Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Profession: Director of Risk Management at Groupon, Attorney
Years lived in River Forest: We have lived in Oak Park for 2.5 years.
Spouse, if applicable: Brandon Spurlock
Do you have children in D97 schools? How many and what ages?
Yes. Our 6 year old daughter is a kindergartener at Whittier. We also have an almost-3 year old who is enrolled in early education in Oak Park.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
If you are not currently on the school board, how many school board meetings have you attended in the last year?
I have been in communication with the board on particular issues but I have not yet attended a meeting.
Why are you running for this office?
I am running for office because I am passionate about education, committed to Oak Park public schools for the long term, and I think that my particular skills align with the current needs of the board. Specifically, I have been in the corporate world since I started working as an attorney 14 years ago but I always maintained a strong record of pro bono service. Starting in 2009, my pro bono work focused on education and I have since centered my public service in that area. When I say long term, I mean at least 15 years as my youngest is under 3 and we are not moving out of OP. We moved here from the city for the schools and I am 100% invested in being part of the team that maintains the high quality of public education. With regard to my skills, I am not a life long educator but I am a superior Operator. I run a global operation that focuses on sharing best practices, collaboration, creating a certain culture focused on high results and constant improvement. My skill is in managing such an operation while relying on subject matter expertise that I bring to the table but also from others. I think that these skills are exceptionally important for the board.
What do you think are the three biggest challenges facing the district in the next four years?
- Building a large scale strategy and short term strategies and communicating them effectively, especially with regard to common core, school financing, and the administration building.
- Identifying what data we have and what we need and how to use it to create programs and initiatives that have a high impact on students’ success.
- Increasing collaboration and participation across all stakeholders – students, teachers, parents, community – and across all D97 schools and other OP governing bodies.
What skills/talents do you have that would enable you to deal with those challenges?
I am a natural problem solver and data-driven decision maker. I am a superior strategist and I am good at setting long term and short term goals and reaching them through motivating a team and taking a hands on approach to get things done. I am positive and a “can-do” leader who avoids making excuses but also takes a realistic approach to problem solving. My communication skills have developed to be able to gain agreement, even from people who may have originally been opposed to one of my ideas. I have extensive experience in change management and the rolling out of processes across many regions and functions. I also do not get bogged down with optics and I can keep a group focused on the issue at hand so that we limit distraction. In the end, I am also a believer and an optimist with a proven success rate and I give my all to all the roles I assume and I would do the same with the school board.
If elected, what are three goals that you have for the next four years?
- Truly understand the current state of our education as it compares to international benchmarks and where we have achievement gaps across the entire district and then to devise a plan to improve the performance across all populations of students and reduce those gaps.
- Create a strong culture of collaboration and facilitate the sharing of best practices through the input of all stakeholders.
- Support teachers, parents, and students in the implementation of common core.