A candidate for the District 200 Board of Education says she can help Oak Park and River Forest High School balance equity with expenditures. Amanda Massie, a longtime Oak Park resident, said that while the current school board has made some progress on both fronts, there’s still work to be done.
“I have to give D200 some credit,” Massie said, citing the board’s emphasis within the last year on spending discipline and balanced budgets. But some old practices die hard, she said.
“I have an issue with the fact that as soon as we’re thinking of doing something, we have to hire out,” Massie said, referencing the practice of hiring outside consultants and contractors to help administer policies and programs.
She commended the district on creating a new equity director position ahead of the board’s final vote on a racial equity policy, which could be weeks away.
If she’s elected, she said, she’ll push for a forensic audit of the district’s expenses.
“We need to prioritize everything we’re doing now because anything we spend comes on the back of the taxpayer,” she said.
The mother of adult African-American sons (they attended school in California, where Massie and her husband had moved years ago before returning to Oak Park), she also argued that the district should speed up its progress on the equity front — but in a way that involves teachers.
“We have to have buy-in from the teachers,” she said. “Teachers aren’t involved in enough discussions. If we don’t have their buy-in, it doesn’t matter how good the racial equity policy is; it won’t work.”
Massie said the district should also take a close look at its curriculum, particularly the district’s swimming requirement.
“We need to look at the mandated swimming curriculum of freshmen and sophomores taking swimming even if they already know how to swim,” she said, adding that students can instead be taking other classes, such as vocational training, “that can actually help them after high school.”
And she’ll push for more transparency at the board table.
“I want all the meetings videotaped and livestreamed,” she said. “People need to see what’s going on at these meetings when they can’t attend. The fact that the district hasn’t spent money on this [when they’ve found other, arguably less critical, areas to spend it in] is a problem. It can’t be that expensive.”
Massie also said she would push to eliminate tracking at OPRF, the practice of separating students into separate curricular paths based on academic ability.
“It’s not a good way to promote kids and tell them they can do anything they want to do,” she said. “It’s obvious that when you look at tracking racially, it’s so one-sided that it just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know what we’d do to change that except get rid of the labels, not come up with new ones because that doesn’t help either.”