Barika Grant

Candidate for District 97 school board

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Education BS in Engineering Psychology

Previous elected experience:  PTO Treasurer (prior school not in Oak Park) 

Previous community experience: Longfellow Diversity Committee Member 

Occupation:  User Experience Engineer

Do you believe that race is the primary predictor of student outcomes in District 97? Please expound. 

Race is a contributing factor, as is income/economic level as it pertains to outcomes in D97. What the data shows is that larger percentages of minority students are scoring lower on standardized tests than their white counterparts. The data also shows a disparity in how race groups are being disciplined. 

On the issue of testing, we need to address the bias of the testing questions, and if this is the correct measures we should be using when analysis gets outcomes.

On the issue of disciple, minority's students are not getting fair treatment. In a lot of cases, two students doing the same thing get treated differently based on their race. There is unfair application of disciple. This has primarily to do with bias. This is a reason the Equity Policy is important. See below.

It is likely that if you're elected to the board, there will already have been a racial equity policy in place. 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? 

Yes, I do believe a policy needs to be in place. I am satisfied with the majority of the draft policy as it stands currently. I can't ensure any outcomes, no matter what a policy entails because people are involved and the policy will be enacted in a real world environment. That being said, I believe it is necessary step to take to begin narrowing the opportunity gap. 

The policy lives and dies with the people implementing it. Teachers play a large role and are in the classrooms everyday with these students. The focus should be on getting it right with the teachers. As stated above, bias contributes to unequal treatment and that starts in the classroom.

Do you believe that the district's Gifted, Talented and Differentiation (GTD) program needs to be reformed? If so, what reforms do you have in mind for the program? 

My understanding is that changes have been made to the GTD program following the 2015-16 school year. Differentiated learning is measured at different intervals (weekly, monthly etc.) This was a good step in that students are evaluated incrementally, such that they can receive services at different times. It's not an all or nothing proposition and allows more students the opportunity to participate. 

That being said, it's not perfect, and needs to accommodate more students. 

The Equity Policy may help in this area.

Do you believe that the D97 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? 

Like many in the district, I was dismayed at the way the referendum funds were mishandled.  I would do a root-cause analysis to make sure that mistake never happens again. I believe people need to be accountable for mistakes when things like this happen. Then make sure they don't happen again.

Do you believe that the D97 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? 

I know there is a process by which the public can voice concerns or ideas, and that is through public comments. More opportunities need to be afforded the community to voice opinions and concerns through different channels, as it is hard for all community members to attend Board Meetings and stay through the public comments section.

There should be an online platform that allow the community to comment at anytime and anonymously if they'd like.

Some school buildings in D97 are experiencing severe overcrowding. Do you believe that the board has adequately addressed this issue? If not, what ideas will you bring to the board to address this issue? 

The board has used referendum funds to extend facilities and hire teachers. I believe this is a good use of monies.

The school with the most students are getting extended spaces, which will solve the problem near term. 

If this becomes a problem in the future, we have to look at allowing students to go to the schools in the district that are under capacity. 

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