Jung Kim

Candidate for District 97 school board

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Age: 41

Previous elected experience: None for local office; was a board member for Best Foot Forward (local women's running group)

Previous community experience: VP of After School Enrichment for Lincoln PTO (current); Member of Lincoln's Diversity Committee, Coach for AYSO; Member of Unity Temple; Former board member and current member of Best Foot Forward (local women's running group) 

Occupation:  Associate Professor of Literacy 

Education: B.A., English with a concentration in secondary education; M.Ed. Literacy, Language, and Culture; Ph.D., Curriculum and Instruction

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

As painful as it is to state it, the data does indicate that race is the primary predictor of student outcomes in District 97. In a diverse, educated, relatively wealthy suburb, this should make no sense and should not be true. However, it is precisely these factors that highlight how entrenched these issues are in our public schools. When one can tease out socioeconomics from student outcomes and disparate outcomes still exist, it becomes clear that institutionalized racism and bias are unfairly impacting our children of color. Whether it is the over-identification of students of color for special education services or disciplinary issues or the under-identification of these students for gifted and enrichment classes, it is clear that race is having a profound impact upon students of color regardless of their abilities or talents in this district. We must admit that there are some profound changes that must occur in our schools for all of our students to succeed.  

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? 

I strongly support a racial equity policy and believe it is needed. Without a clearly defined policy that places equity front and center, race will continue to be a complicating factor for students' success despite all of our good intentions and that is not acceptable. I know dozens of people who grew up in Oak Park and have either a) directly experienced these issues themselves and/or b) have worked for years to remediate them. How many generations of students must we fail? To this end, a strong policy is an important starting point, but we must also have concrete goals and benchmarks for implementation. There has been a demand from the community for more teachers of color but it is not clear how the district is working towards that. Will they target a certain percentage of all new hires to be people of color? Incorporate a minimum number of people who must be interviewed? Similarly, we must look at targets for decreasing the number of disciplinary infractions levied against children of color. We must have goals and targets for what implementation of the policy looks like in order to effectively assess whether we are truly making progress. I would also like to see public, ongoing communication of how the district is (or is not) moving the needle on these issues,   

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? 

From what I have personally read and experienced and the discussions I've had with parents and community members, the GTD program is not equitable nor particularly effective. Whether it is uneven implementation of practices between schools or the fact that there is only one GTD person per building (when some schools are almost twice the size of others) or the differential identification of students of color for GTD, the district's GTD program (as it has existed until very recently) is problematic. To this end, I feel that D97 needs to:

  • Eliminate racial/SES disparities in identifying students for GTD
  • Adequately staff and resource to provide enrichment opportunities for ALL students
  • Re-examine how students are identified for GTD services, i.e., using holistic, culturally appropriate and sensitive measures and not just standardized test scores, which continue to disproportionately underestimate the abilities of students of color
  • Be transparent in decision-making and involving all stakeholders in the process
  • Rename the GTD program

I know the district has an ad hoc parent group working on these issues, and I would like to involve them in the reform process as well.

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? 

Having lived in Oak Park for almost 15 years now, I have watched my property taxes go up at an unsustainable rate. I have had multiple conversations with friends about being "priced out" of the village because of these taxes. As the body receiving the largest proportion of taxes in the village, D97 has a tremendous responsibility to the community to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. With that said, it also has a promise to fulfill to the community of providing a quality public education to its students. Negotiating these two commitments is a balancing act. Some of D97's greatest resources are its people. I would like to see the district utilize staff and community members more often and less on outsourcing consultants or even curricular materials. While it may be uncomfortable, the district may also need to prioritize some items over others in order to be more fiscally responsible. I think greater communication and transparency is also important in engaging with the community about "where the money goes." There would be greater community support for various initiatives if people understood how decisions were made and trusted board members to truly represent them and their needs. 

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? 

It's been interesting thinking about this question in light of campaigning. One activity that both I and other candidates have engaged in is "meet and greets" or "listening tours."  During the campaigning process, candidates actively solicit feedback and input from various constituent groups. However, I have rarely seen people—once in office—continue these kinds of activities. While the "public comments" section is important in board meetings, I would also like to see more informal opportunities for dialogue and engagement with the community. Whether it is attending community events, organizing community conversations, or arranging to meet with focus groups of faculty, students, etc., I think it is important for the board to actively seek out these voices and not just assume they will (or can) come to the board meetings.

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? 

Holmes has just finished an expansion project and both Lincoln and Longfellow are currently undergoing expansion projects. Having looked at the projected enrollment numbers, it seems that D97 is adequately addressing overcrowding in the district. Enrollment is projected to level off as well but should be closely monitored.

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