Maya Ganguly



What motivates you to seek this office? Have you participated in public service in the past? If so, how? If not, why now? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the running of the school district?

I am a mother and Oak Park taxpayer. The reason my family moved to Oak Park was the school system and the sense of community, which are inseparable. For me, running for school board is a way that I can ensure continued strengthening of the school system and at the same time giving back to our community.

I have not run for political office, but I have served on different political campaigns and currently serve on the Young Professional Board of the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing and have represented low-income tenants in court for said organization. Additionally, I work for the State of Illinois as merit based civil servant, which I would argue is public service.

I have experience managing budgets, drafting contracts, evaluating new hires, managing staff, writing & analyzing data for policy papers, and legislation. I am an attorney who works for the State of Illinois, handling contracts and large purchases, while managing a staff of union employees. In this role, I have made hiring decisions, as well as evaluated staff. Prior to law school I worked in policy as Assistant Director of Research at the Women’s Social Policy and Research Center at Vanderbilt University. Through my work in policy, I learned to quickly and accurately assess reports and policy initiatives and goals.

Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?

I strive to be an agent for social good, rather than social change. I have chosen to work in non-profit and government work. As an attorney I devote my time to organizations that promote social welfare and protection for the vulnerable in our society, perhaps I should be focusing on changing society, but I like to think that by protecting the vulnerable I am helping in a small way to bring about positive social change.

One of the most important roles of the school board is connecting with the community, both serving as an advocate for district improvement and reporting back to the community on the district’s performance. Do you believe the board’s communication processes have been successful in recent years? What specifically would you do to improve two-way communication?

I am concerned that the board’s communication has not been to the level the community would like. I think the board’s current goal of creating a community engagement subcommittee is a good start. However, it might not be enough. The Board needs to maintain open communications with the community, otherwise the community will not trust the board or support it.

Oak Park has a persistent achievement gap between white and black students, despite ongoing conversations and a stated commitment to diversity. How will you support the district in addressing the achievement gap? What initiatives would you advocate?

Teacher education and training is the number one thing, as the teachers are the people in the classrooms working directly with the students on a daily basis. I would like to see increased teacher training and support. Additionally, I would ask that principals evaluate teachers not just by how their students do on tests, but by evaluating writing samples of children at the beginning of the year, middle, and end of the year.

Racial bias is a persistent problem in special education. How can the district address this issue at an institutional level?

At the risk of repeating myself, I would require teacher education and training. I would also like to see a parent orientation. I have heard from multiple parents of color that they do not feel included or welcomed, when on the first day of school white parents only introduce themselves to other white parents. This suggests that the racial bias is not just at the educator level. I realize this makes me rather unpopular to point this out.

The board monitors progress toward district goals and compliance with board policies using data as the basis for assessment. What experience do you have with setting and managing to policies? How comfortable are you with data analysis?

I determine the policies of my department and make sure that they are in compliance with current Illinois law and our oversight organizations within the state. I also have helped to write and re-write by-laws for different organizations.

I am comfortable in data analysis, especially as a person who used to do data analysis and write policy papers.

D97 has two referenda on the ballot this year. Do you support these referenda? Why or why not?

Yes, I support both referenda. Regarding the building referenda, I do not feel that it acceptable that our schools are not ADA accessible. Regarding the general funds referenda, when you consider the high enrollment for D97, the fact that eighty percent (80%) of the budget is salary and benefits, and our desire to keep class size down, the need to increase the general fund is a necessity. Even if the general funds referenda passes, the board, whoever it includes, will need to carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of each program.

Even if the referenda pass, D97 will need to contain costs. Where do you think the district should make cuts? Which programs should be protected? Address specifically your recommendation on the middle school CAST and BRAVO programs, library aids, etc.

The current state of the budget is such that there will be a real need to make additional cuts. These cuts are too important to make without evaluating each programs relative successes and failures. I am not willing to make any promises on that matter without proper input from the superintendent and administration. I am not a rubber stamp for the superintendent and administration, but I also feel that make such important decisions without being in the weeds and really investigating each penny concerns me.

Staff salary and benefits account for roughly 80% of D97 costs, and the current teacher contract ends 2018. What experience and ideas would you bring to the upcoming contract negotiation?

I would bring my experience dealing with contracts and leases for the state. In all my contract experience, I will tell you that the most important thing in any negotiation is careful, thoughtful listening, and respect for the other party. The contract negotiation between the teachers and the board is a long-term relationship, therefore one where there needs to be trust and respect.

Seventy percent of D97 funding comes from local property taxes. How can taxpayers get the most for their money? What experience would you bring to your role of financial oversight for the district?

Strong policies and procedures that ensure transparency is one of the foundations for ensuing that public dollar protected. As the Agency Purchasing Officer for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, my role is part legal, part compliance, and part fiscal. I am the internal person within our agency that is tasked with ensuring that the Illinois Procurement Code is followed. I work with our Office of the Budget with making sure that federal regulations are followed with regard to other expenditures, and work with auditors.

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

I chose not to raise any donor funds for my candidacy, though I have accepted the volunteer efforts from friends.