THERESA L. KELLY
CANDIDATE FOR DISTRICT 209 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 209?
I am running for re-election to the Proviso Township High School District 209 School Board because there is so much more to do and I feel we’ve proven that Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and I are the right team to get it done! Our team, Proviso Together, is a grassroots initiative of community members who fought to ensure our district was run by parents who had children in the district because they had a stake in every decision that was to be made. To that end, I want to see Proviso East and Proviso West are on par with PMSA and that the district is among the top in the state of Illinois. We are the right people to make that happen!
I am the longest serving board member and have won many awards for my work on the board. My entire life has been dedicated toward children. I have served as the District 209 Board President and feel I understand the needs of our Proviso community and know how to ensure our children have the environment they need to succeed.
2. What are District 209’s greatest strengths? What are its greatest challenges? What is your vision for District 209?
The greatest strength of District 209 is the amount of love and compassion the entire district has for each child. We are now a warm and welcoming district with a nimble curriculum that allows the entire district to work together to create curriculum for each individual child. We have wonderful teachers, an engaged administration and brand new principals and superintendent that is dedicated to developing the whole child.
I think the biggest challenge we face is the deep cultural change to get parents involved in their child’s education. It isn’t because our parents don’t care. There are single parents and instances of poverty and homelessness. Compounded with the fact that we live in working class communities and live fast paced lifestyles. Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and I have had some good success in parent engagement and we look forward to this challenge. This year we created a parent compact through which parents agreed to take specific action to assist with the child’s education. We have 2400 signed this year.
My vision is to have a district that continues to be collaborative and in tune with our whole community so that we can address the whole needs for our children and set them up for success in life and career.
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 Village’s record on transparency?
Transparency means that everything is open and put on the table for everyone to view. I make sure we follow every process and document everything to the T and make sure that it is recorded for public consumption.
I feel we have done an excellent job working transparently over the last 4 years. We now record and live stream board meetings, our board packets are up and available to the public to include financial information that is now easier to read. We also hold committee meetings throughout the month and they are open to the public
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?
Community engagement has been one of the cornerstones of the past 4 years for Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and I. We engage the community in every way possible. You were all invited and welcome in the search process for new principals and our new superintendent. We have had many town hall meetings across each town, newsletters that have going out to the entire district, more communication to parents and a more functional parent portal. We now have a Facebook page to promote what is going on in the district along with a far more user friendly website. We opened up our schools to the community for tours and brought on parent coordinators at Proviso East and Proviso West. Each of the schools now also have bilingual speakers to aid in communication with our Spanish speaking families. It has been wonderful to watch this administration work with business leaders, elected officials across the district, faith based leaders and our elementary schools to bring the the entire community together to support our children in their education.
Our job as an elected board member is to be out in the community and understand the needs of our stakeholders. You will find me at every function, each funeral, every basketball game and I am available to everyone to have discussions about our schools at any time. I believe we should continuously work to be more readily available to our student and their parents.
5. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the experiences, concerns and needs of residents outside your demographic group?
I have strong friendships and relationships that span across many communities and ethnicities. It is imperative that our school board can represent the entire diverse community in which serve.
6. If you could create a brand new public high school district from scratch, what would it look like?
It would be a welcoming school with new technology and functional work space. It would be an environment where every child has the tools and empowerment to succeed. It would have extracurricular activities for all interests, sporting events and an engaged community that took part in these activities. It would have inspirational leadership and an innovative school board that was trustworthy and fiscally responsible. I don’t think we have to create a brand new public high school from scratch to have that. We are on our way to achieving this - we just have to keep it going!
7. 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 see these as two different questions. The achievement gap is real and closing it is imperative! Our achievement gap is different than many other districts across the country. The gap is based on equality of opportunity across the three schools with the same racial diversity. We have worked tirelessly over the last four years to begin to bridge this gap by making sure our children in all three schools have the same opportunities. Evidence of this progress is that freshman on track to graduate jumped from 25% in 2014 to 90% in 2018 at Proviso West. Evidence of this is seeing the tardies, truancies and suspensions plummet at Proviso East because kids actually want to be at school. On top of this, our new competency based curriculum rolled out just this year at Proviso East and the results of that will be evident by 2021.
For special education, any district should continuously assess the policies and progress. In the last four years we have done a lot of work for our children with special needs. For starters, we separated the English as a Second Language (ESL) students out of special education so that we can better target the curriculum and address the needs of our students. Our special education achievement gap is much lower than the state average.
8. What have been your most useful sources of information about secondary education? Have you found any research to be particularly informative?
I am constantly reading up on the latest news and trends in secondary education and seek continuous learning opportunities as appropriate. Staying current, hiring the best people, keeping an open mind and embracing change is the key to transforming the district.
9. How will you balance the community's desire to decrease the property tax burden with District stakeholders’ desire to have a school district that effectively serves all students?
Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and I have proven to the tax payers that we do not need to raise taxes to create a school district that will effectively serve all the students. We have re-allocated the current budget toward instruction, stopped the patronage jobs and update the curriculum. All while putting aside $77Million to create state of the art learning facilities that will effectively serve all Proviso students.
10. In what ways can District 209 collaborate with District 91 and other pre-secondary school districts to more adequately prepare students for the transition to high school?
Dr. Rodriguez, the D209 superintendent has spent the last 4 years building relationships with the pre-secondary school districts to effect changes. The goal is to essentially create a customized K-12 curriculum for every district so that all our children come to high school ready to achieve. We will need to continue these conversations and ensure all the districts are on board.
11. Early this year the School Board approved an extensive new master facilities plan for an estimated $77 million in improvements at all three high schools. What tradeoffs do you see for a facilities investment of this magnitude? Are there instances where the Board should have gone further?
As a sitting school board member, I definitely see where we could have gone further with our facilities master plan. However, we did NOT want to raise taxes, so we created a comprehensive plan within the budget. Saving $77Million dollars to completely overhaul Proviso East and Proviso West when the district couldn’t afford new books just 4 years ago is a huge win for our community! I believe the facilities master plan was created with enough flexibility that we can continue to think bigger and better as finances allow.
12. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Proviso Together for Better Schools (the grassroots organization that became Proviso Together) donated about $1900, all from the proceeds of a backyard BBQ fundraiser at Claudia’s house. Ned Wagner has donated about $1,500 and Amanda Grant’s Aunt Linda in Westchester donated about $1000. However, most of our contributions are $25-$50 at a time raised the old fashioned way with community fundraisers. Our entire team are volunteers and no one is getting paid on this campaign.
• • • • •
[The above answers were supplied on 2/21/19. 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.]
Proviso Together (campaign Facebook page)
Forest Park Review endorsement (Forest Park Review 3/19/19)
Proviso Together pushes forward by looking back (Forest Park Review 12/4/18)
Proviso Together kicks off re-election campaign (Forest Park Review 11/6/18)
Proviso Together campaign disclosures (Illinois State Board of Elections)
Proviso Together financials (Illinois Sunshine)
• • • • •
Claims pile up in D209 board race (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
State data outlines financial state of D209 campaigns (Forest Park Review 3/5/19)
D209 candidates file (Forest Park Review 12/18/18)