to do the work to resolve those issues as best as possible. An effective school board member will understand that in order to make change you MUST get input from stakeholders and be ready to advocate for the entire community.

3. What is your understanding of the purpose of the District 97 Board? What do you see as the appropriate relationship between the School Board, District staff, and the ten schools in the District?

The school board works at the pleasure of the entire community first and foremost. They are there to learn the concerns of the community and advise the district staff on how best to address and resolve those concerns. These issues can range from academic to financial.

4. When in your experience have you had to balance competing interests? What process did you use? What did you learn?

When dealing with competing interests, you must first remember what your purpose is. As a board member, my purpose is to make decisions that are in the best interest of  all of the the students. These decisions are always difficult because the needs of students are so different, however, I would employ the input and feedback of the community, including educators and best practices available.

5. What does transparency in government mean to you? How would you put it into practice?

To me, transparency means that not only are we making information available, but we are making it available in a variety of ways, in a manner that is easily understood and in a timely fashion. I would utilize technology when appropriate but also create opportunities to get from behind the desk and interact with families. Coming to events, be active and accessible in the community builds trust so that people feel that you are being as transparent as possible.

6. As more of our local discourse happens in social media, what is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents? How will you engage with the breadth of the community, and not just the voices that are loudest or easiest to find?

I am a proponent for making information available on social media however I do believe that any online communication needs to be done responsibly and respectfully. I believe that elected officials should establish boundaries and expectations for how they will interact with the community. Any issues discussed should be based on facts and not feelings. If the situation starts to become about specific person(s) issues, I would immediately end the conversation and follow up personally to ensure the privacy of the parties involved.

7. 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)?

Having grown up in Oak Park, I have always had the privilege of having neighbors and classmates who were different from me in a variety of ways. However, I am also very intentional about engaging with people and trying to build relationships because I know it’s not enjoyable for everyone. I, however, am a mingler and I honestly really enjoy meeting new people because I think it helps me to be a better person by learning from others experiences. It has been my experiences as a student growing up in Oak Park which have allowed me to be able to empathize with people who may have grown up differently than I did and to be able to respectfully disagree when necessary.

8. How should the District assess its policies and progress with respect to special needs and the opportunity gap? As a Board Member, what metrics will you use to determine whether the District is succeeding?

To start, I would like to review the current data on students who are performing below the expectations of the district. Next, I believe the district needs to assess the most vulnerable students and learn what issues these students face that prohibit them from meeting their potential. The opportunity gap can not be solved with a one-size fits all approach. Different students require different tools to assist them in being successful academically. Often times, the issues are more complex than what is happening in the class. Often times there are factors that prohibit students from learning including social/emotional issues in the home or sometimes not having basic necessities needed in order to thrive such as food security, a stable environment or support. After thoroughly analyzing the results, I would advocate for utilizing best practices for engaging families and training teachers to work with various kinds of learners. Finally, I would seek out some peer institutions and aspirational institutions with similar communities that have successful programs that have made progress with similar student groups.

9. What have been your most useful sources of information about pre-secondary education? Have you found any research to be particularly informative?

Speaking with families and hearing their stories has been the most useful source of information because it has allowed me to understand just how complex some of the issues are. Hearing from families is also what prompted me to run for office because I realized that the current system isn’t the same across the board and that in many cases, the solution to some problems was simply lack of information and effective communication. In addition, I have used information on D97 website and the Illinois report card to compare data against schools across state. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with staff and parents in other districts in neighboring communities to talk about common issue that we face including budgets, opportunity gaps and working towards being inclusive of various types of students and families. The information has been very useful in terms of recognizing that many of the issues that D97 faces are not specific to the district, however the ways in which the district has chosen to address these issue has been disappointing at times.

10. Why have property taxes assessed by the District increased so substantially over the past 10-15 years? Can the District continue without additional tax increases? How?

I believe that previous administrations have tried to remedy certain problems by hiring consultants , adding more administrative staff and creating programs that may not have been adequately researched or vetted.While,I believe the administration had the best intentions,  it is evident that the community was not consulted and more input was required. I believe that I would need to assess the budget more thoroughly to determine what could be cut from the budget or if resources could be allocated differently.

11. How will you balance the community's desire to decrease the property tax burden with the need to create an equitable environment for all students?

I believe that a thorough review of the budget would allow the board and administration to asses which programs and positions, if any, are non-essential and/or able to be modified so that current expenses are are able to stay the same or even reduced. However, I believe that ensuring that all of our students have the tools necessary in order to be successful academically is the number one priority. Therefore, I would advocate for a more inclusive and transparent process for any program that the district intends to allocate funds to so that the community is part of the process as much as possible.

12. How do you define equity? Do you favor implementing a formal equity lens/framework across District 97, and if so, what specifics should it include? How have you engaged with efforts by the current Board to develop an equity policy?

Equity means that the students are being provided with the tools necessary to reach their individual full potential. I absolutely favor implementing a formal equity framework that is inclusive of the various types of diversity represented across the district. I strongly believe that any policy needs to be inclusive of our entire community regardless of parental status to ensure that the district is utilizing all of the resources available within the community. Finally, if elected, I would work in collaboration with the current board to do whatever is necessary to implement a policy that is inclusive, well researched and appropriate for our community.

13. The District has recently taken steps to eliminate tracking in some areas (for instance, in math classes for some grades). How effective have these initiatives been? Should they be expanded? What specific initiatives would you support to address the range of learning differences among students?

I believe that the initiative could be improved to provide more information to the community about the current program, including the goals, outcomes, challenges, and plans for modifying the program so that all students are being challenged with a more rigorous program. I would support an immediate suspension of the current program which segregates students and full overhaul which provides training to current teachers and recruits teachers that have experience in teaching students of various levels.

14. Allegations of sexual harassment (between students) have been made at both middle schools, and the District has been criticized for its failure to have a well-defined policy on how incidents like this are addressed. As a Board Member, how would you work to protect students in the wake of such allegations? What challenges would you anticipate while drafting a policy? What safeguards should a new policy include to protect to populations already affected disproportionately by disciplinary practices?

I believe that students aren’t given enough opportunities to be involved in the decision making process and I strongly believe that students input is critical to a successful program. Students need to be fully educated on the issues and permitted to share their honest thoughts and feelings over a period of time because ultimately, these decisions will impact them. I believe that age appropriate curriculum needs to be created to educate students about the importance of establishing a safe space for all students and the ramifications of behaviors and language which violates other students. Additionally parents/guardians and educators have to be engaged and fully committed to understanding new policies which may be different than what students and adults may be accustomed to. I believe that if students are provided with the information in a clear and consistent manner, we can hopefully avoid situations which do further harm to populations that are already disproportionately impacted.

15. District 97 Board Members share responsibility for oversight of the Collaboration for Early Childhood. What is your vision for early childhood education in Oak Park? Should preschool be available to every child in Oak Park? Should the District fund a preschool program for all students?

I personally believe that preschool positively contributes to students academic, social and emotional success. Numerous studies have shown the positive correlation between preschool and  a child’s academic performance entering kindergarten. However, I believe that such a decision should be made by the community with information about the additional cost and resources needed in order to facilitate a preschool program either full time or part time.

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


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[The above answers were supplied on 2/13/19. 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.]