Melanie McQueen

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Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.

Age: 36

Profession: Community Volunteer

Years in Oak Park or River Forest: 11 years in Oak Park

Why are you running for this office?

I am an active parent and community volunteer. I currently split my time between 7 parent organizations and committees between Dist 200 and 97. I've been a youth director for the past 10 years at grant memorial AME church. I am raising 3 children. I hear from parents. Parents want the best for their children. Parents want the school and community to want and support what is best for their children. I want to make sure that "parents want the best for their children" is behind every decision made by the board of education. Being on the board of education will bring all of my community experience to the table. I have the time and talent to commit to serving on the district 200 board.

Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office? No.

Are there individuals or groups which actively encouraged your interest in running for the D200 board?

Parents, parents, parents! I love my parents. They are my first level of encouragement. We work with each other everyday with one goal in mind and that's our kids. I volunteer in many parent groups and can't name just one group of support. It is my community. My being on the board will give a voice to parents and the community.

What do you consider to be the greatest strengths of Oak Park and River Forest High School?

Oak Park and River Forest High School was an unknown goldmine of opportunity and excellence. I had no idea how rich the history of Oak Park was, let alone the history of the high school. Parents outside of Oak Park would be so impressed when i told them where i lived and where my daughter was to attend high school. I couldn't wait for her to start school here. The curriculum and co-curriculars were often compared to blue ribbon schools. I considered my daughter's education here to be a blessing.

What are your strongest concerns about the school at this time?

There are lots of concerns at the high school right now and some of them are not a reflection of the school itself, but the school reacting to situations that are directly affecting our youth. The two hot topics are the tax increase/finances and the safety of our children. Working on the steering committee has opened my eyes to other very strong and valid concerns. I want to make sure that the strategic plan is an active plan, that benefits students.

How many District 200 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years? 7

What is your opinion of the Strategic Planning Process currently underway?

The strategic planning process is a collaborative effort to bring our school and community to the forefront of academia and to maintain/grow equity. I support this planning process. It includes parents, students, teachers, administrators and community members. I believe this plan will benefit students. This five year plan will affect my children who are currently in elementary school.

Should District 200 become an active funder and partner in the Collaboration for Early Childhood initiatives to boost the success of at-risk children in Oak Park?

We are living in a world that changes by the minute and that includes our children, their circumstances and how they learn. If we want our students, who will one day be working members of our community, we have to seriously look at investing in them from the start. We have used early interventions successfully in improving health, why not education in early childhood?

Is the current financial reserve held by the school district a reasonable amount or too much?

I have talked to parents who are split down the middle and some who just need the amount justified. There are so many factors that go into the financial reserve. It's not too much if we are doing the right thing for students with it. It's too much if our students receive no benefit from it. Either way, District 200 must budget wisely.

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Chet from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 4:08 PM

You say: Oak Park and River Forest High School was an unknown goldmine of opportunity and excellence." Was or is? If it "was" then tell us what you will do to bring it back. If it "is" then tell us how you intend to mine the gold. We need SUBSTANCE people!

Nyree from Atlanta  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 6:24 PM

As an active parent in your community, I believe your voice is vital when addressing the needs of the students. As an educator, I believe one of the variables missing most often in our school system is active parent involvement.

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