Why I'm running for D90 school board

Opinion: Columns

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By Matt Hefner

Candidate One View

Dear River Forest, I am running for the District 90 Board of Education. I've been an attorney for over 20 years, run my own law firm, and have educated myself over the last three months on the issues affecting our school district. 

The D90 school board spends roughly $24 million in tax revenue a year. And in directing our children's educations, the BOE affects both our children's futures and our own. No doubt our home's values — likely the largest investment for each of us — are inherently tied to future home buyers' perceptions of our schools. So among local governing bodies, D90 is one of the most important. 

Yet how many of us even know who sits on the board? How many of us know what they stand for, what they have done, or what they want to do over the next four years?  

I've been transparent about my positions, my beliefs, and where I'd like to take our district. You can find these at www.d90heffner.com and d90schools.blogspot.com.  

Board/teacher interaction: D90's teachers are our most important resource and know firsthand about every issue affecting our children's education. The board should talk to them more. Leaders seek boots-on-the-ground feedback, but our board members have a "stay-in-your-lane" mentality. I want to change this and pledge to routinely visit classrooms and discuss issues face-to-face with teachers.  

Academic excellence: I want our schools to be among the most challenging and highest achieving in Illinois. I want to see more academic enrichment opportunities, to maintain full-year foreign language instruction along with music and the arts, and to offer more advanced learning opportunities throughout our schools. River Forest should be the #1 destination in the Chicago area for education-minded parents.  

Student mental health: I am a proponent of social and emotional learning in our schools. In December, the board received the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey results for our eighth graders. It showed a shockingly high percentage of those students — 28% — had tell-tale symptoms of depression in the preceding year. That's over double the national average. We should investigate whether our schools are a contributing factor to this serious problem. 

Full-day kindergarten: Early childhood education is important for achievement and equity. D90 should offer a full-day kindergarten option to parents — even if parents pay for it — to allow children an opportunity to cover the entire kindergarten curriculum within our district. 

In closing, I'd ask my fellow villagers to please challenge your elected officials and candidates. Ask questions and demand transparency. In short, please treat the vote on April 2 seriously. 

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