Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey the Wednesday Journal sent out to all D90 candidates running in this year's elections. Candidates full, unedited responses are printed.
Previous elected experience: District 90 School Board Member 2015 to Present
Previous community experience: I have served on the District 90 Board of Education for the past 4 years and view this as a tremendous honor to serve my community in this capacity. I have worked very hard to be an informed contributor at board meetings and to make myself present and engaged at school and school related functions. I have served in various volunteer roles for the PTOs at Lincoln and Roosevelt schools, from scooping ice cream at the ice cream socials to supervising the silly string battles at the Roosevelt Fall Fun Fests. I have also volunteered as a soccer coach for the past decade for the River Forest Youth Soccer League. I have also volunteered for People Aligned to Deliver Shelter (PADS) in Oak Park. As a lifelong resident of Oak Park and River Forest, I hope to continue to serve the community in which I grew up.
Occupation: I have 25 years of experience in public education as a high school social science teacher. I have taught all levels of history and social science including Advanced Placement European History and Advanced Placement Psychology. I have served as a department chairperson and have over 10 years of administrative experience as an Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction.
Reflecting on my career so far, I am proud to have been part of the Democracy Schools Network Team at my school, which was awarded the Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel Award in 2018 for our efforts. As the administrator in charge of the Advanced Placement program for over ten years, I am also humbled to have had my district named the National 2016 AP District of the Year Award by the College Board for our academic success in Advanced Placement coursework. In 2017, for the work of building collaborative teams of teachers for vertical and horizontal articulation, we were named a Model Professional Learning Team by Solution Tree, the late Richard DuFour's learning organization. I would like to use these experiences in public education as a teacher and administrator, as well as those as a parent, a volunteer and a board member, to assure that District 90 continues to improve as a learning community.
Ed.D in Educational Leadership (currently enrolled in program), Concordia University
M.Ed in Instructional Leadership and completed coursework for Ph.D in Policy Studies in Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
B.A. in Secondary History Education, DePaul University
Foreign Study Immersion via DePaul University, Universidad de Yucatan
Oak Park and River Forest High School graduate
1) Why are you running?
I am running because I want to continue to contribute my knowledge and passion to assure that District 90 continues to expect and deliver excellence for all of our children. My work over the past four years demonstrates that I am committed toward this end. As the past chair for the Education Committee, I worked to assure a commitment to improve instructional technology for use by all students, teachers and parents. Four years later we have a 1:1 technological environment and learning platforms that are uniform for all teachers and students in grades K-4 and 5-8. We have built in professional development in our Instructional Technology Coaches that teach and learn as quickly as technology advances. In this role, I supported teacher collaboration that was horizontal, by grade level, and vertical, across grade level to articulate the rigorous learning standards we have for our children. This collaboration has resulted in the adoption of new curriculum for Math and English Language Arts. Over the past 4 years we have also improved safety in and around the school, increased our focus on social-emotional learning and kept the budget tight as we made many needed improvements to our facilities. While our accomplishments and vision for improvements are great and will continue to grow, I know that our amazing administrators, teachers, families and especially our students, will remain focused on being the best we can be.
My wife and I are raising our three children in District 90 and believe the district's success relies upon, among other factors, the participation of all stakeholders. As an educator, I believe we should take what we learn and use it to improve the lives of others. Devoting my time and efforts toward District 90's mission is a way for me to give back to my community. I will continue to work with my fellow board members "to inspire a love of learning and ensure educational excellence for every child" in our district.
2) River Forest District 90 schools have adopted several equity initiatives over the past few years. What do you think of this work?
In District 90 we have a Vision for Equity stating that we will work "to ensure that every student feels empowered to achieve his or her full potential" and that one's race, ethnicity or chosen gender are not factors that inhibit meeting this vision. In order to accomplish this, we have established an Equity committee that meets regularly to monitor assessment data and inform the Board of Education of opportunities for improvement for groups not achieving their full potential. We established the Inclusiveness Advisory committee that looks specifically at how we can build a culture of acceptance and inclusion for all of our students. Recently, our Gender Inclusion (Ad Hoc) committee was established to review our board policies and include language to assure that students who are gender fluid or transgender are included in this Vision for Equity. All of these committees inform the District 90 Board of Education's evidence based decision making and consist of a diverse population of stakeholders from the community.
