Questions:

 

1. What are the most significant issues related to equity that District 204’s Board must
face?


2. What 3 concrete steps will you do to advance equity in District 204?


3. What is the role for Parent advocacy groups like PDAC in District 204?


4. What has most influenced your views on equity?


5. How will you consider equity if IPSD 204 redistricts during your term?


6. A significant portion of our community are English Language Learner participants or
have children with Special Needs. How can we best serve these students?


7. How should equity be part of our curriculum?


8. How do you define the achievement gap? What do you think are the appropriate
responses to the achievement gap?

Answers:

1. Moving from short to long term, there are three issues related to equity that I want to
highlight: the pandemic, the budget, and the system at large. First, with regards to the
COVID-19 pandemic, we must formulate our reopening policy with the recognition that
remote learning disproportionately impacts marginalized students, particularly including
those who do not have a full bevy of learning resources available at home and those
who have, or are prone to, mental health issues.
Second, as we approach our yearly budgets, we need to ensure that we are distributing
resources according to need. To some extent, we know what this looks like already, and
the district has taken steps to address inequities. In some cases, though, this will require
rethinking our budgeting process, which currently concludes so close to the beginning of
the school year that it ends up being more reactive than proactive. In order to shift this
mode of thinking about the budget, the board needs to itself be proactive about the full
breadth concerns it seeks to address, and then mindfully incorporate these concerns into
the budget.
Third, in the long term, we should strive to restructure the very system that perpetuates
these inequities. This could mean rezoning, it could mean changing curricula, it could
mean changing the way we compose classrooms. Every option should be on the table,
and the board should be proactive in seeking out the input of the community, as well as
scientific expertise, to begin to address these systemic issues.


2. First, we need to make efforts to retain the wonderful teachers we already have, and
provide them with resources so that they feel supported in the classroom. The board
needs to be responsive to educators’ concerns on this front. Some may seek
professional development opportunities so they can best implement curricula, while
some may seek physical items that make the classroom a more accessible space for
every student. Among the most important things the board can provide to teachers,
though, is clear and honest communication. This means transparency around board
operations, as well as open channels of feedback and discussion for teachers.
Second, we need to investigate the use of a cluster zoning model to best serve students
and parents of all different backgrounds. With clustered zones, we could more precisely
tailor the resources that each school needs, and thus that each student receives. Cluster
zoning could also allow for greater flexibility as the district grows. All of that said,

however, I do not think we can commit to such a change before a proper feasibility study
is conducted. Even if such a study has positive results, we need to ensure that any
change has the support of the community.
Third, we need to expand resources and investigate potential curricular changes to
prepare students for the rapidly changing environments of higher education and the
workforce at large, so as to ensure that every 204 graduate can be successful and
whatever path they choose. From my professional background in the higher education
space, I know that undergraduate institutions are exploring a new model of education
known as microlearning, wherein students receive relevant theoretical and practical
training for stable, lifelong professions, but while expending much less time and money.
Of course, many of our graduates will choose other paths, but we would be doing a
disservice to our students, and only harming our fight for an equitable school district, if
we were to ignore these changes underway and leave our students unprepared.


3. Parent advocacy groups like PDAC have a crucial role to play in District 204 because of
their honest efforts to improve the learning experience for every student in the district. In
my two decades plus in Naperville, I have been consistently impressed by the dedication
that such groups show to the betterment of the district as a whole. As a board member, I
would engage such groups to ensure that they have a clear pathway to both
communicate their concerns to the board, and to receive the board’s thoughts as well. If
we can establish a real dialogue, then we will all be better off. In creating such a
pathway, the board has a distinct task (among many others), which is to be clear about
how the law governs elected officials in their communication with the public, both in
terms of requirements for openness and restrictions on some internal proceedings of the
board.
Beyond existing groups, I also want to empower less involved parents to engage with
the board, and the district at large. This is an equity issue: if we do not create the space
for every parent to feel comfortable speaking, then we will not have all the information
we need to create maximally equitable decisions as a board.


4. My views on equity have come from a variety of sources. My formative experience was
when I failed 8th grade. I was in a school that demanded a very specific, strict type of
learning on the student’s part, and it wasn’t an environment that I could succeed in. I
was able to bounce back because my parents and my teachers worked together to
identify what kind of environment would be best for me, and to find a school that would
provide that environment. This was a critical resolution of equity for me personally, as I
definitely benefited from help being provided on the basis of need. I saw how an
inflexible education system can really harm students who don’t fit a predetermined
notion of what a good student is, and I’m passionate about making sure other students
don’t have to go through the same thing I did.


5. Redistricting would provide a prime opportunity to investigate a cluster zoning model for
our schools. With clustered zones, we could more precisely tailor the resources that
each school needs, and thus that each student receives. Cluster zoning could also allow
for greater flexibility as the district grows. All of that said, however, I do not think we can
commit to such a change before a proper feasibility study is conducted. Even if such a

study has positive results, we need to ensure that any change has the support of the
community.


6. This question is very personal for me, as someone whose first language is not English,
and as someone who has a child with special needs. The most important service we can
provide is compassion and respect. Compassion is a powerful tool to address the
understandable reticence that many of these students may feel. It communicates respect
for the student and their own learning experience. We already have a wonderful group of
educators in our district, including many specialists in these areas, on whose expertise I
would rely as a board member. On top of their skill, we can also offer professional
development opportunities to educators who may be interested, and as always, we need
to structure our budget and resource allocation with the priority being full accessibility for
every student.


7. First of all, equity itself can be taught as a concept from a very young age. Students are
able to understand that their peers have different needs, and that we should all strive to
meet and fulfill each other’s needs with compassion and kindness.
Second, we need to teach students about the underlying conditions for inequity. This can
and should be done in so many parts of our curricula, from history and social studies to
literature to STEM. Some lessons on equity may be already in the curriculum, such as
modules about the Civil Rights Movement, while other approaches will require larger
changes. For example, we must ask ourselves if our English curricula are representative
of the wide, wide breadth of authors who have written in the English language, and if
these curricula are not representative, then we must adjust. Even in STEM classes, we
must have these discussions. As one small example, we know that Rosalind Franklin’s
groundbreaking research into DNA was usurped, uncredited by two men - cases like
these abound in the sciences, and we should ensure students are aware.


8. The achievement gap is a systemic issue in which one group of students, as defined by
some demographic factor(s), regularly and consistently outperforms another group of
students. Such a gap could be expressed as “students of status A consistently
outperform students of status B in subject X.” We know that some of the most prominent
achievement gaps in our district, as in the nation as a whole, are the result of systemic
inequity. We know that students of color face barriers that white students do not. We
know that girls face barriers that boys do not. These inequities abound.
The first step in moving towards a solution is identifying and naming these inequities,
some of which we are aware of, and some of which we aren’t yet. For the latter category,
it requires a concerted effort by the board to open up spaces for members of the
community to voice their concerns and experiences, and also proactive investigations
and analyses into existing metrics of student success. We must also keep in mind that
existing metrics, in some cases, do not accurately reflect student achievement.
Once we know which achievement gaps we’re addressing, then we can move to address
them. We must examine where we have resource gaps in the classrooms: how can we
give teachers what they need? We must examine how we as a district communicate
success to our students, and fundamentally how we define ‘achievement.’ For example,
test scores are helpful for some students, but certainly not all. My elder daughter is a
current medical school student and proud graduate of District 204, but if she had been

told that her worth as a student was entirely determined by her test scores, she would
have been defeated, dejected, and disinclined from engaging with a system that told her
she was worth less. We must ensure no student receives such a message.