Photo by ALEXA ROGALS/Staff Photographer

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: 35

Previous elected experience: None

Previous community experience: 2 years on the Citizens Advisory Council. PTO, Boy Scouts/ Cub Scouts

Occupation: Benefits Specialist   

Education: Some College

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?

Currently District 91 uses several different methods of communication.  Emails, Facebook, depending on the school Class Dojo. It is different depending on what school you are at. District 91 needs to adopt a more uniform way of communicating. Each school should use the same applications/methods. This allows a smoother transition from one grade center to the next.  

2)       What role do parents play in D91? 

Parents partner with the teachers and staff in D91. The parents look to the district for guidance in education and age appropriate development. Parents are also instrumental in holding the school community together. This is done through the PTO, PTC and Boosters by putting on events such as STEAM Night and Pancake Dinner. These organizations which are parent led help bring families together in a more relaxed environment.

The parents also hold the district and Board accountable to their mission statement, Vision statement, Core values etc.

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?

3 or 4 years ago I could not have identified any type of relationship between the district. I am unsure how if all the districts communicated with each other. Thankfully that has changed. The superintendents meet with each other. The Proviso East band, arguably the best marching band around, has attended events at D91. When the recent snow/cold days occurred D91 was in communication with D209 to match up the days.

District 91 needs to do a better job of promoting what’s happening at not only Proviso Math and Science Academy but East as well. I believe strongly that as a public-school district we should try to align our calendars with D209 for things like Spring Break. I don’t believe we did a good job promoting the FREE summer band program East held. We need to also look at what does D209 expect incoming Freshmen to be proficient at. Should they already have some knowledge of Algebra, where should they be in ELA, social studies etc. By knowing where the high school picks up we can make sure our students are ready for high school on the first day.

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?

The middle school has made several changes for the 2018-2019 school year. Classes for Math are now longer. Algebra is being taught to 8th graders. The district has hired a Math coach. I believe all the steps have contributed and will continue to contribute to the rise in Math scores.

With the district focus on Math this year ELA has been put on the back burner. My concern is that we will suffer in other subjects while we narrow in on one problem. I believe we should be approaching all areas of instruction looking for improvements whether there is an issue or not. We need to take feedback from the principals and teachers to make sure when we are changing the curriculum it is done in a way that the teacher can realistically be trained and not overloaded with new material each year.

I honestly don’t think the PARCC scores represents our students well at all. There are countless studies point out the biases that exist in current testing. We as a district need to make sure we are providing curriculum that not only align with the states standards but also challenge the students. By doing that we will set the students up for future success regardless of what the test scores display.

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?

The equity imperative has been one of the greatest achievements of the district in recent history. I have personally seen the change in thinking by the superintendent and board. The district has already added a requirement for all new staff or board members to go through an equity type of training. I will commit to making sure all my actions as a board member fall in line with the equity imperative. 

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?

The declining number of students is very alarming. As a parent it heartbreaking to see my children form bonds with their peers only to see them move away.

The district has committed to keeping small class sizes. This will be attractive to many families seeking to move into the district. The mostly free preschool is bringing in many young families. Partnering with the community with projects such as kindness week brings attention to the amazing staff we have in the district.

Some families move due to the high school. With the changes in 209 this is becoming less of an issue. If we as a district active help promote the success of our partnering High School families will see the true beauty of Proviso East and PMSA. This can be done with by brining the students in to our schools for things like choir performances or band.

We also need to make our curriculum more competitive. There are neighboring schools that are offering foreign language at a much younger age than we do.

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

 I want to see more extracurricular actives brought into the school especially for younger kids. Prior to third grade there really isn’t much for students to do outside of the regular school day. As a member of the CAC for the past two years this is feedback I have received from several parents.  As a board member I would inquire on what funding we need to bring in the programs and see that it is allocated correctly.

I want to make sure our Special education department is exceeding the state requirements. One change we can make is brining in a certified dyslexia specialist.

I want to work on making the board meetings more accessible to all families. The meeting currently is being held at the district office. There is not a lot of seating there. If we did have multiple families interested in attending meetings they would not have any space to go. This creates the false perception that families are not welcomed. We can move it into one of the five schools available to us. I also want to have the meetings recorded. There are several parents and community members that may not be able to come due to prior commitments. If we record the meetings and post them online people can watch when its available to them.


Here’s what Cotton Yancy told the Review about her candidacy:

Cotton, Gasse announce D91 runs