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.
Previous elected experience: Elected officer (secretary, vice president, co-president) Forest Park Teachers Association
Previous community experience: Teacher for D91 schools for 12 years
Occupation: Co-Owner of Exit Strategy Brewing Company – Forest Park
Education: Ohio University (Athens, OH) – BSHCS (Bachelor of Science, Human & Consumer Sciences)
Dominican University (River Forest, IL) – MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching)
Concordia University (River Forest, IL) – MASL (Master of Arts in School Leadership)
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?
D91 has a quiet style of communication and has struggled with community wide communication for many years. While the use of online resources has increased, we still have a fraction of the population that does not have access to these resources or is unsure of how to use them. As a taxpayer, no longer an employee of the district, I have had to hunt for district information rather than having that communication delivered to me. The role of the board should include designing a comprehensive and consistent communication plan across all schools and the administrative offices. The Engage Café initiative is promising and personalizes the role of the board. It shows that there are ways to identify gaps within communication between the district and its families and taxpayers.
2) What role do parents play in D91?
The foundation of a school district includes any and all parties concerned and involved in the lives of our children. The community, the educators, the support staff, the administration and the parents are all contributors to this foundation. Parents are an integral part of district and student success. The role of parents in our district is to support the educational initiatives of our teachers and administrators. This means working with their children to enforce the work done during school hours. Using home and family time to work on subjects like math (ex: finding math in everyday life) will further enhance the goals of the district to obtain highly successful teaching standards. Parents and guardians also need to be included in the discussions surrounding educational initiatives in an approachable way. Educational jargon is everywhere and frankly, is not an accessible language to every person. By including our parents in our educational goal in an approachable manner, we increase the chances of parental involvement and guidance across the board. Open and transparent communication between the district administration, teachers and parents is paramount to district success and student success, which should be our foremost concern.
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?
As one of many feeder schools into D209, D91 has a functional relationship to the township. Thanks to the work of involved parent activist groups, the relationship is improving as is the relationship between Forest Park as a whole with Proviso. Moving forward, I believe that our district should strive to enroll as many students as we can into PMSA as it was recently ranked in the top 10 high schools in our state. By adding algebra to the middle school curriculum, we are better aligned with the standards needed by our students to test into PMSA. D91, being part of the Proviso township as a whole, can also share its resources with the high school buildings should the need arise for support; specifically our social/emotional support programs.
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?
To begin with, it is important to understand that standardized testing can be impacted by a bevy of external factors that will impact test scores. We also need to understand that while test scores are indicative of quite a lot and provide valuable quantitative data, they are not the sole source or indicator of educational success. Math has been a long time area of focus for our district and the recent initiatives to increase teacher training in math instruction through building math coaches, algebra instruction at the middle school level as well as the new math curriculum address this focus and will provide both students and teachers with tools for success. My personal view, from my years in education, leans toward using a variety of data sources to determine academic success. While PARCC scores should demonstrate a steady and incremental climb, they cannot be the lone source of data. Student performance has shown an empirical increase every year, which we can be proud of. Moving into the current assessment plan (Illinois Assessment of Readiness), we can expect to see continued growth.
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?
If elected, I would support any and all efforts, both currently in place and future work, to diminish this gap. Educational equity is a right for all students and must be fought for with fervor and diligence, plain and simple. Student achievement and success is paramount for a district’s success. Gaps between student demographics are an issue of great importance and with the proper measures, those gaps can be narrowed. I support the initiative of the district currently in place and will strive to continue to close these and all other gaps in student achievement across the district.
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?
Low enrollment is a concern for me and should be for our community as a whole. Currently, the district is experiencing a sluggish public relations effort. We have brag-worthy programs, students and teachers and should be bragging about them. We can be proud of our schools and should broadcast that as attractive reason for young families to live and stay in Forest Park. Our pre-school program enrollment consistently has a waiting list but we struggle to retain those families and students as those children advance through the school system. PMSA has made the Proviso high school district a more attractive option for families as have the new social-emotional, educational and extracurricular initiatives presented by D91.
7) What other issues are important to you as a school board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?
Differentiation in instruction, teacher support, best practices in curriculum and disciplinary practices are at the forefront of my candidacy. Having taught in the schools for 12 years, I count differentiation as one of my largest educational passions. Teaching to the whole child and allowing teachers the autonomy to do so is vital to classroom success. Keeping the curriculum exciting and varied to reach each learner in a classroom is something we can and should be implementing as we implement new curriculums and assessment practices. Providing our teachers with the resources and support they need to be effective and happy in their classrooms is also paramount for me. We are graced with excellent teachers in our district and they deserve as much support as we can give them. In terms of curriculum best practices, I believe that regularly evaluating curriculums keep education fresh and current. Education is a rapidly changing field with new initiatives presented almost yearly and keeping our curriculums current and diversified is an important key to district success. Another key to district success is having a consistent and equitable plan across the buildings for discipline. This is a broad area of focus, but one that, with time will benefit our students and our teachers.