Maya L. Ganguly

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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: 37

Previous political experience:     volunteer for number of political campaigns; currently working for State of Illinois as a non-union civil servant (i.e., non political hire) 

Previous community experience: current member of the Young Professional Board of the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing; past board member of the Chicago Composers Orchestra;

Occupation: Attorney

Education: University of Chicago, B.A.; University of Wisconsin Law School, J.D.  

How would you define the role / functions of a D97 school board member?

The school board should be neither a rubber stamp nor a roadblock.  The board must be a thoughtful policy guide to the administration and assess its actions, as well as be an ear for the teachers and greater community.  Its function is to guide from a macro level, but not to micromanage.  A good school board performs a delicate balance of listening and at times mediating issues between the administration, the teachers, and the greater community.   

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?

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts have the potential to offer much needed assistance to the redevelopment of a troubled area, but it is also subject to mishandling and may not fully deliver the promised rewards.  The basic concept is that a local governing body with taxing powers allow taxes to be set aside for development of a TIF district with the understanding that additional tax revenue made from that development during a designated period of time be used for additional TIF projects in the same area.  The hope is that 1) at the end of the designated period, the community will have tax revenue it otherwise would not have had, and 2) the additional tax revenue will help finance the next TIF district's development, continuing a positive tax revenue generating cycle.  Things are rarely that straightforward.  During the time that a TIF district is in the development phase, the local taxing body, which will include the school district, does not receive the additional tax revenue from the district.  Thus the money available to the local taxing body for schools and other municipal needs is not increased from that district.  When the TIF project is completed, the new tax revenue from the area revert to the schools and other taxing units.

With the particular focus on how TIF districts impact the schools, the TIF district is a double edge sword.  On one hand, additional tax revenue may be available, but is not guaranteed to go towards the schools.  This remains true even in the event that the TIF district brings in a significant number of new students. 

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

I plan to vote for D97's impending referendum.  Enrollment in D97 is at 40 year high.  D97 requires the funds to 1) ensure that class sizes remain small and that teachers are able to individualize lesson plans to challenge students at either end of the academic spectrum, 2) maintain and attract talented and diverse teachers, 3) maintain safe school spaces, and 4) ensure accessible buildings for all students.     

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 is impacted by the greater community in which it exists.  If the greater community has an equity problem and that carries through into D97.  It is my belief that as a society we have an equity problem; therefore, D97 has an equity problem.   

For me, equity as an attempt to create fairness.  Equity, unlike equality, is individualized.  The goal of equity is to give each person what he or she needs in order to be successful.  It is not an easy thing to achieve, but nonetheless needs to be a guiding principle for our schools.   

I know that the achievement gap continues to exist, and I believe that the current board, administration, and teachers are attempting to address it; however, I think that more needs to be done to address the achievement gap and our equity issue.  

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the current performance of D97 Supt. Carol Kelley? Explain your sentiment.

From everything I have read and seen from Dr. Carol Kelley, I am impressed.  She appears to be a thoughtful, hard-working, and passionate individual.  I am satisfied with her.  I will generally support, but also question or disagree with her if there is a need to ensure that D97 continues with the best policies to grow stronger. 

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

Note, I am interpreting this question to mean assessment testing. 

Assessment testing can give schools good information about the achievement gap, as well as the overall strength of the school.  However, it is important that 1) we do not make our teachers and students slaves to testing, 2) the tests that we are using are good assessments of our children's abilities, and 3) the tests results are used in ways that can assist teachers and administrators in working with and better serving our students.  

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