Scott Hall

District 90 School Board Member

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*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies

My wife and I moved to River Forest 6 years ago for the public schools, like many, making the  “jump” when it was time to focus on our kids. I’m a product of public education through  college. My education is everything. We love the unique community and small-town-feel of River  Forest while being close to the city and our “downtowns” of Oak Park and Forest Park. We  have a 1st and 3rd grader at Willard and have loved their experience in the school, both  academically and social-emotionally. The teachers are amazing professionals – truly best in  class. Our daughter was lucky enough to participate in the Inclusion Pre-School program which  was literally life changing. 

I have a BA in economics (Michigan), am a Chartered Financial Analyst and have an MBA in Finance (Univ. of Chicago). I am a Managing Director at Jefferies (an Investment Bank) in  their Private Wealth Management group and bring more than 20 years of finance, business,  banking and investment experience to the table as a candidate. My entire career has been spent  analyzing and using “evidence-based” thinking to make optimal decisions; listening to my  clients and using data and emotional intelligence to guide them to exceptional results. These  skills will allow me to make fiscally responsible yet empathetic decisions at the Board table – I  think that there is a need for this type of perspective more now than ever. 

My goal as a Board member is simple: ask better questions. We have a collection of wonderful,  dedicated Board members; but many of them gained their seats during an era when amicable  appointments, unanimous voting and a certain conformity of thought was a point of pride for the  Board. Only one seat has changed via election in the last ~8 years. I want to be a new, moderate  voice and fresh perspective on the board. I want to bring an analytical and business mindset to  the table to support our Administration on critical decisions. Importantly, while I have areas of  focus or concern, I don’t have an agenda or idea to push. My role is to hear the community and  gauge whether the Administration is doing an exemplary job in implementing excellence in  education. Board members don’t “run” the school, but as your representatives, assure it’s being  run optimally. 

I want to see us regain our “Exemplary” state ranking and get back on trend in test scores and  growth rates, which have declined since 2016/17. I want us to implement real changes around  equity so that we close our achievement and opportunity gaps as early in the learning process as  possible. And I want to see us use our financial resources more diligently so we can manage the  unexpected costs, plan for growth, and pay for exceptional teachers and staff, all while avoiding  too much debt and future tax-hikes at all costs. Residents of Illinois…Cook County…River  Forest, simply do not have capacity or appetite for more property taxes and “assuming” a  referendum “because it’s been a while” is bad policy. 

I’ve supported our OPRF kids through my work as Treasurer for Kindness Creators  Intergenerational Preschool in Oak Park, and through my consistent advocacy and leadership on the back-to-school issue. I will always put our kids first. I hope you’ll support my vision by  voting for me on April 6. 


Describe how your background and experiences will bring value to the District 90 school  board. 

My professional and educational experience is unique amongst current and campaigning  Board members. I have a BA in economics (Michigan), am a Chartered Financial  Analyst and have an MBA in Finance (Univ. of Chicago). I am a Managing Director at  Jefferies (an Investment Bank) in their Private Wealth Management group and have more  than 20 years of finance, business, banking and investment experience. My entire career  has been spent analyzing and using “evidence-based” thinking to make optimal  decisions. These skills make me well-suited for a Board role, and I think there is a need  for this type of perspective more now than ever.

What motivated you to run for a position on the District 90 board of education? 

Like many of our neighbors, we moved to River Forest from Chicago in large part  because of the top-notch public schools. However, over the last decade and particularly  the last 3 years, our D90 school rankings have fallen. Moreover, our test score growth  rates are declining across all students but in particular, within certain sub-groups. The  best educational research indicates growth rates are the best metric of school quality. By  many recent reports, D90 is no longer in the top-decile of districts in the state. This is  despite increased spending, new curriculum implementation, schedule changes, teacher  development, infrastructure improvements, investments in equity and inclusion, etc.  Something isn’t clicking. 

I became more heavily involved with the Board and administration after our loss of  “Exemplary” status in late 2019 and into the pandemic. As part of a member of the  Remote Learning Action Team, I gained insight into the motivations/concerns of the various D90 stakeholders and processes around key decision-making. 

I’m motivated to join the Board so I can ask the right questions, listen and report back to  the community and implement changes as needed. I don’t have all the answers but I’m  willing to put in the hard work to improve our schools for our kids. 

