Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!
With so many issues in the upcoming election, the RoundTable is augmenting its election section with a few “pop-up” questions.
The Question of the Week for School District 65 candidates was: What are the three most important duties of a School Board member?
Here are the answers the RoundTable received:
The most important duties of a school board member are tightly woven within the oath we take at the onset of a term of service. To respect taxpayer interests and be a protector of district assets is first and foremost. In this the board must seek sustainability over the near and long term regarding assets and programs. A board member is one of seven and must work as a diverse team where a multitude of opinions by board colleagues or those who seek an audience with the board can be heard. A board member must act to build an environment designed to ensure all students have the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework. This includes a system of assessing that environment on an ongoing basis. Lastly, a board member must be a chief advocate for children so that the assets of the district and environment that lives within those buildings can best serve the interests of the students and broader community.
Soo La Kim
The first duty is hiring and guiding the superintendent in leading the district to meet strategic goals and implement policies that serve all students. In order for the board to govern well and the superintendent to manage well, there has to be strong collaboration, communication, and trust. Dr. Horton was hired to help move the district toward providing an equitable, high quality education for all students and to put systems of accountability in place to ensure progress in closing the opportunity gap.
The second duty is fiscal stewardship for the short- and long-term health of the district, without sacrificing or undermining our equity goals. Diversifying our work force through a teacher residency that allows us to hire at the lower end of the pay scale is one creative solution that is both fiscally and educationally responsible. Longer term initiatives like student reassignment and facilities audit will give us a clearer picture of where we can cut and create efficiencies while protecting instructional resources.
As elected members of the community, we are also representatives and advocates for the families who entrust their children to the district. We should be especially mindful of advocating for those who have been traditionally marginalized or excluded from the school’s planning and processes, those whose voices have not traditionally been centered: BIPOC students, emergent bilingual students, students with disabilities, and lower income students. We have to embrace the diversity of our learners and build cultural responsiveness, flexibility, empathy, and universal design principles into the school system. When we build a learning environment that ensures success for the most vulnerable students, all our students, including our highest achieving ones, will benefit, because recognizing the full humanity of everyone around you is better preparation for the future than a test score.
Elisabeth “Biz” Linday-Ryan
Culture & Climate
I want to be part of transforming District 65 schools into places where all of our students are valued, welcomed, included, respected, and equally successful. Every student should feel like they belong at their school. We need to continue to invest in building relationships between our educators, students, and families. A positive school climate is essential in the elimination of the gap in opportunity to achieve.
We must engage in a critical examination of the impact of resources and programs available at every school to ensure that students’ access to what they need aligns with their home school. This includes but is not limited to busing, a 5th Ward school, emergent bilingual services, special education, and more.
Investing in the Future
I will help navigate District 65 through the looming financial crisis while keeping equity at the center of our decision making. We have difficult decisions ahead, we need folks that understand education and the impact of our financial decisions on the classroom and student experience. We need to focus on working smarter so that our financial challenges do not impact the quality of education.
I remain committed to supporting the safe reopening and return to school for District 65 students, teachers, and administrators. By closely following the direction of the CDC, ISBE, IDPH and medical advisors, our metrics evolved over the course of the pandemic. With new recommendations from the CDC, we will be able to have all students that want to be in person return to school after spring break, while still offering a remote school option. I will continue to work closely with District 65 leadership to reopen schools as safely as possible for the remainder of this year and work towards being fully open for the 2021-22 school year.
The three most important duties of a School Board member are to set educational goals, make sure that the superintendent and staff pursue those goals and to make sure that schools are managed based on state laws and policies set out by the school board.
In order to set educational goals, an evaluation of the current state of education in the district should be done. Focusing on areas of concern and coming up with solutions to address those concerns.
For the superintendent and staff to pursue those goals, they must be equipped with proper training and knowledge of student need and parent concerns coupled with staff that can address those concerns.
After setting goals, there must be ongoing assessments, to ensure that each benchmark is being met for both staff and superintendent, for those that are not met, there should be a strategic plan created that will hold each party accountable for where they might have missed the mark and ways to counteract any shortcomings.
Donna Wang Su
1. Represent their community – as an elected official, you have a responsibility to listen to your constituents. Even if I do not agree with their opinions and statements, I will give the respect and space for someone to share their concerns and issues. Then, it is upon me to reflect and represent that in my public space as a school board member as we advise the District superintendent and administration.
2. Question and hold accountable District administration – as this is a volunteer position, there is a responsibility to question and hold accountable new procedures and ideas with consideration to inclusion and collaboration. There needs to be transparency around process as I would like to see the school board do roll call voting around implementations and contracts over a certain amount.
3. Retaining a fiscal responsibility with an equity lens – as new programming and ideas will cost money for implementation and maintenance, providing for our underserved needs to be a priority as well as funds to be set aside in reserves training, all the while creating a balanced budget.
The three most important duties of a school board member are objectively defined in the official Oath of Office that every school member must abide by upon taking office:
“I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district’s assets.”
As a board member, it is imperative to wisely conserve and judiciously make use of the tax payer money that funds public education. Worsening the structural deficit, or spending more money than you have, is a violation of the Oath of Office.
“I shall encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow board members and others who seek a hearing before the board, while respecting the privacy of students and employees.”
As a board member, it is imperative to listen to all voices in the community, even the ones that you might disagree with, and to then engage in productive discourse around issues of education. Disrespecting the community in written communications, or name calling the community when there is a difference of opinion, is a violation of the Oath of Office.
“I shall recognize that a board member has no legal authority as an individual and that decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a public board meeting.”
All board activity should be transparent and easily accessible to the public, and all plans should be publicly voted upon so that the community knows where individual board members, and the entire board collectively, stand on the issues. Information should be disseminated clearly and efficiently at board meetings. The duration of board meetings should be constrained to a reasonable time limit such that working parents can have access to the information. If the board never votes in public on issues, it is a violation of the Oath of Office.