Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year’s in this year’s elections.

Age: 39  

Previous political experience: None 

Previous community experience: 

For two years, I have been the co-director of the Westchester Food Pantry, serving the Proviso Township communities of Westchester, Bellwood, Broadview, Hillside and Berkeley. I also led the Westchester Cloverbuds from 2014-2016.

Occupation: Administrative Assistant with the Forest Preserves of Cook County

Education: MS in Communication, ISU, 2005

Historically, we do think the District 209 school board has been so politicized? What can be done to change that?

In my opinion, the District 209 became politicized when Board members realized that their Board position could be used as a stepping stone to other political positions or political influence. I think this can be changed by electing community-minded people, who are not connected to politicians, to the Board that are there to focus on the students and the schools.  Furthermore, the communities need to keep the Board member accountable: which Board members send their children to Proviso schools? Where do their campaign contributions come from? Are there connections between campaign contributors and vendors awarded contracts? 

To me, it is of utmost importance to serve on the Board with integrity. This means refusing campaign contributions from those seeking contracts from District 209, and sending my children to the schools I hope to govern. In this and every school board election, voters must elect parents and not politicians.

Is the physical plant at Proviso East obsolete and should it be replaced? 

When elected, I look forward to understanding the costs required to update our current facilities versus building a new building. Based on the information available to me as a community member, I don’t think the Proviso East building is obsolete. However, it is a cautionary tale of what happens when Board members put off necessary repairs for decades.  I believe that this is an opportunity for the entire community to come together with the administration to discuss the pros and cons of restoring our current building or rebuilding. There is a lot of history at Proviso East and this decision cannot be made in a vacuum. My belief is that we can honor Proviso East’s history best by taking care of the building and the students being educated within it.

What has the district administration and school board done to adapt to the increasing Hispanic enrollment at its schools? What else can be done to respond to changing demographic trends?

Board members Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and Theresa Kelly have accomplished a tremendous amount of progressive change in the past two years.  They’ve gotten ESL students moved out of the Special Education programs, and are working to declare Proviso Township high schools as “safe” zones amid immigration and deportation fears.  The challenge ahead is to find enough bi-lingual teachers to instruct all the students. Additionally, we will need to address the cultural changes our community and schools have experienced and foster an open dialogue between faculty, staff and students on the topics of race, immigration and how the new laws may impact their classmates. We will need to hone in on the academic opportunities and scholarships available as a result of our racially diverse community and help our kids understand the academic expectations and encourage every child to reach them.

What do you think about standardized test scores and academic performance at schools in District 209? What action can the school board take to help improve student achievement?

I am angry that only 9% of the children at East, 15% of the children at Proviso West and 25% of the students across the district as a whole are ready for college. This is result of decades of neglect of our curriculum and accountability of our administration. However, I believe that Superintendent Dr. Rodriguez and Proviso East principal Dr. Hardy are taking incredible steps to turn District 209 in a positive direction.  When elected, I look forward to working with them to further increase expectations of students and updating curriculum and student assistance services.   I know that once students are engaged and committed to fulfilling their own potential, test scores will rise to reflect their achievement. 

How does District 209 integrate technology into the classroom? What can be done to expand the integration of technology at the classroom level?

Before we can begin to address students’ individual access to technology in District 209, we must first examine the capacity of each building’s capability to support this technology. I look forward to serving on the Board as important issues and decisions such as this come up: what is decided now can impact our schools for decades to come. It is crucial that the issues are examined from all sides, and decisions are made with the best interests’ of the students and facilities in mind. 

What are the essential qualities the school district should seek in the next principal at Proviso West?

In my opinion, Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Hardy are shining examples of the leadership District 209 needs at the helm of its’ administration and schools. Both have not only the vision but also the transformational plans necessary to drastically improve our schools. The new Proviso West principal must have these tremendous qualities as well.  The new principal should have a record of excellence in teaching and transformation in failing schools, along with a true passion to make Proviso West the best it can be for current and future students. The qualifications of the next Proviso West principal are of great concern to me, as my own two children will attend PW in the coming years.