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The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association firmly believes that a strong partnership between teachers, students, parents, and the community is critical for maintaining our tradition of excellence.

Therefore, we asked school Board candidates to complete a brief questionnaire in order to better educate parents and the community about important issues facing District 86.  We thank all the candidates for taking the time to inform and serve our community.  Please read their responses below and remember to vote on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

 

Kevin Camden

What does high quality education look like?  
Great education looks like utilizing the best tools available to educate.  This could mean reliance upon technology; it could me a re-focusing on great literature; or, it may mean offering computer-based learning.  The form is flexible; the substance is a program that draws out the best each student, offers educational development and maximizes the student’s ability.  I think there needs to be challenge, but not impossibility.  Students need to be encouraged to set goals and be pushed to achieve, within the confines of ability.  

Education is also inclusive of non-classroom activities, so I believe there is a significant value in clubs, activities, service, and sports.

What are the most important challenges facing District 86?
I believe work needs to be done to view the district as an educational ecosystem that has two different locations which offer similar educational opportunities.  Presently, I believe there is a dichotomy in the district that negatively affects the students.

The Board’s actions and development of the district and its resources is what I think needs the most attention.

The most pressing budgetary matter is infrastructure, be it through a referendum or addressing concerns with student populations in each school.

What is the best way to address these challenges?
I think the greatest challenges will be addressed by electing a courteous, civil, and productive board.  A respectful board will take into account the comments of all stakeholders, such as taxpayers, but also students, teachers, and administrators.  I think teacher and building-level input is critical to addressing a larger question: facilities.  Facilities is not independent of building population or curriculum.  I think the “buffer zone” is inherently involved in the infrastructure and referendum question, and to get a complete answer, we need to get input from across the spectrum (like the District did prior to the pool issue developing).

How can the District maintain its tradition of excellence?
This answer ties into my answer for #3.  We maintain our excellence, in whatever arena: academics, dance line, deaf academic bowl, by focusing on students’ needs.  We need holistic view of the District to determine where/how/if certain programs are needed, how do we continue to support them at highest levels (referendum-type development, for example), and what do we want the District to be moving forward.  We, through the efforts of parents, teachers, administrators, and students are at the top of secondary education in the state.  We have opportunities to improve (1:1 instruction), maintain and refine, and explore growth.

However, none of the possibilities will be realized without a respectful, committed board that understands the issues facing the District presently.  The “problem,” such as it may be, is not a single issue but a larger issue that has many parts, and to try and single out one item will guarantee failure.

Keith Chval

What does high quality education look like?
It happens where an environment is created in which students are taught how to excel and in which they develop skills that are needed in a global economy.

What are the most important challenges facing District 86?

  • Attracting, developing, and retaining outstanding teachers and administrators.
  • Bringing facilities up to the demands of the 21st century and developing and executing a plan to keep the facilities in line with evolving demands.
  • Ensuring that educational opportunity is equal across the entire school district and that this, and the excellence of the two schools and center, is communicated to the community.

What is the best way to address these challenges?
Communicating these expectations to the administration, empowering it with the authority and resources to meet those expectations, and holding it accountable for meeting them.

How can the District maintain its tradition of excellence?
By defining what that means, committing to that goal, and prioritizing decisions and resources in line with it.

Robin Gonzales

What does high quality education look like?  
I believe high quality education is engaging and personalized to each student’s unique learning goals, style and interests.  Students and teachers should be provided a learning environment that meets the needs of today’s 21st century learners, while ensuring that students are college and career ready.  Certainly, test scores are indicative of student success, but I believe that this data should be a result, not the goal.  By supporting highest quality academics, along with social-emotional aspects of student growth and learning, students can reach their highest potential.  I strongly believe in supporting a wide range of options, including STEM initiatives, fine and digital art programs, literacy, music and sports. High quality education programs focus on the application of knowledge in project based, community initiatives and real-world scenarios that lead to meaningful connections. I also believe in providing increased support for students who are struggling or stagnated.  I believe that true success means that every child is progressing as we work to eradicate the achievement gap.  This “whole child” approach to teaching and learning is already a focus of both south and central and I look forward to the opportunity to further the work of the amazing educators at both schools by giving them the tools and support to ensure excellence for all.    

What are the most important challenges facing District 86?
 I believe that the greatest challenge in District 86 is one that is unfortunately seen across the nation – the achievement gap.  However, I believe that District 86 is making incredible strides in closing this gap and can be a model for overcoming socio-economic barriers and ensuring that each child succeeds.   Hinsdale South and Central are destination high schools with solid reputations for excellence.  We must squarely focus on student needs and listen to the educators, administrators and community to determine what problems exist and how to best address those issues.  From my time thus far I have seen that there is a difference in overall data between South and Central.  However, I have also seen that there is incredible growth and progress occurring for lower achieving students that should be both celebrated and supported.  We must work closely with educators to find out what programs are working and what support they need to continue this progress and growth.  I do also acknowledge that there are infrastructure issues and a need to upgrade facilities to ensure that students are given the best possible 21st century learning environment.  

