I'm Daniel Gasse, a 20 year resident of Forest Park, running for an opening on the District 91 School Board.
For 18 years I have owned and directed the Gasse School of Music in Forest Park. I hold a doctoral degree in music and education and have taught students of all ages for more than 38 years. I am the father of five; the two youngest are currently students in District 91.
For nine years I have connected deeply with four of the five schools in town, interacting with principals, teachers, social workers and the superintendent. I have been involved for the last four years in the transformation of District 209, and I was a member of the PMSA Student Achievement and Student Innovation committee and the PMSA Entrance Process Re-examination Committee for 1.5 years.
Scores and instruction must be improved
Despite strong financial management for many years, District 91's academic results and scores are not where they should be. With the student to teacher ratio and the dollar to student ratio we have, our schools should be at the top of the rankings. Changes must be made at the leadership level, including the School Board. Some improvements have been made this academic year, following many years of demands from dedicated parents, but there is still a long way to go. The level of instruction in Math, English, Science, Music and Foreign Languages are far below the ideal. It's imperative to eliminate instructional gaps. The district needs to develop an overarching plan, so there is continuity from grade to grade and from school to school.
The expectations should be high; we should not aim the teaching to the lowest level so no one fails. The assignments should be at grade level and the teaching should be done in the classroom, not assigned as homework. Our eighth graders deserve to graduate with a solid education.
Discipline in District 91 is an ongoing issue and can be radically improved with Restorative Justice, which coaches students on how to resolve problems in constructive ways, including anger management, active listening, and understanding both sides of the issue. New programs should be created before and after school to offer alternatives to students who either need help or are at the top of the class and need challenges to continue growing.
Communication in the district has improved, but there is more to do. We need to involve parents and empower them to be major partners in their children's education, encouraging them to be the leaders at home that champion the interest for learning, working and following directions. We also need their feedback about what is working and what isn't, and to bring concerns as well as suggestions.
As an experienced teacher, coach, business owner and involved citizen of Forest Park I am stepping up to the responsibility and challenge of participating in the decision-making board that can change the performance of our schools. I will strive for excellence and won't settle for anything less.
Forest Park School District 91 board of education candidate