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.
Previous political experience: none
Previous community experience: Proviso Township District 209 Policy Committee 2015-present, Youth mentor and parent empowerment advocate, co founder United Effort Campaign
Occupation: Sr. Parole Agent in the Austin neighborhood with the Illinois Department of Corrections and also work part time as a Youth Care Worker at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago.
Historically, we do think the District 209 school board has been so politicized? What can be done to change that?
When you elect people with strong relationships to the school board who give contracts to their political friends and campaign contributors, then you have a politicized school board. When the community comes together to say “enough is enough” and vote in parents and not politicians, it will change our schools and our communities overnight. We have that once in a lifetime opportunity to vote out the last of the politicians and replace them with parents like me who have children in the district who will protect every last one of your tax dollars and work every day to create excellent schools for our community.
Is the physical plant at Proviso East obsolete and should it be replaced?
Tradition is important to me, but not at the expense of teaching our children and preparing them for college and careers. I am prepared to understand the real financial requirements to continue to update our facilities compared to the cost and implications of building a new facility. When elected, it is our job to ensure that the most qualified people are in place to help the district complete the master plan for the District and map out the future of our schools. This topic is steeped deep with emotion and should not be made without involving our community in the decision. At the end of the day, I will be responsible for making the best decisions for our children and being the best steward of your tax dollars.
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?
Until recently, very little had been done to respond to the changing demographics of our schools. Dr. Rodriguez and the principals are still trying to make our District compliant with Federal standards to provide the most basic services to children in our district with English as a second language (ESL). It wasn’t until board members Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner were elected in 2015, they worked with then-board president Kelly to move ESL courses out of Special Education. Our schools have been out of compliance because there were not even enough
bi lingual teachers or staff to accommodate the increasing enrollment of Spanish speaking children and their families.
I’m thankful to have board members and administrators who see the challenges caused by ignoring the issue and are now working hard to catch up on a neglected issue. I look forward to helping the administration accelerate the process of getting our District compliant.
However, we need to also work on the elephant in the room – the racial tensions that are caused by the perceived dramatic swing in demographics. This isn’t done in a vacuum. Education happens only when the school board, administration, teachers, children and parents come together. In my experience serving the youth in our communities, the missing component of this equation in our District is the parents. I will work to empower the parents be be more involved in their child’s education and to embrace this conversation as a component of their involvement. I believe our community can come together to demand the best education for all our children.
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?
There is a lot of debate and controversy over the results of standardized testing, especially since the standardized tests have changed recently here in Illinois. Until we can compare apples to apples year after year, they only offer us a glimpse at how our children stack up academically against others in the state. However, the glimpse that we do have here in Proviso Township is dismal. The District has prepared only 9% of children at Proviso East and 15% and Proviso West for college or career. No matter how you cut the numbers, this is unacceptable.
Training for next level education is what I will expect our schools to provide to our children. As a result of creating better facilities, attracting and retaining the best teachers, providing AP coursework in all schools and increasing the number of extracurricular opportunities and clubs, we will see in increase in those test scores because our children will be more engaged in learning.
How does District 209 integrate technology into the classroom? What can be done to expand the integration of technology at the classroom level?
Although technology components exist in the classrooms at District 209, the depth at which they are able to be integrated into the curriculum is minimal. Unfortunately the District is in a very bad spot because the incumbents have neglected the buildings and curriculum for so long that it appears to need tiered approach to providing a state of the art education that is second to none.
The new school board members in 2015 worked to purchase books for the first time in almost 30 years. We now need to accelerate the process of getting our neglected buildings up to code so that the infrastructure can support technology integration and move toward a 1:1 technology learning environment. However, the incumbent board members have not addressed any life/safety requirements since 1988 hindering the speed at which the District can move forward toward technology integration.
What are the essential qualities the school district should seek in the next principal at Proviso West?
My own son will soon attend Proviso West and I look forward to helping approve a new Principal at the school at which he will attend. The principal must be a creative problem solver who has experience working with a racially and economically diverse school district. I would like to see a Principal who values the importance of a team working toward educating individual children. One that understands that the Board, the administration, teachers, students and parents all play an important role in educating our children. I would like to see a Principal who lives in or near the community so that they are more involved in school activities and become part of the fabric of our school and community.