Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Years lived in River Forest: I lived in River Forest from 1976-1978 while attending high school. My wife and I moved to River Forest in 1997. So, 18 years.
Spouse, if applicable: Karen
Do you have children in D90 schools? Yes
How many and what ages? 1. Katie, 13.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
Yes. Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County, 2008. School Board Member, District 90 School Board, 2009
If you are not currently on the school board, how many school board meetings have you attended in the last year? N/A
Why are you running for this office?
I initially ran for the School Board because some of the most influential people in my life have been teachers. These teachers had a significant impact on my self esteem, desire to learn, and my outlook on life. Many watershed moments in my life can be traced back to a teacher's word or act. Because of the impact my teachers had, school – not just the learning part, put the day-to-day experience of going to school – is very important in my family. It is unlikely that I will ever become a teacher. That doesn't mean I can't help today's teachers impact my kids' generation the same way they impacted me. My goal in becoming a member of the school Board is to help make sure we have the teachers and the facilities necessary to have a positive impact on our kids many years after they leave our schools.
This time, idealism gives way to realism. My goals are far more focused and realistic than my idealism was four years ago. As a result, I expect to be a far more effective member of the Board.
I would like to continue to focus on improvements in education across the Board, continue to monitor the iPad initiative, and continue to apply pressure to keep our spending low and effective.
What do you think are the three biggest challenges facing the district in the next four years?
- Parents/Testing. The biggest challenge I see schools facing today is parents. Without parental support and involvement, no school can consistently produce well educated kids. All else being equal, an involved parent must be one of the single biggest factors in how well a child learns. I think the level of parental involvement in River Forest schools is wonderful. The School Board should encourage involved parents through open communication and school activities. However, involved parents presents its own problem. Parents want results. Currently, the most common way of measuring results is through test scores. Test scores are fine, but they don't tell the whole story. My best teachers were the odd balls, the characters, the teachers that drew me into learning, the teachers who taught me how to think and not what to think. What these teachers taught me may not be readily measured even though it is some of my most valued learning. The biggest challenge facing public education is finding and keeping these impact teachers in a test driven world.
- Finances. Everything in education is becoming more expensive. Simply maintaining the same level of service has become and will become more expensive. Yet, there is always the pressure to do more and improve. The fall back solution to doing more and improving is to spend more money. In addition, there will likely be increasing pressure for local communities to shoulder more of the costs of education. Spending every dollar effectively and finding low or no cost ways to improve our schools is essential.
- Differentiation. Simply providing a one size fits all education no longer best meets the needs of our children. We need to develop programs that provide the best education possible to each child depending on their needs and abilities. Doing so has proved difficult for understandable reasons yet differentiation offers the best avenue for improving our schools.
What skills/talents do you have that would enable you to deal with those challenges?
I think I am a quick study. I think I am a good parent/teacher to my daughters. I challenge assumptions. And, I think there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing discovery in the eyes of a child. Put these traits together and the questions I ask, the suggestions I make, and my decisions as a Board member challenge the school administrators to support their recommendations with the children first in their minds. At least that's what I hope happens.
If elected, what are three goals that you have for the next four years?
In four years, I would like to leave our schools with:
- A fully integrated one-on-one iPad/computer program at all appropriate grade levels;
- True differentiation; and
- An attitude of fiscal responsibility that continues to question the true effectiveness of every dollar we spend.