Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey the Forest Park Review sent out to all D91 board of education candidates running in this year’s elections. Candidates full, unedited responses are printed.

Don’t miss your chance to hear candidates debate the issues. 

The Forest Park Review and the Chamber of Commerce will host a D91 school board candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. on March 6 at Forest Park Middle School, 925 Beloit Ave. 

Age: 50

Previous elected experience: None        

Previous community experience:           Appointed School Board Member, September 2018, Volunteer Coach/Assistant for T-Ball, Wrestling, Lacrosse, Academic Bowl, Marching Band 1996-2014. 

Occupation: Marketing/Financial Services

Education: BS, United States Military Academy West Point, NY

1)        How would you describe the communication style of Forest Park District 91 schools? What is the district currently doing and what more, if anything, do you believe D91 should be doing to communicate with residents and taxpayers? What should be the board’s role in engaging residents?

I can only provide perspective from my time on the board, but I feel I would best describe the communication style as open, but passive.  I can speak personally that I have never failed to respond to a question presented to me regarding the Board of Education.  I think that there have been recent concerted efforts by the district and the board to meet our constituency where they are.  The recent Engage Café’s, along with the Chili dinner prior to Forest Park’s Holiday Walk show the contributions of Scott Dunnell, our recently hired PR Manager has made.  I continue to hear from parents that they don’t feel the district listens to parents well enough.  I think we need to determine if this means the district is not listening, or if there is a communication breakdown that needs to be addressed.  Engaged parents are crucial to moving D91 forward.  The board and the district must ensure we are meeting the parents/caregivers “where they are” instead of just being available through email or social media.

2)    What role do parents play in D91? 

Having met and spoken with many district parents, I know them to be involved, caring, and motivated for success.  Not just for their children, but for all of the children in the district.  This involvement is infectious and provides excellent modelling for other parents.  Their roll is first and foremost to be their children’s greatest champion. 

3)    Can you describe District 91’s relationship to Proviso Township High Schools District 209? What more, if anything, should D91 be doing to align itself to D209?

I would describe D91’s relationship with D209 as growing.  Certainly, over the past couple of decades, the relationship gone from non-existent to almost hostile.  We cannot ignore the history that caused this to happen, (changing demographics, financial downturn, etc.), but we must not allow it to continue to define us.  There are some very dedicated leaders in place in D209 right now, that are rightfully focused on the education of students. I think that perhaps that was not always the case in the past.  Communication is key. Having attended D209 board meetings and speaking with board members I am very happy with the progress being made.  As a board we should make every effort to align our preparation of students with D209.  Whether that means PMSA or Proviso East shouldn’t matter. 

4)    D91 students’ standardized (PARCC) test scores have increased slightly over the past few years, but students continue to struggle with math in particular. What is the district currently doing to address this issue and what more, if anything, do you believe D91 should be doing? What do you think about PARCC scores and academic performance at D91? 

As I have only been a part of the board for a short time, I will speak to what I know.  The board has acknowledged the issue with math scores.  This the first part of the solution.  As a school board, our job is to identify priorities, and then hold the administration accountable to community educational standards.  There are certainly opportunities available when it comes to better understanding the requirements of PARCC, but there are also opportunities that we, as a school district, should pursue to increase scores and achievement at the individual level. 

5)    Over the past year, the D91 board has approved several measures to address a racial and economic achievement gap at the schools. How, if at all, would you engage with and continue this work?

First, thank you for recognizing this.  As a board and as a district we have spent countless hours focused on this issue.  Not only because it is absolutely the right thing to do morally, but also because addressing and reducing this gap is one of the best ways to avail all of our students of the advantages available with a quality education.  And, education is the great equalizer for  our society.

6)      Enrollment at D91 was the lowest its been in at least six years at the start of this school year. Are you concerned about this? What is the district currently doing to attract students and what more, if anything, should the district be doing to retain and attract families? 

I am concerned, but only in as much as there are several things that are out of our control.  The birth rate in the United States in general has been declining.  The birth rate in Cook County specifically has been declining, and there has been a well-publicized significant loss of population in Cook County and Illinois.  I find it very hard to worry over macro-level demographic changes.  In D91 we do not control the public perception of the D209 and should focus our efforts on D91.  I also don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  My vision, and this is not a short-term vision, is that D91 becomes a “destination” district.  One that is recognized for its academic and whole student success, along with the unique diversity we have.  If we can move in that direction, the matter of attractiveness will solve itself and I believe have a positive impact on enrollment  

7)      What other issues are important to you as a school board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?

Ultimately, we are a school board.  There can be no other item more important than the academic success of our students.  At issue is, how do we, as a community, actively engage, and improve our schools?  I believe that it is critical to have a board that is engaged, available, capable, and committed to the long-term improvement of our students.   As you might be aware, three of the four individuals, elected in the 2015 school board election are no longer on the board, because they chose to relocate to different communities. This cannot continue.  We need stability of the school board to drive change and improve outcomes for the children of our community.   I cannot speak as to why they left, I can only say, publicly, that I will not. I will commit to serving out any term to which I am elected.  

Additionally, we need to commit to being on the cutting edge of the use of educational technology. This includes not just learning opportunities, but also social awareness and addressing the ability to disagree intellectually, without attacking a someone personally. 


Here’s what Mitchell told the Review about his candidacy:

More D91 board candidates emerge