District 90 has also adopted Universal Design for Learning as a conceptual framework for teachers to assess how well their instructional methods are meeting the needs of all of our students. Teams of teachers collaborate to assess whether their lessons and instructional approach may have barriers to student learning and how they can incorporate opportunities for all students to demonstrate their mastery of a learning standard. We have also partnered with the National Equity Project to provide professional development around any personal or systemic, whether implicit or explicit, biases we may not have recognized exist and to assure those biases to not hinder student progress. This professional development was not only for our teachers and administrators, but also for members of the Board of Education and has been an offered to the community at large. I am entirely committed to continuing these efforts in the future and I will work to assure that we are meeting our Vision for Equity.
3) How would you describe D90's relationship to the community? What does the board currently do to engage residents and what more, if anything, do you believe should be done?
District 90 has an open and transparent relationship with the community. We have made great efforts to increase communication and community collaboration in District 90 and must continue to seek innovative conduits for information and exchange of ideas and concerns. While not an exhaustive list, below are some of the initiatives we have implemented in the past four years.
• Institution of Town Hall Forums to share Board initiatives and subjects of interest to parents and community
• Leadership role on Subcommittee for Collaboration, bringing representatives from each RF taxing body together to discuss matters of common interest to River Forest residents
• Re-design of District 90 Website and Online Student Directory
• Implementation of "Crosswalk" communication vehicle to explain how D90 initiatives work together
• Redesign of communication on Strategic Plan progress
• Implementation of "One Book, One District" community reading program
• Initiatives to communicate with D97 and D200 on data sharing, curriculum, instruction and assessment and issues of equity
• D90 informational postcard to all River Forest households
• Continued collaboration and standing board member representation with our outstanding Parent Teacher Organizations
4) Staff at Roosevelt Middle School are tweaking a block schedule that's current iteration would add math minutes, at the expense of foreign language time for students. What do you think of this measure?
As the iteration of this proposal has changed since this question was drafted, and foreign language options have been added and the implementation period has been extended, it would not be accurate to answer at this time but I appreciate the focus on our most current innovations.
The D90 board voted to postpone implementation of a schedule change at a regular meeting on March 5.
5) What do you think about standardized (PARCC) test scores and academic performance at schools in District 90? What areas do you believe could be improved and what action can the school board take to help improve student achievement?
The District uses a variety of quantitative and qualitative data to assess our effectiveness. PARCC data show that we are meeting and exceeding the state standards. As the PARCC assessment was short lived, and will be replaced this year by the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, we have another Type 1 standardized test that we utilize. In District 90 we have used the Measure of Academic Progress (MAPS) for several years. This standardized and nationally normed assessment has given us longitudinal assessment data that shows that our students achieve at a high rate of learning when compared to others in the national sample. Additionally, MAPS data show that our students are growing at a very high rate of learning each year from the Fall to the Spring when compared to others in the sample. Yet, as we all know, tests are standardized, children are not. Given this, a variety of other non-standardized, formative and summative, objective and subjective assessments are used to assure that our students are mastering the rigorous learning standards we have for them.
In order to maintain our award winning schools, we include surveys of teachers, students, parents and administrators to assess our effectiveness. Furthermore, I believe the most effective assessment of student success is the relationship among the student, the teacher and the caregiver of the student. Parents and caregivers know their child's strengths, areas for growth, interests, and how they are responding to what goes on in schools. Teachers are experts in assessing student needs on the spot and engage students the best they are able in the classroom. District 90 schools, students, parents, teachers and administrators will continue to value this relationship as the standard for assessing our students' education in addition to the data-driven decisions we are committed to make.
6) What other issues are important to you as a school board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?
