RESPONSES TO THE OPCTA QUESTIONNAIRE
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 running for the board because I know the importance and value of a strong elementary school experience and foundation. Teachers played a critical role in my early development and subsequent success as an adult and parent. I am passionate that all students have similar formative experiences with their education in our schools.
My degree BS in Physiological Psychology, has great application to education through emphasis and understanding of the science behind perception, learning, motivation and behavior. I recently retired after 36 years at a major healthcare company, the last 20 years supporting HIV/AIDS treatment in
Chicago’s minority & LGBTQ communities. During my career, I continued expand my learning of human behavior and was enriched working with these communities, gaining a strong understanding of the impact of cultural differences and economic challenges on learning and motivation in these communities’ individuals. Additionally, my professional experience at a large, very well managed company, gave me a tremendous understanding of the nuance and complexity of organization management and performance motivation. I hope to contribute that understanding to the implementation of the Dr. Kelley’s Vision Plan.
Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?
I do not see myself as an agent of social change. I do not take myself that seriously. I am someone who has always been a keen of observe of life and tries to make things better. In this case, I am applying eight years of experience K-8 in D97; observation of issues impacting our schools; and my skills and understanding of motivation and management to try to improve the performance of our schools for ALL students. Since my daughter will not be in D97 after May, I have no vested interest except to “give back” to our community. One thing that might be considered social change is my commitment to improving the way we communicate with each other. Many have seen my logo on my signs, a triangle with the words Communication, Respect and Trust. With recent events and interactions at national, state and local levels; interactions between groups and individuals with differing viewpoints have not occurred in the most civilized fashion. Lack of respect in communication has become a huge obstacle in developing Trust.
We can improve on this in Oak Park! If the Board, community and stakeholders consistently use respect for others’ viewpoints in our communications and discussion; we can improve on the Trust that is needed for compromise and progress. I would like to invoke the “higher angels of our nature”. (A. Lincoln’s Inaugural Address)
One of the most important roles of the school board is connecting with the community, both serving as 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?
One thing I have learned, in preparation for the election, is the D97 Board of Education needs to do a better job at engaging and communicating with the community, especially on progress that has been made on many issues and concerns. “I don’t trust the Board” has been frequently heard. The root cause is lack of effective engagement and communication with the stakeholders and community. The very new Community Engagement Committee is a just a start. The Board can undertake “listening tours” such as Dr. Kelley has implemented, and scheduled feedback/survey structures for stakeholders.
I am committed to the D97 Board doing a better job of engaging all of the stakeholders of the district. This will be aligned with the guiding principle of the Illinois Association of School Boards (www.iasb.com/principles.cfm), which emphasizes strong, aggressive, ongoing and meaningful communication with the community they serve and other stakeholders. This foundation is essential for building the Trust necessary for progress.
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?
Commitment to Early Childhood Education …. My experience in healthcare emphasized “preventive medicine” to intervene at the earliest stages of symptoms, when less expensive and more curative outcomes are likely to be achieved. Treating a bigger problem later is typically more expensive and yields poorer outcomes. Persistent and creative new measures should be tried to get as many of the high-risk children into this resource prior to Kindergarten. Similar identification efforts, and creative, engaging programs should be fully supported, as at-risk students enter our earliest grades.
Expanding Diverse Role Models is one component of a complex solution, but addressing it is not easy. Supply of qualified minority teachers is low, especially males, and competition for these candidates is high, as other school districts have similar needs. Partnering with local universities, with high minority enrollment in education, such as UIC. A collaboration with UIC would create a credit earning preceptorship/internship for qualified, juniors and seniors, to student teach. This would help in identifying and vetting possible hires for D97 to meet our need.
Chicago’s corporations may provide a great (and inexpensive) resource-- volunteer programs, encouraging employees to donate time in local communities. Successful minority professionals could serve as role models and mentors with at-risk students in afternoon programs. Other innovative and “outside-of- the-box” ideas will be considered.
Racial bias is a persistent problem in special education. How can the district address this issue at an institutional level?
I have been asking if comprehensive Cultural Competency training for all employees in the district has been implemented in the last 5 years. I have not gotten a solid answer. In my professional life with HIV/AIDs communities, this is standard operating procedure. Hopefully most know that racial bias and racism are not synonymous. Developing the skills to identify one’s own biases (since we all have different backgrounds and cultural upbringing and experiences) and understanding the different perspectives that our students bring to the table will allow for better decisions and approaches in special education and the broader school population.
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 have some skills and experience with data management, but will defer to those with more extensive skills. My experience in the medical and behavioral field allow me to ask for the best statistical analysis to apply to complex data sets that I see Dr. Kelley collecting and measuring, to better understand what policies and programs will have measurable impact on our needs, always with focus on improving our only product – the education of our children.
D97 has two referenda on the ballot this year. Do you support these referenda? Why or why not?
I support both referenda. Here is why:
Fiscal management…What I have found is that the board has been very active in trying to fix problems from the past. The board has acted to provide a more stable school environment with specific goals, plans and timetables; established policies and practices for aggressive financial management and budget controls; and worked with the teachers and found compromise on a teacher contract, considered a model for other districts to follow. There are other changes that I believe are moving the district in the right direction. More needs to be done, but we have a good solid start. I am convinced of the necessity of the tax requests.
Transparency… Many voters have been asking for more Board of Education transparency, the district’s website has very organized and comprehensive resources for your review. I would encourage you to investigate this for yourself online http://www.op97.org/d97referenda/index.cfm.
It is large financial request and commitment, and I recognize that some households may not be able to afford/support the referenda. I will encourage their own research and consideration, and respect their decision.
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.
It is very easy to idly speculate on what cuts should be made to provide fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer. Without fully understanding the actual scope of any position, the rationale and expected benefits of a program; any suggested cuts without thorough examination and understanding of the full details and actual savings(that may or may not be realized) are not terribly responsible as a potential Board member. Today I had a discussion with a senior Board member about a program that I thought might save $250K/year. In reality the savings would be somewhat minimal, since it could not fully eliminate two positions in question. It really helps to have all the information before you speculate. I am not dodging the question but until we are Board members, we do not know all that we need to make these decisions.l Reality- we should question the value and cost of almost any program, align any decision with our priorities, with continued focus on what are schools are here for, the quality education of our children.
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?
Staff salaries comprise 65% of the budget and benefits 15%. It is important to separate the components because the benefits portion has a less controllable element: health care premiums which are constantly on the rise for everyone. The current contract has some cost sharing provision for healthcare which should continue into the next contract. The annual growth of the salary component is now less than 3% versus the old contract (pre2015) which was greater than 4%. The Board has not adequately communicated these and other structural changes that were ratified by the teachers, which is unfortunate because most that I have talked to believe we are still in the old more traditional public sector teachers contract. Since this is a NEGOTIATION any idea should be aligned with two things: Making sure the compensation plan is fair and incents the best performance for our students, and is respectful to the taxpayer of Oak Park, who for better or worse is burdened with the lion’s share of funding the district budget.
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?
The best financial oversight for all Board members is to keep in mind that Oak Park has reached the tipping point of pricing current and potential residents out of our community. This financial priority must be calculated in every spending decision we approve as a Board.
Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
My donors are my immediate family. I am funding my own campaign with a total under $1500.
Oak Park teachers endorse three for D97 board (Wednesday Journal)
Referenda, trust and the D97 board (Wednesday Journal)
Candidate Profile (Wednesday Journal)
Candidate Profile (SUA)
Candidates file for Oak Park, River Forest elections (Oak Leaves)
School board candidates riff on equity (Wednesday Journal)