JOHN W. LYONS III
CANDIDATE FOR DISTRICT 91 SCHOOL BOARD
1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the School Board, and why would those contributions be valuable to District 91?
Having a child attend school in the district and committed to my community are the main reasons for my running for school board. As an engineer and President of a mid-size manufacturing business I have the skills of being very analytical and strategic. I feel that answers can be found in the data and this perspective I take in business would transfer well to the school board position.
2. What are District 91’s greatest strengths? What are its greatest challenges? What is your vision for District 91?
Greatest Strength – Teachers
The Forest Park Schools have teachers who are compassionate, dedicated and work very hard for our children.
Greatest Challenge – Cohesive vision of the District and Communication
Vision - The challenge faced by teachers is how to convert their inner passions to a cohesive learning experience across all the schools in the district while improving test scores at the same time. If District 91 develops a cohesive vision and communicates this message well to the students, parents and community, test scores, in my opinion, would rise and get better.
3. What does transparency in government mean to you? Give one example of an action you would take as Board Member reflecting your views on this topic. How would you evaluate the District’s record on transparency?
Access to government and its officials brings transparency. Voted to be part of District 91 school board, I would give the community access to the meetings by having the meetings streamed on the internet. Since the School Board is part of the Village, the communication and out reach to the citizens needs improvement and is one of my main goals to fix should I be elected to the board.
4. What steps will you take to enhance 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?
There is a disconnect between the Superintendent/School Board and the greater Forest Park community, unless you have a child in the district, the average Forest Park citizen does not know what is happening within the schools. An ease of information needs to be established between the general community and the Superintendent/School Board. The resources of the internet, Facebook and the electric billboards in the Village need to be utilized more to get the community involved with our kids and our schools. (See also answer above)
5. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the experiences, concerns and needs of residents outside your demographic group?
Diversity is key to a successful community. At the start of the 2018/2019 school year my family hosted a start of the year backyard BBQ for all the families in my daughters’ class. This was an ability for me to talk to other parents about their hopes for the school year and what positives and negatives they experienced. The guests were diverse but all had a common concern as parents, how to have our children get a meaningful education that will prepare them from the next step in their lives.
If elected, as a School Board, I would like to have more opportunities developed like this and be more frequent so parents can express their concerns to the Board.
6. If you could create a brand new public elementary school district from scratch, what would it look like?
The Forest Park schools do not need to be built up from scratch, they just need to build upon the foundation they have. I have advocated for the ABC’s or ACCOUNTABILITY – BETTERMENT – COMMUNICATION, if these three areas are improved upon, our District will be a pillar of the area. If we neglect these areas, then the future for the children of our District could be troublesome.
7. Low test scores, particularly in math, continue to be troubling signs for the District, and enrollment has been declining. What specific steps would you take as a Board Member to improve test scores?
The Math scores based on the data I have seen, I am not convinced that we have selected the right curriculum to addresses these lower scores. The plan in place to address the lower testing scores will require more data across all levels of testing. Once you understand the data, then will you be able to create and establish a plan to help increase testing in Math and other areas. I feel that we are continually shifting our plans to address the decrease score rather than allowing for a curriculum to develop more and understand its effectiveness. We need to partner more with D209 and build on the synergy at D209 to help close or testing score gaps.
8. How should the District assess its policies and progress with respect to special needs and the achievement gap? As a Board Member, what metrics will you use to determine whether the District is succeeding?
I do not have much experience with the special needs aspects of our schools but gaps in achievement need to be addressed more. If you do not challenge your brightest students, they will slowly slip down. If you do not challenge your low preforming students, they will not rise up. Then the result is the middle average students become complacent.
Raising expectations for ALL STUDENTS in the areas of studies, homework, behavior and discipline will help the lower performing kids rise up, the average kids work harder and the brightest kids achieve better.
9. Early this year the School Board approved a new Equity Imperative designed to remove barriers to opportunity so that children can reach their full potential. Do you believe these new policies will be successful? Why or why not? What further policies are needed?
Approval was the first step, now the challenge will be implementation and growth of the program. Our community is very diverse and the differences between our students, as well as the similarities, need to be celebrated. As a parent at Field Stevenson, there was little information given to me on this project, things exactly like this need to change and communicated better.
10. What have been your most useful sources of information about pre-secondary education? Have you found any research to be particularly informative?
Teachers are on the front lines and with our children - they are a resource that needs to be tapped and utilized. I have no formal teaching experience but I have a passion for learning. We have the dedicated teachers and children that want to learn, now the implementation to have them learn the “right” way so they prosper is key.
11. How will you balance the community's desire to decrease the property tax burden with District stakeholders’ desire to to have a school district that effectively serves all students?
District 91 already has a very financially healthy child/dollar ratio and though costs and unexpected expenses arise, the School Board needs to work with the monies allotted and only seek additional funds when necessary. The District also needs to re-evaluate contracts and work product of its employees. As President of my company, we are always evaluating and researching in what manner can we reduce costs but not productivity and quality – the District needs to do the same thing.
12. In what ways can District 91 collaborate with District 209 to more adequately prepare students for the transition to high school?
District 209 has one of the best High Schools in Illinois and a top ranked school in the nation and it is within our Forest Park boarders, PMSA. Yet I have found the number of kids from Forest Park who are accepted is relatively low. Preparing our children with challenging work should be the norm and more aggressive. If a parent wants to send their child to PMSA the schools should have the structure to achieve that goal. Learning is a two way street, District 91 needs to talk with District 209 and grow together. See answer #7 as well.
13. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
My campaign is funded by me and my wife alone, I am not seeking donors. My entire campaign has been put forth for less than $900.00
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[The above answers were supplied on 2/22/19. 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.]
Survey Responses: John Lyons III (Forest Park Review 3/1/19)
More D91 board candidates emerge (Forest Park Review 11/20/18)
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D91 board wannabes talk district highlights, shortfalls (Forest Park Review 3/12/19)
D91 challengers file for school board election (Forest Park Review 12/18/18)