Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Forest Park Review sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Years in Forest Park: 24
Are you a District 91 graduate? No. I went to St. Luke’s for grammar school and Trinity for high school.
Do you have children who have, are or will be attending District 91 schools? What are their ages?
My daughter Kerry Baldwin is 24 and graduated from Forest Park Middle School in 2003 and my son, Rory Connor is 15 and graduated from Forest Park Middle School in 2011.
Why are you running for this office?
I joined the District 91 Board as an appointee in March of 2007; in April of that year Joan White and Mary Turek were elected to the board for their first terms and in July, 2007, Dr. Cavallo became Superintendent. With the infusion of new ideas and energy, this Board has set District 91 on a path from good to great. While it is an exhausting and sometimes thankless job, it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. There is a saying that is too long to quote here but the gist of it is, in a hundred years I want nothing more to be remembered about my life except that I made a difference in the life of a child. I want to make a difference in the lives of our children here in Forest Park.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
After serving the 2 years of my appointment, I ran in for a full term District 91 position in 2009.
Are there individuals or groups which actively encouraged your interest in running for the District 91 Board?
When I was deciding whether or not to run for reelection, I did have conversations with the Superintendent and the Board President. I wanted their opinions on whether they felt I was still fresh enough not to have become complacent. I also talked to friends and family to get their take on the subject. The person who convinced me said, “I understand if you are tired and want to stop, but I would like to see you stay because you have made a difference and I believe you will continue to. I also think that as the only woman on the board your voice needs to be heard.”
What do you consider to be the greatest strength of District 91?
Our diversity and our ability to teach each student to utilize their individuality to be the best they can be, not only academically but socially. Our PBIS program has proven to be a great tool for teaching social skills that will carry our students throughout their lives.
Our prudent money management has also allowed us to not only weather the recession without having to cut programs, but to also expand our services and create programs that keep more special needs students in-district instead of send them out of district for services. Ask any special education parent how important this is.
Our financial position has also given us the peace of mind that if the Illinois State Legislature decides to push the pension onto the schools we will be in a position to take on that financial burden without causing us to go into the deficit spending that over 60% of Illinois school districts are currently experiencing. It also enables us to avoid borrowing money when the tax revenues are delayed due to late mailing of tax bills. Unlike the Village that has sales tax, vehicle taxes, parking revenues, etc., the schools are almost completely dependent on property taxes for our revenue.
What are your strongest concerns about the district at this time?
Our reputation for handling the diversity of our students so well can make things tougher when more and more families move into Forest Park from areas where the school systems are less rigorous than ours. We are then faced with the challenge of bringing these students up to the level of the other students as quickly as possible.
I would like to see more parental involvement because research has shown that students whose parents are involved, do better in school. Many parents don’t have the time or energy to get involved and the burden falls to a small group. I have attended seminars at state and national conferences on this problem so it seems to be more common than we realize. I would like to continue to learn about effective strategies for involving parents and utilize this knowledge to help implement the strategies here in District 91.
When we survey parents, they indicate that they are very happy with the board and our schools and many have told me that their friends from surrounding districts are surprised when they find out how much our schools do for our kids. I would like to see more specific strategies for promoting District 91 schools and letting people know how great our schools are!
How many District 91 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years?
All of them.