Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Profession: Consultant: Arts Programming/Non-Profit Management
Years in Oak Park or River Forest: I have lived in Oak Park for more than 20 years
Are you an OPRF graduate? No
Do you have children who have, are or will be attending OPRF? What are their ages? I have a 17 year-old daughter, Leah MacCarthy, who is a senior at the high school.
Why are you running for this office?
I believe that my background, experience, commitment to educational equity make me an excellent candidate for the OPRFHS Board. I have a collaborative, congenial and pragmatic sensibility that will serve me well should I be elected. As the parent of a graduating senior, I have direct experience with and knowledge about the school. My daughter had a completely positive experience at the high school that has prepared her well for matriculation at some of the nation's best colleges. I am passionately committed to the belief that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, deserve an academically and intellectually fulfilling experience at OPRF and that their high school experience prepares them for future success.
I believe that I will bring a unique perspective to the Board derived from my long tenure as the marketing director for an arts education organization that served public schools in Chicago. I have worked with hundreds of schools that serve students from low and mixed income families and some schools that serve middle class students. Moreover, my recent dissertation research, a case study of a high achieving, high poverty public school titled: It Takes Leadership to Build a Village: A Portrait of Public School Community That is Closing the Achievement Gap, prepares me to discuss the issues that contribute to the achievement gap at OPRF with a unique perspective.
In addition, as an executive with a cultural education organization, I wore many hats and gained experience developing, managing, documenting, evaluating, and promoting educational programs. In this role, I worked directly with administrators, teachers, local school councils, parents, and external partners such as artists and other contractors who worked with the schools. As a result, I understand the concerns and perspectives of a diverse pool of stakeholders.
I recently received my Ed.D. (June 2012) and I am attuned to past and current educational initiatives and research. All my training and experience have prepared me to understand complex issues such as budgeting, curriculum, potential funding sources and public policy.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
I was a candidate for the Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners in 2011, but I formally withdrew from the race prior to the election.
Are there individuals or groups which actively encouraged your interest in running for the D200 board? No.
What do you consider the greatest strengths of Oak Park and River Forest High School?
I think OPRFHS students benefit from attending a public school with an economically and racially diverse student body. I also commend the school for offering a wide array of high quality programs and opportunities to students as well as strong support services. Finally, the teachers at OPRFHS are highly qualified, teacher turnover is low, and teachers are given opportunities to refine their professional practice.
What are your strongest concerns about the school at this time?
I am disturbed by the achievement gap at the high school. I share the current board and the superintendant's commitment to using a multi-tiered approach to address the disparity in achievement among races.
How many District 200 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years? Three.
What is your opinion of the Strategic Planning Process currently underway?
I respect the design of the plan, the goals, and the proactive approach to collect data from a wide spectrum of stakeholders.
Should District 200 become an active funder and partner in the Collaboration for Early Childhood initiative to boost the success of at-risk children in Oak Park?
Yes. I believe, and research indicates, that high-quality early childhood education is a critical factor in fostering social and academic success in elementary, high school, and beyond. I think District 200's relationship with the Collaboration for Early Childhood illustrates the district's commitment to closing the achievement gap.
Is the current financial reserve held by the school district a reasonable amount or too much?
I believe the school district has a responsibility to make sound fiscal decisions in order to maintain the quality of educational programming over the long-term. I also know that some stakeholders feel the reserve account is inordinately high. Over the course of my campaign I look forward to hearing the perspectives of diverse stakeholders. I will render an opinion on the financial reserves after I have reviewed their opinions.
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