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: Current employment: educator for the past 18 years including time teaching elementary school and now almost 14 years as a school principal. Evanston ties: lived here for the past 35 years, now in Skevanston; children at Walker and Chute. Volunteer/Civic activities coached championship teams at ETHS (2001 & 2005); served as a consultant to more than 15 school district boards and leadership teams throughout the suburban Chicago area
Why He’s Running and What He Brings: I think progress in this community comes by way of service. I know what it takes to connect with all members of this community. I bring a lot of qualities to the school board that I’m proud to share with the community.
Top Three Priorities and Reasons for Them
Looking to the next four years my top three priorities are kids, kids, kids (in no particular order)
We need to spend time addressing the fiscal sustainability of the district so that students can have the services, support, and opportunities that provide a well rounded school experience. We will do this initially by making reductions in any area that does not impact the overall experience for students. As the next two years roll out we need to assess our enrollment, boundary structures and make sure that our schooling models match the needs of the district. This has implications that include the possibility of closing a school or two, all of which need to be considered for fiscal sustainability.
My second priority is focusing on student opportunity and outcomes in a post-pandemic environment. We need schools to be open fully and I support a full reopening of schools in conjunction with proper mitigation efforts including teacher vaccines. As a board we can take the years ahead to engage with our new superintendent in working with teachers to develop, alter, or get rid of structures that are in the way of opportunity and outcomes for students. We know what was not working before and for whom the systems were not benefiting. This is our opportunity to reset the system and offer and opportunity for all students, particularly those who have historically been marginalized by the system.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is our equity work. As a board we have adopted policy. We have requested formal reporting on district wide efforts through the annual accountability reports and discipline reports. We have added support and training for all staff with SEED, Beyond Diversity, and coaching. What I want to see next is the implementation within classrooms in an effort to provide equitable learning opportunities to students in a manner different than we have seen before. We will see this through the implementation of more versatile core offerings like in middle school math. We will see this in higher percentages of early learners hitting their critical learning benchmarks for literacy. Everything we currently use to monitor progress will move along with great execution of our policies within classrooms.
Two Recent Board Positives
Two things the current board has done to benefit all children include leadership and sustainability.
This board has employed a superintendent that has a powerful voice in education on a national level. He is a regular participant in national forums on equity, best instructional practice, and more. His vision for our schools is well thought out, is inspiring, and it is attainable. Dr. Hotron’s MIRACLES framework does not just benefit all of District 65’s current children, but also their future children. He is showing this board what systems of accountability can look like from the head of our organization and that is something we have desperately needed. The board can stay in their governing lane with Dr. Horton at the helm and that will benefit consistency and alignment throughout the district. All of this will have an impact on culture and climate in the district and as a result benefit children.
The second thing this board has done is engage in an effort to correct the fiscal issues that have plagued the district for decades. Knowing that we have only so many years left of the referendum that provided time to make changes, this board has laid out a three year plan of action that will have a significant impact on the sustainability of the district. Failure to execute this plan could result in massive loss of programming, high class sizes, and an environment that is hard for both students and staff. Our goal, with the multi-faceted approach is to consider changes that will reduce expenditures, but strengthen programming.
Ideas like consolidating the TWI program and extending it through middle school has an impact on where people go to school. It also provides more streamlined service that has continuity to the high school and college and careers. As we continue to move through this next phase of action we will look back and know that starting it when we did was a critical step for all children and the experience we want them to have in District 65. (338)
Addressing 5Essentials Survey Results
Climate and culture in a district are critical indicators that lead to student success. In D65 there is a longstanding battle for trust between district leadership and the teacher ranks. I remember hearing about this dynamic at my dinner table from my mother who worked in the front office at Washington School for 30 years. I lived this dynamic during my first year teaching at Kingsley School as an employee. As a result, this rating is no longer a surprise and discussing with interim superintendents last spring would not have been as fruitful a conversation as hiring a superintendent to help solve the problem. This is what needed to be done and what was done to take the step forward. In Dr. Horton one of our biggest goals was to build bridges between stakeholder groups including leaders and their educators.
Addressing the Joint Literacy Goal
There are two main things that need to be done to address the reading proficiency gap in District 65: review and action.
We have to give solid time and attention in the curriculum review process to the Student Academic Partners study on the last 40 years of reading research and their breakdown of the Lucy Calkins reading and writing program. The breadth of the research and their analysis of Calkins scream loudly to the missing foundational skill components of District 65’s core literacy program. We have to honor what the research says and be adaptive to the needs of students and the reality that our current program has not allowed our teachers to be successful with our students.
The second thing that needs to be done is take action to make our system work for students. This is already underway in the reorganization of the reading support services proposed within the context of our budget reduction and efficiency process. Applying the latest research to our programming we now know that foundational skills can successfully be intervened far earlier and faster than ever before. This means that one of our current support services that requires 1:1 instruction for a period of 30-45 minutes can be actualized with a more targeted approach over a shorter period of time. What is required is skill specific programming, structured scheduling, and the data to inform the interventionist as to what skill is lagging and in need of support.
We have the data to inform these decisions within the district and now we have the research support to make impactful change. It is time to apply this information to this problem and kick start a solution.