I am running for the District 97 Board of Education because I believe that my professional project management experience and volunteer efforts within D97 can help the district meet the many challenges it currently faces and will face in the future. I will work to ensure academic excellence for all students, provide financial oversight, and continued, responsible commitment to cultural and racial diversity.
I am a life long resident of Oak Park. My wife Nancy and I have two daughters-?#34;one in second grade at Irving and a preschooler who will be starting kindergarten in September. I have a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Public Policy and Administration. Currently I work as a Project Manager at Argonne National Laboratory.
I have been active within D97 in several areas. I am currently serving my second term as the Co-Vice President of the Irving PTO and previously served for 2 years on the Irving School Leadership Team. I have taught several science programs in the Irving after school program, I am the parent coordinator of the yearly Irving sleepover, and a Fun Fair volunteer. I am also a founding member of the PTO sponsored Learning Community Initiative (LCI) at Irving. This initiative is working to reduce the minority achievement gap at Irving by creating a more positive and successful learning experience for all students. It has involved the entire educational community, which includes parents, teachers, students and administrators. This year the LCI has worked to increase home/school communication and to provide parent-to-parent outreach and support. The LCI has successfully, through innovative programs, increased the involvement of minority parents in the educational process at Irving.
Issues Facing D97
I believe creative approaches, open communication between parents, teachers and administration, and the community working together, will strengthen our district as it faces challenges in the areas of finance, diversity and the minority achievement gap, and district management.
In the area of finance, D97 is facing increasing budget pressures due to tax caps, salary increases, and health insurance costs. The board will be making critical choices of how to maintain academic excellence while keeping expenses in line. I will work to:
? Insure that all possible spending cuts have been identified.
? Prioritize spending cuts so that curriculum, teacher/student ratios, and teaching of core subjects are the absolutely last things impacted.
? Insure that teacher, parent, and community input is considered in making any future spending cuts.
? Continue D97 efforts to lobby Springfield for increased state funding.
? Recommend regular review and possible reconvening of D97's Finance Task Force so that the district's decisions remain consistent with the task force's recommendations.
Maintaining diversity and alleviating the minority achievement gap is the next significant issue facing our schools. D97 has a rich history of leadership in supporting the diversity of our community. The main challenge to diversity is the minority achievement gap. D97 must take aggressive action to attack this gap. In order to reduce the minority achievement gap I will work to:
? Increase the number of highly qualified minority teachers.
? Implement programs that identify in the early grades students who struggle in the classroom.
? Provide necessary educational support to struggling minority students.
? Have the board take a leadership role in outreach to minority families similar to the efforts implemented by the LCI at Irving.
Finally, I would address district management. D97 currently employs site-based management of the eight elementary and two middle schools. Each of these schools is a unique community that is a reflection of its surrounding neighborhood. The board needs to provide greater managerial oversight of the administration to obtain consistency in discipline policy, academic standards, differentiated instruction and performance evaluation of the staff at each school while maintaining their individual character. Such consistency will allow all schools to benefit from successful programs and allow an easier transition from elementary to middle school. The board's role, however, is not to micro-manage the daily activities of D97 or to be experts in education programs. Rather, the board should provide guidance and managerial oversight of the administration and establish budget priorities.
I believe that my wide ranging professional, volunteer, and D97 experience give me the ability to see these challenges in a different light and to develop new and creative answers. Working together, with the new superintendent, we can bring costs in line and reduce the minority achievement gap, while maintaining the high quality education that families in Oak Park expect.