Nancy Ross Dribin said she wants to bring her more than three decades in education research, resource development and nonprofit budget management experience to the District 97 school board.
“My background is part research, part education technology development,” she said, adding that her early career years were spent doing peer education researching classrooms across the country, from Alabama to New Jersey, and observing the implementation of programs, usually related to equity.
Dribin said that, if elected, she’d hone in on ensuring that the district’s equity policy is implemented effectively.
“That is a potentially huge transformation,” Dribin said. “Doing it right could lift all boats for a long time to come. We could truly claim excellence in education, and it could make Oak Park a model for other districts.
“Doing it wrong could impact not only the district and its students, but the makeup of Oak Park,” she said. “We can’t keep failing specific populations of students, particularly our Black and special education students, and expect their families to stay in Oak Park.”
Dribin said the person who succeeds outgoing D97 Supt. Carol Kelley should have experience in developing similar plans in similar districts.
“I think it’s important to look for a superintendent who has experience both in a similar district to Oak Park and someone who has experience implementing an equity plan,” she said.
“This person also has to be someone who isn’t going to sweep the existing plan aside, but who will come in and tweak the current one while communicating those changes to everyone,” said Dribin. “Oak Park likes to know who is doing the leading and who is doing the work, so we really need someone to come in and be part of the community.”
Dribin said that equity should also be considered when thinking about preparing students and teachers to return to school next fall.
“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about we’re all in the same storm, but in different boats. I think it’s important to recognize that some of those boats are doing fine,” she said. “They’re not great, but they’re doing OK. And some boats are somewhat swamped and some boats are trying to keep from sinking.
Dribin said that, if elected, she’d leverage the data the district is already collecting on students to make sure that the progress of the most marginalized students is being monitored through both qualitative teacher data and empirical data, and that their needs are met, particularly as they prepare over the summer for classes in the fall.
“How do we support them? They have to be our first priority,” she said. “How do we give them resources over the summer to make sure some students aren’t coming in at a disadvantage to students who are doing OK? Not great, but OK. Of course, we have to check in on the students who are doing OK, too, because this has been a big mental load on everyone, across the board.”
Dribin said that this focus on equity, even amid complicated situations like a pandemic, anchors her campaign.
“This is why the successful implementation of the equity policy is at the center of my platform, and why I think voters should make sure that candidates truly understand the importance of all of the complex decisions facing the board over the next four years,” she said. “My background in education research gives me the experience needed to successfully oversee this implementation from a board perspective.”