*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
My husband Dave and I have lived in Oak Park with our two children for over eight years. We chose Oak Park after an extensive search across multiple Chicago suburbs. It is now more than a place to live; it is our home and our community. We have gained so much from this community that I believe it is important to give back. I began volunteering in District 97 with Beye, first as a room parent, then as vice president of technology for the PTO, stage hand for the annual talent show, and tutor with the BeyePASS program. Two years ago, I joined the district-wide iLearn technology committee. When three positions opened on the board this election round, neighbors and friends from across Oak Park suggested that I would make a good candidate. After taking stock of what was at stake and matching board needs with my work experience and expertise, I decided to redouble my commitment to Oak Park and run.
District 97 faces a number of challenges and opportunities over the next four years. I’m running for school board because I believe it is a role of critical importance to our schools and our community. We need a strong board with the expertise required to address the many challenges it will face over the next four years and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. My background in education research, technology, and non-profit management has given me the skills required to meet this need.
I have nearly three decades of experience in education research and resource development with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) to contribute. My career has included classroom research with the Education Development Center’s Center for Children and Technology and practical implementation and leadership at Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago History Museum, and the Adler Planetarium. More than that, after working in the ever-changing field of technology, I have experience collaborating with experts to forecast the breadth of future possibilities and then developing plans and flexible resources to meet the needs of all possible scenarios within a budget. In these uncertain times, this skill would be valuable both to prepare for the next school year and to develop long-term plans to allow us to move beyond the effects of the pandemic.
I hold a B.A. in Architecture from Wellesley College and an M.P.S. in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University.
To learn more, please visit http://www.DribinforD97.com.
Do you believe the district is adequately addressing the needs of its most marginalized students, particularly its Black and Brown students?
The district has work to do to address the needs of its most marginalized students. The district’s equity policy is appropriately ambitious and sets out, in detail, to provide every child with what they need to thrive; however, it is still in early stages of implementation. The administration has made progress towards meeting the goals of the policy by building an instructional foundation that facilitates sharing best practices as well as sharing equity implementation plans with educators and staff. The district was in the midst of implementing plans directly derived from the equity policy during the 2019-20 school year when the pandemic started. While the work has continued, it is of necessity taking different form than planned; it is important to do a status check to ensure the district continues making progress.
In the last year of full assessments, the quantitative data available continues to show discrepancies in scores; and this only looks at broad categories such as race, income, and special education. While I am satisfied that the district is moving forward, it is imperative that any momentum lost due to the pandemic pulling focus is regained. Having a policy is meaningless without an ongoing implementation plan to make it work in practice. As part of this effort, I firmly believe that the district cannot effectively move the policy forward and address the intertwined opportunity gap without a transparent, honest, and ongoing accounting of related metrics and accountability.
What are your expectations from the next superintendent who will succeed outgoing Supt. Carol Kelley?
First and foremost, the next superintendent needs to bring experience at a district level to Oak Park. Additionally, they need to be able to show that they have been able to bring a district successfully through the implementation of a transformative policy. Given the critical nature of the equity policy and the current early stage of implementation, we need someone who can assess the work that has been done and build upon the laid foundation to realize the vision. I expect that in addition to experience at a district level, they will have experience in the classroom to best understand what is needed to support teachers in their work.
I would also place effective communication as a key criteria for hiring and high on my list of expectations. It is impossible to achieve excellence in education without exceptional communication between key stakeholders. Administration, teachers, staff, caregivers, and students all have to be on the same page for policies to be implemented to the best effect. Lack of communication can result in a lack of trust and a breakdown of community that can be devastating to a district. I would expect that they would provide access to critical information and data, such as implementation plans and associated metrics on a regular basis. I would look for them to work as a team with the board to communicate with transparency around decisions made by the board and district to stave off an information vacuum. Finally, I would ask that they be present at formal and informal meetings and gatherings across the district to build community, communicate, and gather feedback. I would be looking for a candidate that has demonstrated they will proactively reach out and listen to underrepresented voices.
What are your thoughts on the district’s hybrid learning model and its implementation?
