The last time Scott Hall campaigned for election, he was in seventh grade, battling for the class presidency. At 41, the River Forest father of two has now come out of electoral hiatus to vie for a seat on the River Forest School District 90 school board.
Hall, a six-year resident of River Forest, is one of five candidates fighting for four open seats on the board of education. The 41-year-old Hall is up against three incumbents, Nicole C.P. Thomas, Stacey Williams and Katie Avalos, and one other newcomer, Sarah Eckmann.
“I’m not someone that was a PTO liaison to the board and served on the curriculum committee years ago,” he said. “While I think that experience is good experience, I think it’s made it [the board] a little bit insular. I think there’s so much sort of common experience across the board that just the fact that I’m coming in as a guy in the community that brings a business and financial mindset and an evidence-based way of thinking, I think that’s very different than a lot of people on the board think.”
Hall, whose career focuses on investment baking, has billed himself as a “numbers guy.” By the nature of his job, Hall is data-driven and uses the information presented as a way to learn more and ask questions, a crucial skill set he aims to carry as a board member, if elected.
Hall said one of issues most important to him is the district’s curriculum. In recent years, District 90 students have scored lower on standardized tests, he said. Though the decline in test scores is slight, Hall has learned that students who are considered high performers are still doing well, but students, some of whom have special needs or are of color, continue to fall behind.
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“Even after all the changes to the curriculum, all the sort of outward and inward focus on equity and inclusion, I think there is an admittance, and I think there needs to be an acceptance, and then deep dive as to why we’re not making the progress on the achievement gap, if you will, in that critical K-through-3 age group,” he said.
This is where Hall views the role of a board member as critical. If he were on the board, he would ask questions.
“Is it because we chose the wrong curriculum?” he asked. “Is it because the curriculum needs more time? Is it because we didn’t implement and train the right way?”
Hall said, “I don’t know which of those answers is the answer, but I think there are too many on the board that are sitting there and saying we don’t need to ask questions. This is all working fine.”
He went on to say that asking questions, especially when it comes to the school curriculum, is vital. The district needs to catch those improvement areas early on, or it could miss out on an opportunity to help their students succeed in the long run.
Hall also suggested the district should invest in full-day kindergarten and expand its inclusive preschool program, which brings children, including those with special needs, together.
“The achievement gap is set in motion in that critical K-through-3 window,” Hall said. “The earlier you can intervene and the earlier you’re giving kids exposure and giving them services – that’s where preschool comes in – that has some of the best return on investment in terms of helping your disadvantaged learners.”
Other issues important to Hall are taking a closer look at the district’s financial spending, as well as remaining on the path of COVID recovery, as the district plans to offer in-person instruction full-time by next year.
As the April 6 consolidated election draws near, Hall reflects on his campaigning and seeks to assure voters that if elected, he will serve as a thoughtful board member who looks to put the District 90 community first.
“I don’t have an agenda,” Hall said. “I don’t have a specific thing that I’m fighting for. I’m just taking what I’m hearing from the community and what the research shows about things like early education, about things like curriculum, and I just want to make sure that the evidence gets its day in the sun.”