*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
As a former member of the D200 Board of Education I chose to run because passion, commitment and experience matter.
As a proud graduate of OPRF I have chosen to live the majority of my life in the District. Three generations of my family have attended OPRF and we place high value on the education we received. My OPRF education allowed me to attend Washington University in St Louis, where I studied business administration.
I am a seasoned business professional whose entire career has been spent in the customer service business. My parents taught me from a very early age the importance of community service. I have carried on their tradition of community involvement through a lifetime commitment of being a volunteer working directly with youth since the late 1970’s. This work has given me a unique perspective and experience on the frontlines of youth mentorship provides a solid foundation to make decisions at the board level.
During my previous tenure on the D200 board, I:
- Served as a dutiful steward of district finances, consistently voted against taking maximum tax levies and supported over $35 million in tax abatements. I regularly advocated for cost containment and a balanced budget to avoid placing undue burden on our taxpayers;
- Worked tirelessly on facilities issues to achieve a community consensus that markedly improves the educational and extra-curricular experience for all students, while accommodating district and taxpayer concerns.
- Continually advocated for racial equity, including increased minority hiring, implementing restorative practices, increasing enrollment of students of color in honors and AP classes, enhancing curricular offerings to support college/career readiness and examining/eliminating barriers that impede all students from reaching their full potential.
- Supported the District’s creation of a gender equity policy and implementation of appropriate procedures
- After leaving the Board of Education I together others created a non-profit foundation whose mission is the creation of a capital campaign to raise funds in support the implementation of the Imagine Plan. This process accomplishes the two complementary goals of ensuring the documented facilities needs are satisfied while reducing the burden on taxpayers.
- Several years ago as a member of the IWCOA I saw that Illinois Girls were becoming interested in the sport of wrestling. These girls were underserved by their schools and the IHSA and losing opportunities at Illinois colleges to girls from other states. So I created a steering committee to fight for equity in girls wrestling. With data and research we convinced the IHSA to sanction girls wrestling as an IHSA sport.
- I also founded the Huskies Girls Wrestling team. Illinois now has 7 colleges providing girls wrestling. Our Huskie Girls will benefit from those scholarship opportunities.
Much change has occurred at OPRF since 2015, and the District is at the threshold of making significant progress toward racial equity and narrowing the opportunity gap. New initiatives are paramount for the long-term health of our communities and I am committed to a disciplined approach to proper implementation of needed change.
If elected, I will continue my passionate advocacy and dedication to our students, school and community. Our work will not only benefit students of color, but all students. The work is unfinished, I will commit that these challenges and other issues facing the Board will be addressed in the best interest of our students, taxpayers and staff.
Do you believe the district is adequately addressing the needs of its most marginalized students, particularly Black and Brown students?
No the district is not adequately addressing the needs of the most marginalized students. Unfortunately D200 data exhibits that race continues to be a very significant predictor of student outcomes. I believe the policies necessary to address the opportunity gap are already in place. The Racial Equity Policy was created by former Board member Jenn Cassell while I was on the Board and I wholeheartedly supported its passage. The issue is not one of policy but rather implementation.
We need to operationalize the policy through procedures that will have the greatest impact on student learning and are evidence-based. One problem is that the State has changed their annual assessments at least three times in recent years which makes that measure for the short-term problematic. The Board must continuously monitor implementation to determine whether the policies are being followed.
The newly created dashboards are critically needed tool that can quickly allow the board, administration and community to assess progress. We also need to conduct regular surveys of students and families to determine whether the initiatives are having the desired effect on the climate and culture of the District. The Board needs to follow the data to determine whether initiatives are successful. Benchmarking will provide a baseline so that we can determine whether progress is statistically significant.
What are your expectations from the next superintendent who will succeed outgoing Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams?
OPRFHS is at a critical juncture. Over the past five years, new policies have been adopted and the Administration has realized almost total turnover in personnel. To ensure that the new policies are appropriately implemented, the new Superintendent must remain student-focused with experience in leading change management. We are on the cusp of true progress on racial equity, but institutional change is slow. The new Superintendent and new Board need to ensure that this progress continues.
Additionally, the District needs someone with a track record of success in a diverse community to ensure that we uplift the students with the most need while maintaining a rigorous curriculum. We need a Superintendent who is transparent and able to engage the community regularly to provide information and solicit feedback, and one who will be sensitive to the property tax burden.
What are your thoughts on the district’s hybrid learning model and its implementation?
The past year has been very challenging and stressful for our students, educators and families. When I served on the Board, we approved the administration’s recommendation to provide Chromebooks and WIFI access to every student. This proved to be prophetic once the shutdown occurred because a major barrier to online learning had already been removed. Moving forward we need to take stock of what has worked and what has not.
We know some students thrived, some struggled, and some just got by. In the near term we need to assess address learning loss and the social-emotional needs of our students. However, longer term I believe some form of remote learning could remain as an option. This will enfranchise students who are immunocompromised or suffer from severe social anxiety and allow teaching to continue both inside and outside the traditional classroom as necessary.
Will you support the district’s plans for freshmen curriculum restructuring? Please explain your reasoning.
I was on the Board when we charged the Administration with evaluating curriculum at each grade level to ensure our students were learning the proper skills at each stage. Over a year ago the Administration presented an initial plan for restructuring freshmen curriculum. Families critiqued this initial plan and the Administration listened to community concerns to revise the plan to include an Honors-for-All component for freshman courses. This will allow all students access to a rigorous education and not just those deemed to be gifted by current processes.
We must break the racially discriminatory structural barriers that exist for our students of color. We need to put supports in place for students who need them while continuing to challenge all students. “A rising tide lifts all boats”, and I believe that a restructured curriculum must allow our high-achieving students to continue to succeed at the highest levels while allowing greater access and exposure to content for students who are currently in college prep. We must support faculty in this work by ensuring they have access to high quality professional development and instructional coaching while continuing our focus on racial diversity in new faculty hires.
What are your thoughts on the current teacher contract?
The faculty is the greatest asset of our school. It needs to be valued and appreciated by the Board who are the representatives of our community. The high quality of our faculty must be maintained for the district to pursue its mission. The negotiation of the current teacher’s contract went a long way to providing our faculty competitive compensation at the same time being fair to the tax payers. Annual increases will average 1.8% compared to the 3% of the previous 18 years. Flattening the curve will help maintain minimal tax increases and a greater ability to maintain a balanced budget.
What do you understand to be the core functions of a school board member?
The role of a school board member is to always keep in mind that the Board speaks and acts with one voice. The Board collectively draws from their experience and expertise to provide leadership in developing policies that will provide a safe, welcoming and comfortable environment for all students so that they may achieve at their fullest potential. The Board hires the Superintendent who will direct and lead the administration in the implementation of these policies. While not considered a formal role of the board, I believe each member must act as the school’s ambassador to the community, state and nation.