There are many lessons to be carried forward from remote and hybrid learning. The first is that our educators are adept at developing meaningful activities using technology. From creating audiobooks with student writing to developing content-rich web pages, the meaningful use of technology has expanded dramatically this year. Additionally, we’ve seen that children can be instrumental in supporting technology in the classroom, building confidence, leadership skills, and abilities needed to succeed. I’ve heard about examples of both from across the district, and I hope to see them continue.
That said, the hybrid model as currently implemented is not ideal. Specials have been cut deeply, and teachers are dividing their attention between students in front of them and students at home. Having taught in similar models while conducting distance learning programs with museums, it is difficult and exhausting. Given the nearly equal division between remote and in-person students for the second trimester as well as the request by families to keep students together with their teachers, this was the trade-off. While hybrid and remote learning plans remain solely at the discretion of the district superintendent while the state is under a declared public health emergency, I believe it is the board’s role to encourage the superintendent to review what worked and what needs to be changed when formulating a plan for the fall. While I remain hopeful that the projections will remain on course for a fall that is much closer to normal than we are currently experiencing, it would be extremely foolhardy to not prepare flexible options in case the situation changes.
What are your thoughts on the district’s policies regarding race and gender?
Between the equity policy and existing policies addressing race and gender, I believe the district has done solid work setting up a good vision for the district. However, policies are only as good as their implementation. In addition to reviewing related data, I believe it is important to circle back with communities impacted on a regular basis to make certain that the implementation is equal to the goals set by the policies. It’s one thing to read through the handbook or equity policy and say they sound good, it’s another, critically important thing to make sure that they are being set up for success to actually function on a day-to-day basis.
What are your thoughts on the current teacher contract?
The current teacher contract reflects what the teachers and the district saw as important in 2018. It’s important start discussions now to see what teachers, the district, and the community see as most critical for the upcoming contract in 2022. I believe that a good contract is a middle ground between those crafting it; there has to be give and take. For that to work, both sides have to come to negotiations with mutual respect, which can take time to build. In this case, on one side we have highly skilled education professionals who undertake ongoing professional development to maintain their skills. They are teachers who go well above and beyond just teaching the curriculum on a daily basis and would like their work to be properly recognized. On the other, we have a community that would like to see ongoing excellence in education while maintaining economic diversity in our village, which requires a thoughtful budget. The sooner we start building bridges, the more likely we will be to reach an agreement that supports both of these important goals.
Over the course of my career, the focus of my job has frequently been to facilitate conversations, listen attentively, reflect back what I have heard for clarification, make connections, and recommend actions based on analysis of that information. I was also charged with reconciling recommendations across multiple stakeholders, who often had seemingly contradictory needs and priorities. It is a task I enjoy; I’m a careful listener, I like building a shared understanding, and I love making connections and finding solutions. Additionally, developing multimedia resources in museums required the ability to work collaboratively across departments and process information from experts outside of my areas of proficiency. Content specialists, education staff, marketing experts, and the multimedia team, for example, all needed to work together to achieve a successful result. This is exactly what needs to be done if we are to transition successfully from the current teacher contract to the next.
What do you understand to be the core functions of a school board member?
The board’s role is to clarify the district’s purpose; they delegate to the superintendent and their staff how to implement related policies, with oversight to ensure performance measures are being met. Related to this, board members need to be good fiscal stewards, ensuring that money is being spent where it will have the most impact in meeting district goals.
With that said, I think one of the most important functions of a school board member is to act as a liaison between the district and the community. The board ensures that the needs and concerns of the community are heard by the district and that decisions made by the board and district are effectively communicated back to the community. This doesn’t mean just summarizing the board meeting in an email or a post. It means being out in the community, engaging with families and listening to feedback. Board members have to be attending events, and demonstrating they can not only listen, but also make use of what they are hearing in order to earn the trust of those they represent. Board members should be visible at school events beyond PTO meetings. They need to be visible and available when families are available, and then they need to follow up on what they are hearing. You have to build trust and make the effort to proactively seek feedback and share decisions.