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?
My wife and I have raised our three children in District 90 and believe the district’s success relies upon, among other factors, the participation of all stakeholders. As an educator, I believe we should take what we learn and use it for the betterment of others. Devoting my time and efforts toward District 90’s mission is a way for me to give back to my community.
I have over 25 years of experience as a classroom teacher, department chair, as well as an assistant principal for curriculum and instruction. The latter is foundational to my 15 years as a parent and my four years as a member of the District 90 Board of Education. I am proud to have been part of the Democracy Schools Network Team at my school, which was awarded an Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel Award in 2018. As the administrator in charge of the Advanced Placement program, I am also humbled to have had my district named the National 2016 District of the Year Award by the College Board for our academic success in Advanced Placement coursework. In 2017, due to the work of our administration and faculty to build collaborative teams for vertical and horizontal articulation, we were named a Model Professional Learning Team by Solution Tree, the late Richard DuFour’s learning organization. These are just some examples of how my experiences and knowledge of public education have contributed to these successes.
Although the entire body of research on pre-secondary education is available to us all, and it is my job to consume and utilize this research, the most useful resources for information about effective education come from my discussions and problem solving with the practitioners, the teachers, administrators, and student service faculty that work with our children on a daily basis. We have a remarkable group of professionals in District 90 and I am grateful to all of them.
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?
We have made great efforts to increase communication and community collaboration in District 90 and must continue to seek innovative conduits for information and exchange of ideas and concerns. While not an exhaustive list, below are some of the initiatives we have implemented in the past four years.
Institution of Town Hall Forums to share Board initiatives and subjects of interest to parents and community
Leadership role on Subcommittee for Collaboration, bringing representatives from each RF taxing body together to discuss matters of common interest to River Forest residents
Re-design of District 90 Website and Online Student Directory
Implementation of “Crosswalk” communication vehicle to explain how D90 initiatives work together
Redesign of communication on Strategic Plan progress
Implementation of “One Book, One District” community reading program
Initiatives to communicate with D97 and D200 on data sharing, curriculum, instruction and assessment and issues of equity
D90 informational postcard to all River Forest households
Continued collaboration and standing board member representation with our outstanding Parent Teacher Organizations
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)?
As an educator for the past 25 years, I have engaged families from diverse backgrounds to meet their children’s needs. I have worked with and received professional development from the Center for Teaching Bi-literacy, which espouses teaching, learning and communicating meaning “between the languages.” This philosophy teaches that communication is not just the words we speak, but how our culture informs our interpretation of others. This is a philosophy that frames my engagement with others in my community that are outside my demographic group and helps to hone my ability to hear and truly understand another person’s point of view. Furthermore, the current board of Education has sought to build a culture of equity and inclusiveness. Our Inclusiveness Advisory Committee, Equity Committee and Gender Inclusion (ad hoc) Committee all include diverse groups of District 90 stakeholders and report monthly to the Board of Education on how to serve our students, families and the community at large.
4. What do you think should be the three main priorities for the District over the next four years?
The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff are always at the top of this list. We will continue to work with the Village of River Forest Police and Fire Departments, as well as village trustees, to increase the safety of our children. The district will continue to improve the curriculum, instruction, assessments and social emotional learning to assure the maximum academic growth and mental health of our students. Finally, we will focus on improving our facilities while assuring that we attend to sound fiscal policy, attend to our fiduciary duties and not create an undue tax burden for our taxpayers.
5. How can the District best assess the extent to which it is providing a quality education to the children of River Forest?
The District uses a variety of quantitative and qualitative data to assess our effectiveness. PARCC data show that we are meeting and exceeding the state standards. As the PARCC assessment was short lived, have another Type 1 standardized test that we utilize. In District 90 we have used the Measure of Academic Progress (MAPS) for several years. This standardized and nationally normed assessment has given us longitudinal assessment data that shows that our students achieve at a high rate of learning when compared to others, the national sample. Additionally, MAPS data show that our students are growing at a very high rate of learning each year from the Fall to the Spring when compared to others in the sample. Yet, as we all know, tests are standardized, children are not. Given this, a variety of other non-standardized, formative and summative, objective and subjective assessments are used to assure that our students are mastering the rigorous learning standards we have for them.
