Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Forest Park Review sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Profession: Education Consultant, Teacher Trainer, Bilingual Instructor, and Entrepreneur
Years in Proviso: 13
Are you a Proviso graduate?
No, I spent my school aged years in Bogota, Colombia.
Do you have children who have, are or will be attending Proviso Township high schools? What are their ages?
I have three Children Ages 7, 9 and 11; they currently attend public schools in Proviso Township.
Why are you running for this office?
As a concerned citizen, parent and educational professional, I am running for election to the Proviso District 209 School Board. I am driven to provide academic achievement opportunities to all children across our district by applying my experience in leadership and education. I would also be the first Latina to be elected to the board representing the 42% Latino student population in our schools.
I work with a diverse community of students and teachers in the United States and abroad to help them learn to develop their curriculum in an effort to become high-performing schools. I am dismayed by the current state of our Proviso Township high school district and I feel it is my moral obligation to use my expertise to help affect the change our schools desperately require.
Many children who attend our high schools, at Proviso East especially, are scared, demoralized, and we are failing them academically. Since 2003, under the current school board majority, our public high schools have gone from bad to among the worst in the state of Illinois. Reading scores have dropped 65% and math scores by 53% at Proviso East. Out of 5,000 students across the district, only a staggering 23% are ready for college upon graduation. Just this school year many classes were not staffed by teachers and are run by permanent substitute teachers because actual teachers were never hired! How can we expect excellence from our children if this is the environment we provide for their education?
As a school board member I will work to help attract and retain the best teachers for all schools rather than relying on substitutes by making sure the hiring process starts on time! I will work to create a safe learning environment by providing administration, staff and teachers with adolescent behavior modification training. I also believe that a School Board Advisory Committee will provide an open dialogue so that we can improve our schools TOGETHER. Find a better way to handle the student expulsions and revisit the protocol for students in need. Finally, this new board will need to work TOGETHER, and work to reduce administration costs so that your tax dollars are allocated toward instruction and professional development for the faculty and staff.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
No I have not run for public office before.
Are there individuals or groups, which actively encouraged your interest in running for the D209 board?
Yes, I am part of a group of concerned engaged parents that met at the Brown Cow in 2014 to assess what choices we had to change the high school situation for our children. It has been the primary issue tearing our community apart for years! We want to stay in our homes, and have our children continue to grow up together in this amazing township.
Education is an equalizer, energizer; real education cultivates the mind and cultivates their dreams; gives them hope! To achieve the type of educational reform required to change the culture and educational standards in the school there has to be accountability in spending and academics. Proviso kids have to be the first priority in decision-making. We have had strong support from many community leaders throughout Proviso ready for a change in the direction the schools have taken with the current leadership.
What do you consider to be the greatest strengths of Proviso Township High School District 209?
District 209 used to be the gem of the western suburbs not to long ago. Known for cultivating many great leaders, great sportsmen, cultural and social justice and an incredibly culturally diverse community I call home. People used to come to Proviso schools with pride, and I would like to be part of a team that brings that back!
Our Township was the flagship in Schools many years ago.
What are your strongest concerns about the district at this time?
My strongest concerns are the education, accountability and safety that the kids are exposed to every day. It is critical to recognize that a large majority of young people are not violence-prone, do not have criminal attitudes or criminal records, and can be “demonized” by legislators, school leaders, the media, and the general public. The Kids are all put in the same category, there are kids who want nothing more than to receive a good education in a safe environment. As do their parents. You can see that in kids that succeed despite the distressing conditions they are exposed to. Leaders have given up on all of them from the day they step into the school.
I have continually heard the leadership say all the kids come in from terrible feeder schools. That is not they only problem. What about our high school? Are we really operating at the highest possible level? Schools are meant to give opportunities and in education lies the future of the children. The current leadership has failed generations of children so it is failing our community. Kids are demoralized at Proviso East, and Proviso West. They feel nobody cares; there is no culture to cultivate their greatest potential! When there is excessive violence in the schools, the leadership is not focused on the children’s needs they are trying to control the situation. Our community needs leaders that care to stand up for the children. I recognize there are deep-rooted problems and children with educational challenges. As a long time teacher, I know the teachers that are there have vocation; they need support and empathetic, transformational leadership can bring the school to a new level.
How many District 209 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years?
I have been to 5 board meetings, the Articulation Summit, parent University Forum and several school functions.