Previous elected experience: Elected Member Board of Education HS District 200
Previous community experience: Founder Little Huskies Wrestling Club; Coach: Little Huskies Wrestling Club, OPRF Youth Football, River Forest Youth Baseball, Oak Park Youth Baseball, Inducted Member – Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame; Co-Chairman IWCOA Steering Committee on Girls Wrestling; President of the Board of Directors – Kenilworth Terrace Condominium Association; Board of Directors – National Midas Dealers Association; State Chairman & Board of Directors – Illinois Wrestling Federation; Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games-Volunteer Staff Member; Board of Directors – Jewish Council For Youth Services Washington; Oak Park, IL Troop 16 – Eagle Scout
Occupation: Commercial Insurance Broker: Expert in Construction, Real Estate Development and Design Professionals Insurance & Risk Management
Education: BS Business Administration (finance concentration) Washington University in St. Louis, MO
Do you believe that race is the primary predictor of student outcomes in District 200? Please expound.
Unfortunately race is a very significant predictor of student outcomes. D200 data exhibits that race predicts outcomes whether you look at student growth or achievement. Over the course of my almost four year tenure on the Board we have been addressing the systemic barriers to racial equity. We specifically hired a courageous and empathetic leader in Dr Joylynn Pruitt-Adams for the express purpose to address racial inequities. She has reorganized the District Administration put a virtually completely new team in place and has embarked on implementing a revised strategic plan that addresses the need for systemic changes to eliminate the opportunity/achievement gap. Please refer to Goal 2 Strategy 1 of the strategic plan which calls for the elimination of racial predictability of student outcomes by July 2021 it states the district will ‘provide access to rigorous curriculum and teaching for all students, so that race is not a predictor of academic level, pathway, or performance.‘
It is likely that if you’re elected to the board, you’ll have a hand in drafting the district’s racial equity policy. Do you believe that it is necessary to ensure that race is not a predictor of student outcomes (assuming you believe this is the case)? And if so, how would you ensure that the racial equity policy is effectively implemented?
Actually as a sitting member of the BOE I am involved in the crafting of our racial equity policy. It is my expectation (and hope) our racial equity policy will presented to the current Board of Education so that we can discuss, debate and implement this policy during this school year. This has been a priority our the Board for the past four years, and we hired a leader specifically to do this work; we not only deserve but should be the ones tasked with its implementation.
What are your thoughts on a racial equity policy?
Because of the systemic nature of some of the barriers to success it is essential that we institute a comprehensive racial equity policy and its accompanying processes and procedures needed for implementation so that race will forever be eliminated as a predictor of student outcomes in OPRF District 200. Over the past 4 years the Board has implemented change directed specifically at racial equity. Some of these initiatives include revising our recruiting and hiring protocols to focus on the recruiting, hiring and retention of minorities; implementation of revised dress code and ID polices to better reflect current societal norms resulting in a more welcoming environment to our students; implementing restorative justice practices to break the chain of recidivism in disciplinary issues; created Huskie Scholar Academy (formerly EOS) to identify students capable of honors and AP work and get them enrolled in those classes while supporting their efforts; we have continued our Motivational Mentoring and Leadership and Launch programs that give supports to students who need it; we have supported the expansion of our PSS teams that where counselors, deans, social workers and psychologists provide many more interactions than previously with students; we have created a Tri-Board Committee with D97 & D90 for the open exchange of issues and ideas regarding racial equity; provided Chromebooks (laptop computers) to all students and have assisted low income families in obtaining low or no cost internet service.
Do you believe that it is necessary to ensure that race is not a predictor of student outcomes (assuming you believe this is the case)? And if so, how would you ensure that the racial equity policy is effectively implemented?