In order to maintain our award winning schools, we include surveys of teachers, students, parents and administrators to assess our effectiveness. Furthermore, I believe the most effective assessment of student success is the relationship among the student, the teacher and the caregiver of the student. Parents and caregivers know their child’s strengths, areas for growth, interests, and how they are responding to what goes on in schools. Teachers are experts in assessing student needs on the spot and engage students the best they are able in the classroom. District 90 schools, students, parents, teachers and administrators will continue to value this relationship as the standard for assessing our students’ education in addition to the data-driven decisions we are committed to make.
6. If you could create a brand new elementary public school district from scratch, what would it look like?
In my experience as an educator, the physical condition of educational spaces have an effect on student outcomes and student affect. Our new school would be a facility that allows every student to meet their full potential, every teacher to become their most effective, and one where every parent and stakeholder feels welcome. It would also be air conditioned and not increase the tax burden today, or in ten years for our residents!
Below is a sample of the accomplishments over the past four years that focus on improving our learning environment.
Lincoln School addition to accommodate growing student population and increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
Willard School addition to accommodate growing student population and student services
Roosevelt Exterior Project completion to mitigate structural needs and improve the physical learning environment.
Classrooms have been outfitted with innovative classroom furniture to facilitate more student centered instruction
1:1 technological environment assures that each student and teacher utilizes instructional technology for learning
Implementation of Solar Schools Initiative and partnership Green4Good to find environmentally friendly solutions to our facilities and operation
7. What is your opinion on Universal Design for Learning?
According to a recent conversation I had with a teacher, simply put, Universal Design for Learning is just “really good teaching.” UDL is a philosophy of teaching that seeks to identify barriers to learning and to create multiple opportunities for children to demonstrate their learning. In District 90, it is a conceptual framework that facilitates teacher collaboration and increases student-centered and problem-based instruction. It will continue to facilitate student mastery of the most rigorous Illinois Learning Standards.
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?
In the past 4 years, I have continued to seek research on the effects of a full day of school for every kindergarten student. My position, along with the unanimous position of the other six board members, is that at this time, the cost of building new facilities and the additional faculty required for full day kindergarten is too great a burden for our current budget. However, students who are identified as needing extra support in kindergarten, as well as pre-school, receive extra time and support that goes beyond a half day of school. In this way, we work to meet the needs of all of our students and prepare them for 1st-8th grade. With all of that stated, I remain open to reading and hearing new research that demonstrates the need for full-day kindergarten in our district.
9. Beyond measuring student academic achievement through standardized testing, how should District 90 measure its progress in improving equity and inclusion?
The district also utilizes community, caregiver and student data such as local surveys and the 5 Essentials Survey to consider all stakeholders’ personal experience in District 90. We have to board level committees formed which are required to give monthly reports from their committee members on issues, accomplishments and opportunities to advance our vision for equity. (Please also refer to question #5)
10. The Board recently took a position against arming teachers/school staff. Do you agree or disagree with that position? Please explain.
The Board of Education unanimously agreed with the majority of districts in Illinois to take a position opposing arming teachers and school staff. We resolved that while we need to do everything in our power to protect our children and school personnel, this would not solve the problem and my increase the threat of harm in our schools. Along with added security, improved facilities and increased training for school personnel, I agree with many experts, teachers, administrators and policy makers that improved social emotional services are need to address what some term as the crisis in mental health for our school children and young adults.
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.
We in District 90 are dedicated to our mission of Equity for all as articulated in our Strategic Plan. To this end, I am the co-chairperson of the District 90 BOE Ad-Hoc Gender Inclusion committee. This committee, consisting of 2 board members, administrators, teachers, support service personnel and parents researched, planned and drafted policy language to support a more gender inclusive experience for our students and families. Our progress was presented at the October 2, 2018 Committee of the Whole meeting.
12. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
My family’s constant support cannot be monetized, but I would say that they, and their love, time and intellect, are my largest donors. I will, however, accept donations from community members. Donations can be made at my website.
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[The above answers were supplied on 2/18/19. 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.]
Let's keep D90 going strong (WJ 3/26/19)
In a league of their own (WJ 3/26/19)
Incumbents and Avalos for D90 (WJ 3/26/19)
Wednesday Journal endorsement (WJ 3/19/19)
What Moore, Hickey and Davis bring to D90 (WJ 3/19/19)
Candidate Profile (WJ 3/14/19)
D90 Caucus weighs in (WJ 2/28/19)
Educator wants to make D90 a trailblazer (WJ 3/10/15)
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League of Women Voters River Forest D90 Candidate Forum (YouTube 3/21/19)
River Forest candidates face contested elections in April races (Forest Leaves 12/18/18)