Amanda Massie

Candidate for District 200 school board

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AGE: 63 

PREVIOUS ELECTED EXPERIENCE: None

PREVIOUS COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE: Whittier from 1997 to 2003: Member of PTO, classroom helper, Thursday Packet mom, T-ball coach, Softball coach. 

Do you believe that race is the primary predictor of student outcomes at District 200?  Please expound.

Based on the data in the 2018 Illinois School Report Card, copied below, and in prior years' reports, race is the primary predictor of student educational outcomes at District 200. The reports show that test scores of Black and Hispanic students are considerably lower than those of White students. This gap in student outcomes is not new, and it has been a subject of discussion at District 200 for many years.

According to Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education (CEEE) Chairperson John Duffy, District 200 school leaders and researchers called for a full curriculum evaluation in 2003, and then again in 2008, to determine to what degree and in what way the school's curriculum organization, assumptions and instruction were contributing to inequities in the opportunities to learn.

More than two and a half years ago, CEEE, the Suburban Unity Alliance (SUA) and African-American Parents for Purposeful Leadership and Education (APPLE) presented the Board with a draft Racial Equity Policy, yet nothing has been implemented to date. Community groups have driven this process. The time is overdue for the administration and the Board to enact real and positive change to address this decades-old issue.

It is likely if you're elected to the board, you'll have a hand in drafting the district's Racial Equity Policy. What are your thoughts on a 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?

I believe a Racial Equity Policy is needed and overdue at OPRF. Each and every one of our students should have the support and positive learning environment that they need for an excellent and equitable education.

The Racial Equity Policy must be implemented with the full support of the teachers, the administration, the Board and the community. I believe a good policy AND good implementation are key. Designated individuals, as outlined in the policy, need to be held accountable for its implementation. The policy must have measurable benchmarks and measurable results. We need to be open and flexible to amending the policy and implementation, if necessary, to ensure its effectiveness. 

On one of the Facebook threads I follow, a parent posted that she had been in a parent equity group when her kids were at OPRF back in the '70s. And still, nothing has changed. Implementing the Racial Equity Policy needs to be a moving train that does not stop. It may slow down, it may speed up, but it does not stop throughout its implementation.

Do you believe that athletics and PE facilities are critical aspects of the overall student experience at OPRFHS?

I believe in the value of high school athletics and, to a lesser degree, high school physical education (PE) and support them. Both of my sons were involved in high school athletics. One was a swimmer and water polo player, and the other was a football player and track athlete.

The daily PE class is fast becoming a relic of the past. According to a 2012 report, only six states required PE daily in grades K-12. Illinois is no longer in that group as it lessened its high school PE requirements in August 2017. Yet, OPRF still has yet to implement the changes. Schools have limited educational dollars, and their core missions are to educate students and prepare them for their futures after graduation. Spending must align accordingly. 

According to a 2014 U.S. News & World Report article, high school students in Charlottesville, Virginia, are required to take two years of PE, and can opt to take the class online. Students enrolled in the course wear a wristband that logs daily movement and complete an online course on exercise, healthy eating and general fitness principles.

Closer to home, Fenwick High School requires two semesters total of PE, and the classes are held just three days a week. OPRF's five days of mandatory PE are no longer the standard. 

The Imagine group presented an extreme demolition-only plan to upgrade the athletics/PE facilities. After the first round of approved renovations for classroom upgrades, special education program and ADA compliance needs, the Board should revisit Imagine's proposed athletics/PE plan and prioritize facility needs and address them based on ability to pay, without going to referendum.         

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?

The D200 Board tasked the Imagine group with creating a master facilities plan with no parameters and no budget, and that is exactly what the Imagine group delivered to the Board.

Many of the items included in the first round of approved plans were first identified in a 2016 Legat master facility plan: renovated classrooms and cafeteria and relocating the library and tutoring center to the middle of the building. The Imagine plan addresses ADA compliance needs and non-gender bathrooms and locker rooms. The plan consists of some needs, such as these, but many wants.

It was disappointing to see essentially only one plan presented to the community. From conversations with a few members of the Imagine group, they felt the same way. Imagine presented a drastic and expensive demolition-only plan for the south end of the school building. No renovation-only plan was presented.  

I support the first round of board-approved facility improvements. It is focused on academic needs and will impact every student. In reviewing the rest of the plan, we must focus on NEEDS versus WANTS. The plan is heavily weighted with athletic WANTS, and yet no outdoor track even made the cut. This athletic team is the school's largest AND one of the most diverse, yet the Imagine group simply said they could not meet this true need.

In 2003, the school removed the cinder track around the football field when the stands were expanded. Since then the outdoor track team has had no on-site facility. Its current arrangement to use the Concordia track ends soon, and it appears the university does not want to renew the usage agreement. As it stands now, the team only has access to the Concordia track for about an hour a day.

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?

The massive cash reserve of overtaxed dollars has resulted in questionable financial decision-making on the part of the D200 Boards since 2013. Having attended D200 Board meetings for more than three years, I have seen many consultants and architects come and go all at taxpayer expense. Since 2013, the D200 Boards have wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on fees regarding various facility improvement plans.

The 2015 non-referendum bond effort to build a 50-meter pool and the 2016 pool referendum to build a 40-meter pool were irresponsible, wasted educational dollars and did not serve the NEEDS of the majority of students and taxpayers. Moreover, the 2016 Fako Report revealed that a key component of those plans, large pools, were not priorities of the community.  

If elected to the Board, I would advocate for funding prioritized needs and working with a balanced budget going forward. No more deficit spending. Our expenses can't exceed revenues. My accounting experience would prove beneficial here.

The "oath" of the Board includes, "I shall respect taxpayers' interests by serving as a faithful protector of the School District's assets". I will do that. And, as far as the Board and administration are concerned, the school motto should be expanded to read, "Those things that are best and those things that we can afford."

Do you believe that the D200 board adequately incorporates the voices of the 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?

No, I do not believe that the D200 Board adequately incorporates the voices of the people most likely to be impacted by its decisions. For example, the Faculty Senate Representative should be in attendance at Board meetings. This representative is the teachers' eyes, ears and voice. I believe this key individual needs to be a part of all conversations and represent the teachers and the academic perspective. Given that teachers are the ones who implement curriculum and some policy changes, they should have representation at Board meetings.  

My experience as a supervisor taught me that if you want to know what is really going on or what works or does not work, go to the front line workers. In this case, the teachers. They know what works in the classroom and what has not worked. I am not sure whether the current Board and administration have fully utilized this valuable resource. The teachers will be implementing any changes, whether it is curriculum or the Racial Equity Policy, and they should be consulted and asked for input.

One communication measure that I would advocate for is to expand access to school board meetings. Live streaming meetings and making the video available on the website would engage more members of the community and increase transparency of Board and administrative discussions and decisions. In speaking with many members of the community, they do not feel that their concerns are adequately represented at Board meetings.  

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