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.
Previous political experience: N/A
Previous community experience:
I've worked in the education nonprofit world for most of my professional career and have served on 2 nonprofit Chicago boards.
Founder of KLB Consulting, LLC, a nonprofit executive search consultancy that specializes in education (policy and senior leadership) and school leadership searches. I've successfully led education and school leadership searches in cities across the country, including Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Memphis. My consultancy has a focus on building diverse candidate pools to help ensure that senior level executives in nonprofits and schools reflect the communities in which they serve and work.
In addition to my work in executive search and for education nonprofits, I have also taught secondary Language Arts. I plan to tap into all of these experiences in education if elected to serve on the D97 school board.
Master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Bachelor's degree English and Comparative Literature from Occidental College in Los Angeles.
How would you define the role / functions of a D97 school board member?
School board members help hire and evaluate the performance of the Superintendent; monitor progress toward district goals (e.g., student achievement) and compliance with district policies and contracts; and, help facilitate community dialogue about the district's schools.
If elected to the school board, I aim to be an advocate for the twin goals of excellence and equity. I believe that choosing between excellence and equity is not a zero-sum game. We can, and should, focus on creating a rigorous academic environment that challenges all students while addressing academic achievement and opportunity gaps that exist.
As a board member, you may be asked to make decisions relating to Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. What is your understanding of TIF districts? What are your thoughts about their impact on school districts?
I've studied TIF districts during my graduate study in urban planning. When utilized correctly, I believe they can be an effective way to help communities fund special projects. That said, it's important to understand the local context and financial circumstances before deciding whether or not to implement a TIF.
As it relates to D97, I view TIFs as a financial tool that could help further the district's long-term strategic interests. But freezing assessments in order to raise a special fund should be considered in the context of the upcoming ballot referenda, where the district is asking the voters for additional tax revenue.
If D97's impending referendum were held today, would you vote for or against it? Explain your vote.
I will vote for the D97 referenda. My family chose to live in Oak Park because of the schools. Proximity to the Loop and the village's diversity are also tremendous draws for my family of five, but without great schools, those assets would diminish in importance. I think the best investment we can make to ensure the vitality and attractiveness of our community (compared to other nearby suburbs that also have desirable assets) is in our schools and the education of the great kids who live here.
I'm running for school board because I'm deeply invested in building on the strengths of this community and want to use my skills and experiences to bring positive impact to the district. If elected to the school board, I would focus on ways to use data to drive decision making and investments that promote excellence in the district, while also being mindful of our finite resources.
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?
Oak Park, like many school districts across the country, has an academic achievement gap. Equity (or its absence) impacts the achievement gap. I define equity as ensuring that all students (and their families) have access to the tremendous resources and opportunities that D97 has to offer.
Our district will excel when all students, regardless of race or income, are performing at higher levels. This occurs when students enjoy learning, feel that their schools and community believe in their potential, and share high expectations for their success.
Given the state funding crisis, it's critical that the district use data (both quantitative and where possible, qualitative) to determine how best to allocate our finite financial resources to identify solutions that increase the performance of low performing students, while also ensuring that students in the middle and very top of the academic curve receive the support they need to accelerate their learning.
Given my experience in education and hiring school leaders, I think the best investments that can be made to address equity are the hiring of highly qualified teachers and school leaders who have experience working with diverse student populations and who have implemented innovative approaches that have helped improve performance levels among all of their students. Professional development for teachers is also another wise investment to ensure that teachers are staying abreast of new innovations and approaches and identifying ways to integrate curriculum that resonates with diverse student groups.
Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the current performance of D97 Supt. Carol Kelley? Explain your sentiment.
A Superintendent's work is always in progress given the numerous metrics and measures by which they are evaluated. That said, I think Dr. Kelly is moving in the right direction in a number of key areas –
- Listening tour to get community input on D97 schools. In order for schools (and school systems) to thrive, students and parents must feel engaged and heard. Talking to the community and listening to their hopes and concerns for the district and incorporating that feedback into the D97 strategic plan are important steps Dr. Kelly has taken to uncover root problems and tackle issues that are most important to students and their families.
- Interest in supporting parents – Dr. Kelly has advocated for the creation of parent advisory and parent liaison groups to help parents better navigate their children through schooling. D97 has a lot of resources and opportunities; however, not all parents have the resources or time to understand or access the options that are available. I think efforts to help parents better support their child/children's schooling should be embraced.
If I am elected to serve on the D97 school board, I'd be excited to find ways to help support Dr. Kelly's vision for D97 schools and help identify best practices across the country that could be utilized in Oak Pak to address the achievement gap.
Explain your views on the relative advantage of assessments and using them to measure proficiency or growth.
I think assessments are useful as tools to gauge academic progress, but I am wary of the recent trend towards single-purpose, high stakes exams. We should use a combination of evaluative tools to measure student performance and recognize that not all students exhibit their range of skills in response to a single multiple choice exam.
As for the question of using proficiency or growth, I think both are useful. An assessment that measures proficiency ensures that students have mastery that meets or exceeds state requirements. This is an important bar to keep in mind so that we are preparing students with the skills to succeed on successively more challenging work.
Schools also need to meet students where they find them. School districts like D97 have many students who are performing below grade level. For these students, a growth measure might be a more effective way of measuring incremental progress toward the ultimate goal of proficiency. Teachers who are able to help students achieve 2 or more years of growth in a single year should be recognized for this because it's incredibly difficult to do and will be key to reducing inequities. We should encourage principals to monitor student growth in addition to proficiency. One without the other tells an incomplete story.
To foster a love of learning among students, efforts must also be made to identify and adopt curriculum that engages students holistically and across multiple disciplines rather than the single-subject approach that is often favored by assessments.
Answer Book 2017
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.
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