Equity has been a focus of District 90, with both the Inclusiveness Advisory Board and  the Equity Committee addressing different aspects of equity relating to public schools in  River Forest. How effective do you think these groups have been? What are the most  important areas that need to be addressed by the district moving forward?

Public education should be an equalizer. Districts that lack comprehensive early  childhood programs miss an opportunity to start all of our kids off on a level playing  field. Tying into my response to the prior question, our lack of comprehensive early  education, limited preschool and half-day kindergarten offerings create meaningful  inequities for minority students, students with special needs, and socio-economically  disadvantaged children. Some of the most compelling and reproducible research around  equity, inclusion and achievement gap emphasizes the value of robust early education  and intervention. It doesn’t matter the size of the minority group or other sub-group;  without proper pre-K and full-day kindergarten, we are setting groups of our children  behind the starting line just as they get going. As a Board member, I would continue to  seek out the latest research on the interplay between early childhood development and  equity issues, and would advocate for increased offerings that support our earliest  learners and their families so that all of our kids can achieve their fullest potentials.

What do you see as the biggest challenges currently facing District 90? 

1) A decline in academic achievement and overall excellence 

2) Unsustainable fiscal policies and spending 

3) Lack of success in delivering equity for all and closing the achievement gap 

While there will always be competing priorities, I think it is possible to step back and  recognize a natural guiding framework and to tackle these issues in a cohesive manner,  not leaving one until the “end.” We need robust financials to invest and do the things we  want – to hire top teachers; employ specialists; invest in professional development; offer  outstanding training and programming; maintain facilities and technology; and update  curricula and methods. In conjunction with strengthening these critical building blocks,  we must achieve academic excellence and deliver exceptional outcomes for our kids. We  must be prepared to assess that excellence and learn from our mistakes. All the while, via  investigation and outreach, we will continue to uncover, understand, address and  eradicate inequities in D90 and narrow achievement gaps. We can’t have one of these  without the other(s). More frequent, more transparent, more digestible and more honest  communication and collaboration with all stakeholders about our strengths and  weaknesses is a key part of addressing these issues. 

In your assessment, how effective do you feel District 90’s response was to the COVID 19 pandemic? 

Overall, I think the Administration did a great job preparing us for a safe return to in person learning. This has been a complex, thorny, unprecedented issue to navigate for  any school district. In fact, I think we were ready and well-positioned to return in the fall  as was originally proposed in August 2020. School is essential, and data continue to  indicate that the classroom may be the safest place kids can be during this pandemic. Our  safety plan has only minimally changed since then given how sound it was, and we can  have a safe environment for students, teachers and staff. I have been advocating this  scientifically supported view since last summer.

Given this, my only fundamental criticism is that D90 could have acted more boldly,  more creatively and with more urgency to return the kids sooner. Obviously, vaccines  and increasing evidence make us more comfortable by the day. But valuable time was  lost for no fundamental or scientific reason other than outsized influence from a few  stakeholders. We are only now trying to get creative about spacing issues, lunch time, etc. As a small community flush with physical, financial and parent-volunteer resources, I think we could have done better sooner. 

While the COVID pandemic is a unique event soon to pass into history, one of the main  tenants of my campaign is simply more creativity, more criticality and more  collaboration in solving challenges we face whether it be a health crisis or solving for  full-day Kindergarten. 

What do you see as the most urgent concerns in terms of student achievement in District  90? 

As noted prior, we need to analyze, digest and attack our sub-group and Achievement  Gap disparities in grades K-3 (and really showing up in grades 5-8). We cannot course correct the trajectory of our test score and growth rats without focusing on how to better  support our learners who have been historically disadvantaged and making sure we have  the right curricular tools in place. It’s critical for true equity and advancement. 

More broadly, we need to reassess massive curricular changes made in the last 3-5  years. All were made with good objectives in mind but particularly in the areas of math  and ELA, are we making progress? If we are not, why? Is it simply more time and  implementation? Is it because we chose the wrong methodology? Again, I’m focused on  questions and introspection. For example, if the State of Colorado conducts an audit of  20 English-Language Arts curriculums and does NOT support two that we use (esp. Lucy  Calkins) that should be investigated thoroughly. 

The last component is overall rigor in the curriculum and opportunities for children to  engage in challenging, advanced work. Many stakeholders have different angles and  views on this topic, but to me the teachers know best and too many of them complain of  “dumbing-down” and having to go “off-script” to made the curriculum work in their  classroom and for different learners. You would expect otherwise if we’ve made the  optimal investment in curriculum and achievement.

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