As a longtime Oak Park resident and parent, I have witnessed many discussions, proposals and denials regarding the achievement gap that continues to plague the village’s school system. Although the issue is complex and multi-dimensional, I believe that parental involvement and diverse leadership are keys to solving the problem. Melanie McQueen fits the bill on both counts.
Melanie has demonstrated her commitment to the Oak Park community by serving on seven parent organizations and committees in districts 200 and 97. I first met Melanie when I was organizing a parent group at Longfellow Elementary. She showed up, participated and helped lead countless school events and fundraisers. With her three daughters in tow, now 4, 7 and 17, Melanie never stopped advocating for our children.
Many times, her voice was the only one that spoke for the needs of children of color in a climate that focused on concerns deemed more important. There can never be any real progress if the leadership only reflects one kind of background. Melanie has worked hard to foster a genuinely inclusive Oak Park community, and I think her addition to the District 200 Board of Education is vital.
Many of the candidates flaunt impressive professional careers and high-profile reputations as justification for joining the board, but these characteristics don’t necessarily translate to effective school board leadership. Melanie has volunteered her time, fostered relationships, and provided solutions for the Oak Park community without the thought of pumping up her resume or gaining political power.
She has served beyond the spotlight because she sincerely cares and is committed to helping children. For me, that’s effective leadership.