Education researcher hopes to bring insights to D97 board

Jung Kim wants district to hone focus on equity and raise Asian-American awareness

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

An associate professor in literacy education is running for a seat on the District 97 Board of Education. Jung Kim, the mother of two D97 students, said she can bring a new perspective to the board, particularly as an education researcher, former teacher, and Asian-American. 

Kim sees a need to make the curriculum more relevant to the cultures and sensitivities of the district's minority students. 

"There's a lot of research that shows the ways we teach and the curriculum we use in schools aren't really culturally relevant to large groups of kids," she said. "So we need to make sure we bring in curriculum that's relevant and help teachers make relevant connections." 

Kim, who has expertise in multicultural education, also argued that the district administration should improve how it incorporates teachers' voices into decision-making. 

"At the end of the day, teachers are the ones implementing these policies, so it's important that they're at the table and part of the decision-making process," she said. 

But the district's communication challenges, she added, extend beyond school buildings and into the wider community.

"There are a lot of people who feel like the district operates in a black box," she said, arguing that the district should "go above and beyond to make sure people have access to the information they need." 

A supporter some of the measures brought up by other candidates, including the possibility of livestreaming or podcasting board meetings, she also want to evaluate whether the district is "using curriculum as well as we could." But the board doesn't necessarily need to bring in outside consultants to analyze the matter. Rather, she said, they should lean more on Oak Park's rich supply of well-educated professionals. 

Kim lamented that the district has no targeted outreach to Asian-American families, a demographic she said has been steadily growing in Oak Park over the last two decades. She also said the district hasn't kept up with the needs of its growing Asian-American student population. 

"[My family has] been here since 2004 and [the Asian-American population] has grown tremendously, but I feel like the district has not kept up in terms of what our needs are or how to deal with them," she said. "I think people [in Oak Park] don't think anti-Asian issues are really a thing." 

That dearth of attention has real consequences, particularly in how Asian-American students are represented in the district. 

"One of the questions I've long had is how Asian biracial or multiracial students are getting counted," she said. "In Oak Park, when people see biracial, they assume white and black, so Asians may get undercounted as a result of that." 

Kim said she supports the racial equity policy that the district recently approved, but cautioned it's only a first step.

"If we pass really good policy without a plan for implementation, it's a problem," she said, noting that the district should be asking pointed questions about its progress, such as: 

"What does equity look like in D97? Is it decreasing the disciplinary disparity [between white and non-white students]? Is it increasing kids' sense of belonging? Is it increasing teacher retention?" 


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