Yes, as I stated above we must eliminate race as predictor of student outcomes. Alongside the racial equity policy we are developing the implementation processes and procedures that are critical to realizing our goal. A great deal of this work will focus on the adults in the building. It will entail a commitment from the entirety of our staff and faculty to accomplish our mission. I favor a districtwide position to direct our equity initiatives. This position would report directly to top administration and have responsibility to evaluate all polices and programing as well as departmental processes through an equity lens. I am extremely heartened by the work of our SAFE students in putting together curriculum for a racial equity class which will broaden the exposure of all of our students and faculty to racial equity. I am thrilled with the hire of a new head of human resources who is focused on minority hiring and a ‘grow our own’ program that I have been advocating for since the spring of 2015. Our new superintendent of curriculum and instruction has begun an in depth review of all curriculum with the major emphasis in breaking down barriers that contribute to racial inequities.
Do you believe that athletics and PE facilities are critical aspects of the overall student experience at OPRF?
Yes, absolutely. I have a volunteer coach and administrator for youth and high school sports for the past 40 years. I have always believed that other half of youth development is acquired through extra-curricular pursuits. Activities and athletics serve as the perfect delivery system. Over the years the importance of physical activity as provided by a robust physical education curriculum contributes to the overall well-being and achievement of students is well documented. I also believe that the need for athletic facilities and the associated costs have to be balanced between the benefits to our students and the burden to our taxpayers.
What are your thoughts on the recent Imagine OPRF master facilities plan that the D200 board accepted last year? Do you believe that it adequately addresses students’ needs?
After the 2016 failed referendum it was obvious to me that to address the district’s facility needs we needed a comprehensive needs based assessment that would inform a long-term facilities master plan. The Imagine Group did an incredible job in research and studying every aspect of the district resulting not only in the long-term master facilities plan but more importantly the ‘Facilities Needs Assessment Overview’. Their work and the resultant analysis was done with 21st century learning and racial equity issues at the forefront. The needs overview is the living document that has to inform all of our facility plans. This process (and its continual updating) is essential for the OPRF community to come to a consensus regarding facility updates. As a result of this process we were able to identify and prioritize the most essential components of facilities upgrades which directly address equity concerns and provide for the comfort and safety of our most vulnerable students.
Do you believe that the D200 school board is a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars? If so, in what ways? If you don’t believe this, what changes will you advocate on the board to make it so?
Yes I believe the current Board has been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. We inherited an unenviable situation where the taxpayers were substantially overtaxed by previous boards resulting in a very large fund balance. We have not squandered that balance. Additional expenditures that the current Board approved have gone directly to benefit our students. The investment of adding an additional PSS team is a good example of prudent spending to benefit all students.
Also the issuance of Chromebooks to all students goes directly to equity and achievement. This board has abated well over $35 million in taxes including obtaining a grant of $3.8M this year allowing us to abate $5.7M which will be realized by taxpayers in this summer’s property tax installment. Throughout my tenure I have advocated for cost containment and a balanced budget. We just concluded a year long negotiation with our Faculty Senate (union) on a progressive contract that is fiscally responsible for hiring and retention of outstanding educators at the same time being very fair to our taxpayers. This contract along with disciplined cost containment should hold the line on tax growth at or below inflation while pushing the need for an operating referendum well into the future.
Do you believe that the D200 board adequately incorporates the voices of people most likely to be impacted by its decisions (i.e., students, teachers, faculty and staff) into its decision-making process? If not, what are some ways that the board can more adequately incorporate these voices into its decision-making process?
We do a good job but we can do better. We strive to hear all stakeholders on issues that directly affect them. Because of the size and complexity of the district the sheer volume of information is very difficult to digest. We try to engage all in decision making but it is a monumental undertaking. We can be more transparent by utilizing more and different communication techniques. As board members we all sit on a number of committees and work groups engaging with these internal stakeholders in a variety of different initiatives. The Imagine process is a good example where we not only had faculty and staff as a part of the team we engaged students, faculty and staff in the research and data gathering. We also attentively listen to our student voices at every opportunity. I personally sit in as a liaison to our Student Leaders Advisory Committee (SLAC) where leaders across our diverse student body engage with the Administration and myself as the Board liaison on the most important current issues that affect our students.