What is the best way to address these challenges?
I firmly believe in identifying “pockets of progress”, determining what is working in those models, and scaling success.  This is done through supporting teachers and giving them the tools, time, resources and opportunity to work together and build on success.  If we are seeing an influx of students who are below grade level or present new challenges, then we need to work with administration and teachers to find out what they need to support students.  In addition, we need to ensure that we are providing continued and expanded opportunities for all students, whether that be increased advanced programs or more innovative global-ready learning options. As for addressing facility upgrades and infrastructure, I believe we must work more closely with the schools and community to ensure that we are using funds to not only address immediate needs, but to also build a “future ready” learning environment.  

How can the District maintain its tradition of excellence?
I believe that the district must both hold true to traditions, while embracing the future.  Excellence for all has been my personal motto throughout this campaign, and throughout my career as a fellow educator.  District 86 must embrace and support the many changes that are occurring both globally and locally.  I have often spoke about the unique and wonderful nature of District 86 as an increasingly diverse community that is home to a tradition of academic excellence.  In order to maintain that tradition we must ensure that we address each individual child and their unique needs.  This might mean increasing the number of advanced learning options, increasing support for 21st century college and career technical programs, increasing engagement with ALL families and community areas by providing support for a Family and Community Engagement program, or providing increased support for programs that focus on “readiness to learn” for incoming freshman who are below grade level.  Ultimately, we must work together with staff and administration to support teachers, students and programs that work.  

Nancy Pollak

What does high quality education look like?
I believe investing in curriculum, technology and teacher training results in the ability to deliver a high-quality education to our students. Ultimately a high quality education results in a student body that is resilient, self aware, makes good decisions and has the skills to pursue their aspirations upon high school graduation.

What are the most important challenges facing District 86?
Facilities (including enrollment) and an uncertain financial future.

What is the best way to address these challenges?

  • Thoughtfully and thoroughly exploring all options while working collaboratively with all stakeholders
  • Making strategic and data driven decisions
  • Having open, honest, and respectful dialogue
  • Transparent communication

How can the District maintain its tradition of excellence?
It is important to have a school board that values education and understands its importance in the community. As a board we need to continue to invest in our teachers in a fiscally responsible manner and create an environment where they are inspired and motivated to bring their very best to the classroom every day. We need to foster a culture that encourages innovative thinking and problem solving among all district staff. Finally, as a board we need to ensure that our staff has the resources they need to do the best job they can.

 

Fred Hoch

(Write-In Candidate)

What does high quality education look like?  
High quality education to me is education that both teaches the fundamentals that are necessary in society but reaches to go beyond that to prepare students for the needs of the future workforce, many of which are even unknown today.  We need to challenge the students and find ways to make sure that education is working for their needs without limiting the scope of their engagement. We need to be on the forefront of technology and we need to be diverse in exposing the students to varied ideas and opportunities. We need to challenge the students to prepare them for a new world.

What are the most important challenges facing District 86?
There a number of challenges for District 86. First and foremost, is the divisiveness. Its boundaries are multifaceted, and the only ones being hurt by it are the students. We need to make sure that all students are considered and none get lost, or we will fail as a district. We need consideration for all students. Second, is a lack of engaged leadership at the board level. We need leaders who listen strategically and share information with their constituents. We need them focused on the issues that matter and make sure that in any decision, they are highly informed, considerate and willing to defend their position. Third, we need fiscal responsibility.  Money is tight, the state is in trouble, education costs are increasing, and the community won’t stand for taxes that diminish their home values. We need to make sure that every dollar we spend and every dollar we ask for is strategically utilized on elements of education that drive the success of students.

What is the best way to address these challenges?
The best way to begin addressing these challenges is with strong leadership at the school board level. The Board needs to think bigger, be creative and work with the teachers, the students and the community to find real solutions to our challenges, not ones that are expedient. It’s not an easy task, but it’s critical or we risk losing our district’s leadership.

How can the District maintain its tradition of excellence?
The district must first be diligent in assuring that it stays at the top. That needs to extend to both schools. The Board needs to be supporting the students and the teachers above all else. Their responsibility is the education and the teachers are the key to that education. That being said, we need to realistic. We need to look where we can best utilize our resources.

 

UPDATE: This post was updated on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 with Robin Gonzales’ responses to the questionnaire.