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The thumbnail sketch and reasons for running were compiled by Mary Helt Gavin from information provided by the candidate. Answers to the questions are in the candidate’s own words.
Thumbnail Sketch: Education: B.B.A., University of Michigan, M.B.A. in finance and management from New York University. Current employment: Vice President of Capital Markets at Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Evanston ties: lived here with her husband and their two middle-school children for nine years. Volunteer/Civic activities: mentor in the Urban Alliance Mentor program; member of Advancing Women Executives; volunteer with AYSO and Team Evanston Soccer Club; member of Host Committee for Foundation 65’s annual fundraiser in 2019 and 2020.
Why She’s Running and What She Brings to the Table: I believe my professional experience allows me to take an active role in trying to create a longer term solution to the budget problems faced by the district. I am also interested in making sure the district does more planning around returning children to classrooms and ensuring teachers have resources to deal with learning losses over the next several years.
Top Three Priorities and Reasons for Them:
- Budget – we need make expense cuts that are in line with feedback from stakeholders and avoid hitting instruction particularly in the current COVID environment. During the last two years, the district has overspent compared to projections prior to the 2017 Referendum. Expenses now outpace revenue by more than 3 times. I would start with heavy cuts to administrative and consulting cuts, but also look at transportation and selling unused land.
- Education – our board has too many goals and very few acknowledge the learning losses from a year of remote learning.
1) plan extensively to use the upcoming tranche of federal aid as directed by the State Superintendent to lengthen the school day and provide summer learning opportunities,
2) put on hold costly and unnecessary redistricting changes until after the budget cuts are planned and enrollment stabilizes (we have lost almost 10% of students in just one year) and
3) address learning losses aggressively with focus on those children who have suffered the most loss, and 4) fight for equity that is not a zero sum game and end the game of resource-shifting. We need to move beyond costly equity trainings for staff and really engage with the most vulnerable kids to assess needs whether that be the addition of enrichment programs, providing mentoring or tutoring or addressing other family needs.
- Accountability – the current board has too close a relationship with the administration and is actively circumventing discussions in public therefore wiping away any checks and balances. I would push the board to 1) vote, something it has not done on any material measure in years, 2) resume socially distant open meetings allowing for real time public comment and 3) focus discussion on education and its motto of “Every Child, Every Day, Whatever It Takes”
Two Recent Board Positives:
(a) I was thrilled when James Gray was appointed Principal of Walker in 2019. James was the principal of Hamilton Elementary in Chicago when my now-eighth-grader was in tuition-based preschool there, and he literally turned around from being on the CPS closure list to one a wonderful and popular neighborhood school in a matter of a very short years, and (b) I was very happy Dr. Horton formed the medical advisory committee in January of this year, although I believe this was something he should have done six month earlier.
Addressing 5Essentials Survey Results
I think the results and the steady decline in all areas speak for the need for change at the board level. I think the current board needs to acknowledge the results in a public board meeting particularly since the results were pre-pandemic. Surveys like the 5 Essential are important tools because they are one of the only metrics for gauging success that can be compared across all districts. The board needs to take accountability even if the results are bad understand its role as a listener, not a guider. The Strategic Plan implanted by the board in 2015 expired in 2020 and a new plan needs to be implemented to address the issues of decline in the 5 Essentials Survey.
Addressing the Joint Literacy Goal:
Ironically, the district cut all reading specialists last week saying they will restructure them – this goes completely against the joint literacy goal will be detrimental to future progress.
- Acknowledge there hasn’t been good progress despite efforts
- Research and implement what has worked for other districts with similar problems; create solid metrics to track progress and don’t shy away from pivoting quickly if progress is not achieved.
- Address the “drop off” in 9th grade scores for Black students carefully. Do tracks need to be created in 9th grade to help kids master material before moving them on?
- Involve all teachers in literacy curriculum particularly at the middle school level; consider phonics and vocabulary as a larger part of the core curriculum.
- Create summer school opportunities for all impacted kids before 9th grade that focuses on getting them ready for high school.
- Assess if the two districts are truly working together and talking regularly.