Candidate name: John W. Lyons
John W. Lyons III is a Forest Park homeowner who has been in the community for over seven years on the south side of town. John is married to Kristen Marie Lyons and has a daughter in the fifth grade at Field Steven Elementary School.
John grew up in Springfield, Ohio, and is currently the vice president of sales at two medium-sized manufacturing firms, one in Lombard, Illinois, and the other in Pilwaukee, Wisconsin.
When not working, John spends time volunteering for various community organizations like the Park District of Forest Park Softball Tournaments, Kiwanis Peanut Days, and other local events and charities. In his leisure time, he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and perfecting his grilling and BBQ techniques. John is excited about running for Forest Park School Board and wants to be the positive change in our kids’ educational experience.
1. What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities that will face a brand-new superintendent and a board with three new members?
Three new board members, a returning board member, and the addition of a new District Superintendent, I feel District 91 is at a crossroads to make positive changes that will have a lasting impact on our District for years to come. In the next four years, I hope to change the perception of how our “customers view our District,” the taxpayers, and parents of Forest Park. The District 91 School Board needs to look at the core of our district curriculum and ensure this curriculum is in place to enrich our students. We, as a board, will have to get serious in our strategic planning, with the keystone of driving to a world-class curriculum; this should influence all decisions as a board. If we can accomplish this solid curriculum, all other initiatives become a bi-product of our core value, a solid curriculum.
2. A criticism of the District 91 school board has been its lack of communication, including videos and meeting minutes not being posted to the website. How can communication between the D91 board of education and the residents of Forest Park be improved?
This will be my first time being on the school board, and when I ran in 2019, communication was an issue then and has been an ongoing issue since. District 91 has the right tools and software to address communication but not utilizing these tools to reach parents and others in our community in the most effective manner. Communication starts from the top down, as the superintendent and board need to be speaking the same language and using the resources we have at our fingertips. For example, on two occasions this past school year, I used the district website for important school closing dates. I check our district calendar for the school closing date, and the district calendar did not state the students were out of school for the day, but my daughter’s teacher sent an e-mail no classes were in session this day. This is just one of many examples of miscommunication and how it does not flow from the top down and not using the right tools our District currently already has.
3. What are some of the biggest challenges facing the D91 school district right now, and what steps can the board take to help address these difficulties?
In my opinion, we have many challenges that face the District at this time. Still, the most pressing is as follows: having the curriculum for District 91 up to par with surrounding school districts, keeping families in our community, attracting families to the community/school system, and finally, communication.
All are linked, and improvements in one area will lead to improvements in the others. During my time living in Forest Park, we have lost great families to surrounding communities, and the reason for them leaving Forest Park is the District 91 schools. The school board’s goal should be keeping the families we have and attracting more families because of our schools. I want to turn the tide and have the Forest Park school district be considered a premier school district to keep and attract families. This can be accomplished if the board gets their arms around the District’s communications to the families and set forth clear plans to get information flowing. As a board, we need to get data points every six months to understand if what we are doing is effective, review what is working and what is not, and then adjust our plan if needed.
4. What are some improvements you’d like to see in the District within the next three years?
As stated prior, the communication needs to improve. Also, I would like to see the resources for students and parents shared in a more equitable way to address all students’ needs. The District needs to ensure resources are being used in a precautionary manner for students, not just a reactionary manner. Since a new Superintendent is starting, this is a perfect time to review, analyze, and review all the District’s resources and the curriculum.
5. Describe how you see your position as a board member in terms of your commitment to the students and their families, the faculty and staff, and the greater Forest Park community.
My family and I are very committed to serving the Forest Park community and volunteering in many ways throughout the year. I am a member of the local Kiwanis Club, Eagles and volunteer for various community events. As I mentioned before, I ran for this position in 2019 because I am passionate about our kids and schools. In 2019 I was recommended by the Forest Park Teachers Union for the school board. Since then, I have become a board member (treasurer) of the South Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), a Citizen Advisory Council member, and a daughter who is currently in the 5th grade at Field Stevenson School. Forest Park is a great place to live and raise a family, and I hope to improve our schools even more to increase that appeal.
6. In your opinion, how has D91 handled equity, specifically as it relates to remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis?
Equity involves trying to understand and give the students and their families what they need to have a successful remote learning experience. In contrast, equality aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things to do remote learning. The words equity and equality are intertwined and used to promote fairness and justice, but that would only work if every student in District 91 started from the same place and needed the same things. District 91 did a great job to ensure equality for the students in remote learning, but the equity was lacking.
Our students did not all start at the same place with remote learning. The District issued Chrom Books, but I did not see follow-up if the student and their family had the ability to utilize the technology. The individual teachers and staff worked very hard and continue to do so that each student was individually addressed if needed. Still, the District as a whole did not “circle back” with the students and parents to ask, “How is remote learning going for you?”
Also, the non-written contract with the YMCA to assist in remote learning at the start of the 2020/2021 school year and then the program’s quick shutdown was very problematic. The summer between the school years was not utilized enough to have a clearer and concise plan for the 2020/2021 remote learning session.