As a board member, I am committed to achieve the goals articulated in the District 90 Strategic Plan. That being said, the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff are always at the top of this list. We will continue to work with the Village of River Forest Police and Fire Departments, as well as village trustees, to increase the safety of our children. Here are just a few of our efforts in this area so far.
• Collaboration with the Village of River Forest Police and Fire Departments resulting in the completion of annual and ongoing school safety reviews
• Work with the Village Traffic and Safety Commission has resulted in clear steps to increase safety including, but not limited to, increased numbers of crossing guards and traffic controls
• Board approval of recommendations of the D90 Safety Plan Review Committee such as: increased and improved surveillance, door monitoring, lighting, signage, visitor controls, and communication tools and procedures
• Adoption of the SUPPORT4U mental health hotline for students
Student achievement and attainment of rigorous standards for learning is key. We will assure that our work to improve curriculum, instruction and assessment continues. Here are a few of our accomplishments in this area in the past 4 years.
• Teacher professional development and collaboration to vertically and horizontally articulate, align and adopt more rigorous Literacy Program
• Teacher professional development and collaboration to vertically and horizontally articulate, align and adopt more rigorous Math Program
• Adoption of the IQWST science curriculum and resources for Grades 6-8
• STEM classes for 8th grade utilizing the Illinois Math and Science Academy's FUSION curriculum
• Partnerships with University of Illinois Math Program and Teachers College of Reading and Writing at Columbia University
• Proposed innovations to increase student centered and rigorous curriculum through extended time/block scheduling at Roosevelt after further professional development
• Improved use of instructional technology to increase student learning and parent-teacher communication and successful 1:1 technological environment
• Development and continued participation in Dominican University Instructional Technology course specifically tailored for District 90 teachers
• Assessment data including PARCC and MAPS scores demonstrate continued high level of achievement and annual student growth
• Inclusion of student growth component and development of the Performance Evaluation Review Act
The social and emotional well being of our students is currently and will continue to be one of the biggest challenges our students and families will face. The numbers of students who have experienced emotional trauma are worrisome, cut across socio-economic boundaries and require districts to be proactive in meeting the needs of our students. For many children, according to Executive Director of the Lurie Children's Center for Childhood Resilience, our local schools function as the "de facto mental health system for children and adolescents." Given this, the Board of Education has consistently supported the efforts of our Student Services and recently approved recommendations to increase the number of social workers in our schools. While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the efforts we have made over the years.
• Continued development of Tier 1, 2 and 3 Multi-tiered system of supports and interventions
• Establishment of Advisory Program at Roosevelt to build stronger relationships between students and staff and promote inclusiveness
• Leadership by Board and Administration in Oak Park Township Workgroup for Positive Youth Development (PYD), a community-wide coalition tasked with addressing levels of underage drinking in Oak Park and River Forest that exceed state averages
• Initiation of the Equity, Inclusiveness Advisory Board and Gender Inclusion committee (Ad Hoc)
• Partnership with The National Equity Project to train Board, Administration and Staff
• Implementation of Second Step social-emotional learning curriculum
• Continued work to educate parents and students on use of social media such as the "I screen, you screen, we all screen"
We will focus on improving our facilities while assuring that we attend to sound fiscal policy, attend to our fiduciary duties and not create an undue tax burden for our taxpayers. Again, just a few of our accomplishments are listed here.
• Lincoln School addition to accommodate growing student population and increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
• Willard School addition to accommodate growing student population and student services
• Roosevelt Exterior Project completion to mitigate structural needs and improve the physical learning environment.
• Classrooms have been outfitted with innovative classroom furniture to facilitate more student centered instruction
• Development and continued revision of the Resident Friendly Financial Reporting document posted on District 90 website
• Implementation of Solar Schools Initiative and partnership Green4Good to find environmentally friendly solutions to our facilities and operation
• Received Certificate of Excellence in Financial Report (ASBO)
• Continued commitment to the Board of Education's fiduciary duties and sound fiscal practices in order not to increase the financial burden on River Forest tax payers
Answer Book 2019
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