David Yamashita

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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 District 97 school board election. 

Age: 60

Previous political experience:  none

Previous community experience: 

Congressional Black Caucus HIV Clinic, Peer Plus Education and Training Advocates, Circle Family Health/Lawndale Christian Health Center, Christmas Cheer Foundation, Academy of Movement and Music/Momenta

Occupation: Retired 7/2016

Education: BS Physiological Psychology, University of California at Santa Barbara

How would you define the role/function of a D97 School Board Member?

I view the role of a D97 School Board Member as multi-faceted.  As a Board Member, you are the community's representative elected to governthe school district in a collaborative and consistent fashion.  The ultimate goal is to work together with the community stakeholders and the superintendent to provide the best possible education experience to all D97 students.

Another role is to seek out collaborative partnerships with other local governmental bodies, school boards, universities and community organizations that will benefit our schools and students. Other functions of the position include policy development, financial planning/management, legal compliance and risk management.

I am committed to be a board member who actively engages in discussions with a range of stakeholders in our community and will base my board decisions on these observations, questions and ideas.  Communication, Respect and Trust are overarching themes in my candidacy.  Communication and Trust must go hand in hand to allow greater understanding between our diverse groups.  This dynamic is key to realizing a better level of trust throughout all parties, in our school district, and supporting community. 

As a board member, you may asked to make decisions relating to TIF districts. What is your Understanding of TIF districts?  What are your thoughts on their impact on school districts?

According to the Illinois Tax Increment Association (http://www.illinois-tif.com), TIFs are enacted by municipalities (i.e. Village of Oak Park) to provide incentives and financing for improvement of "blighted" or underdeveloped areas of each community.  At the initiation of the TIF, the "base" property values provide flat revenue for the taxing bodies, with improvement/development resulting in incremental growth in the property values. These incremental tax revenue increases are then directed to the TIF special fund rather than the normal taxing body distribution.  Although school boards do not establish TIF districts, they do participate in a Joint Review Board to review the plans for the TIF area. Ultimately the municipal governing body makes the decision.  There are varied opinions on their value and appropriateness, A discussion on the merits of TIFs is more appropriate for another forum.  Currently the Village of Oak Park has 3 TIF districts.  TIFs affect District 97 in the following ways:

a)     The effects on tax revenues for D97 have short and long term impact.  The short-term flat tax base has a negative impact on needed revenue growth for D97.  Long-term, if the TIF succeeds in its purpose of improving property values and taxable base, TIF expiration may have a greater positive effect on revenues.    

If a "windfall" of tax revenues occurs with the expiration of a TIF district, policies enacted by the current board, limit the potential excess accumulation of operating funds.  A target range of 25 to 75% surplus of the annual operating budget was established by the Board of Education (25%  being recommended as a minimum by the IL Board of Education).  If the surplus exceeds 75%, a temporary reduction of district taxes could occur to correct the situation.  There is a proposal to reduce the ceiling percentage surplus from 75% to 50%.  I am in favor of that proposed policy change, since no taxing body in Oak Park should be accumulating funds in excess of what is necessary and agreed upon by the community. 

b)     The current Board of Education, working with the Village of Oak Park, identified an opportunity to utilize funding from the Madison Street TIF for a mutually beneficial project, which resulted in i) the new D97 District Headquarters and ii) a more "appropriate to develop" property (old D97 headquarter) for the Madison St. TIF.  This use of TIF by the village was financially advantageous to D97 and its' budgets. 

If  D97's impending referendum were held today, would you vote for, or against?

YES.  I have spent the last 4 months attending the Board of Education meetings, hearing the presentations by outside consultants, reviewing the internal district reports, and understanding the decision-making process leading to the referenda requests.  It does not seem that the decision was made lightly. I am convinced of the necessity of the tax requests.  Importantly, the current Board of Education has done its job in controlling expenses, negotiating a fair teacher contract, and hiring a qualified superintendent to match the expectations we have of our elementary schools. If waste and/or financial mismanagement were evident, I would not be supportive.

It is large financial request and commitment, and I recognize that some households may not be able to afford/support the referenda.  I have to respect their position.

Do you think that D97 has an equity problem?  How do you define "equity"?  Do you believe that the district is currently utilizing its resources effectively enough to address the long-standing issue of equity?

D97 has a major achievement gap that is concentrated along economic and racial lines. (Composite PARCC scores 2016 – low income gap -39%, Black/White gap -43%, Hispanic/White gap -22%. http://www.op97.org/teach-learn/Report-Cards.cfm)   As the question states, this "long-standing" issue is complex, multi-faceted and will not be easily or quickly solved.  The current administration and Board of Education recognize that there are roots of this achievement gap in equity issues, which they are attempting to address with added opportunity, resources and support.  Can more be done, yes!  There is no "magic bullet".

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the current performance of Superintendent Carol Kelley?

I am satisfied at this point of her tenure.  Dr. Kelley conducted a wide-ranging review and analysis of conditions of the schools during her early tenure in latter 2015; solicited input from a broad sample of concerned parties; shared her findings; and developed a vision statement with goals, measurable elements, and timelines for achievement/measurement.  These are important steps in providing good management of our schools. Many of these processes and structure were inconsistent with previous administrations.  Time will tell if these changes result in realizing the desired improvement and move us toward the goal of providing a strong education for all Oak Park students.

Explain your views on the relative advantage of assessments and using them to measure proficiency or growth.

The two major assessments used in D97 are Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  Since I am not an expert in this area, I will rely on the opinions of professional educators and researchers in performance testing.  The transition from ISAT to PARCC has been dogged by controversies and differing opinions.  This will be an ongoing discussion between the board, administration and families.  Standardized testing has never been perfect and often not "fair".  There is a need for a standard basis of comparison and statutory requirements for such tests.  However, supplemental alternate measures and assessments should be continually explored that will allow better and fairer decisions, particularly in determining the true capabilities and placement of our students.

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