March 14th, 2019 2:56 PM
Courtesy Victor Guarino/Facebook
Previous elected experience: Oak Park Park District Board 8 years
Previous community experience: IHSA Track official, OP Plan commission, Irving PTO President, OPYBS coach and Board treasurer
Occupation: Engineer/Project Manager at Argonne National Laboratory
Education: BS Mechanical Eng, MS Structural Eng, PhD Public Policy and Administration
Do you believe that race is the primary predictor of student outcomes in District 200? Please expound.
Race is the primary predictor of student outcomes at District 200, followed closely by socioeconomic status. The school's 2017-2018 State Report Card shows that PARCC scores for black students and low income students were 45% and 44% below that of white students, respectively. SAT scores for the same time period show black students and low income students were 55% and 47% below that of white students, respectively.
As a result, racial equity programs have the highest priority and need to be focused on eliminating policies, practices attitudes and cultural messages that either reinforce or fail to eliminate different outcomes by race. In addition, the Board should ensure that policies exist that meet the needs of low income students.
It is likely that if you're elected to the board, you'll have a hand in drafting the district's racial equity policy. What are your thoughts on a racial equity policy? Do you believe that it is necessary to ensure that race is not a predictor of student outcomes (assuming you believe this is the case)? And if so, how would you ensure that the racial equity policy is effectively implemented?
A racial equity policy is essential to eliminating racially predictable disparities in student outcomes. Each school policy, practice, attitude and cultural message should be looked at to see what impact they have on all students.
Currently District 200 has several different committees addressing equity from different perspectives, and a wide range of current and future programs deemed to impact equity. To ensure that this work is focused, efficient and coordinated I would designate a high level staff member to coordinate the work, evaluate progress, recommend changes as necessary, and ensuring regular communication to the Board and other decision-making bodies.
Do you believe that athletics and PE facilities are critical aspects of the overall student experience at OPRF?
I believe that student involvement in extra curricular activities are critical to the student experience and improve a sense of belonging and academic success. Students have an incredible range of opportunities to get involved from Hip Hop club, Spoken Word, Band, and a range of athletics. Athletics are just one-way students can be involved and should not be emphasized more than other areas. The benefits to students of extracurricular activities does not come from having the greatest facilities but from the relationships that are formed and the connections to great teachers, mentors, and role models. Of course, we have to have facilities for athletics, the arts, and other extracurricular activities that are safe, healthy, and meet ADA requirements. OPRF has adequate facilities that need to be upgraded but, given fiscal restraints, no major additions.
What are your thoughts on the recent Imagine OPRF master facilities plan that the D200 board accepted last year? Do you believe that it adequately addresses students' needs?
Taxes are at a tipping point and OPRFHS is facing key decisions on finances and facilities. As a member of the IMAGINE team I was part of the evaluation of our existing facility. The current board, however, failed to provide leadership during the IMAGINE process and did not define a scope or realistic budget with a goal of creating a plan that meets the educational needs of the school while being fiscally responsible.
The tax burden on residents has become onerous and tax increases due to referendum or taking on debt should not be considered. I believe the current excessive fund balance should be partially used to make improvements identified by IMAGINE that update class rooms, lab space, the library, tutoring center, and other improvements directly related to student academic achievement. The remainder of the balance should be used to offset the expected deficit spending over upcoming years. Tough choices will have to be made in the future that balance providing a high-quality education experience to all of our students while operating within these budget constraints.
Do you believe that the D200 school board is a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars? If so, in whatways? If you don't believe this, what changes will you advocate on the board to make it so?
The excessively large fund balance over many years, the inability to solve the pool saga in a fiscally responsible way, the lack of ongoing capital maintenance to the facility, and the plan to capture TIF monies next year when the Madison and downtown TIFs end are all indicators that D200 has not been a responsible steward of tax funds.
I would advocate developing a long term financial plan that is used to guide a facilities plan. D200 is facing in the near term a difficult balancing act of paying for capital projects out of the fund balance and ensuring that there is sufficient balance available to cover anticipated deficit spending so that an operating referendum is pushed as far as possible into the future.
Do you believe that the D200 board adequately incorporates the voices of people most likely to be impacted by its decisions (i.e., students, teachers, faculty and staff) into its decision-making process? If not, what are some ways that the board can more adequately incorporate these voices into its decision-making process?
I believe that the board makes a good effort at trying to hear the perspectives of students, teachers and staff but fails to adequately hear the voices of residents who do not currently have a connection to D200. These residents make up the majority of the tax payers who have to bear the tax burden of the financial decisions made by the board. I believe the way the IMAGINE process was setup and implemented shows that the board is tone-death to the current tax burden on residents.
Technology gives us wider access to our public officials, but we need a strategy that does not overwhelm them or force them to only engage with the loudest voices. Board members should be on social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — to promote initiatives and to provide context or information. The underlying principle behind this is transparency. Many people in our community cannot be present at board meetings. Therefore, it is important that board members solicit feedback on social media and deliver their thoughts on important issues. All board meetings need to be live streamed and archived on the D200 website.
However, engagement should not end on social media. I would encourage scheduled informal talks by board members with community groups on the weekends or other times that do not conflict with D200 board meetings. This would allow community members to get to know the board and current issues, but also give an opportunity to solicit feedback. I would consider these listening sessions that would rotate — One month at a church, at a elementary school PTO meeting, another at the farmer's market, another at a local coffeeshop. The decisions we make affect everybody, so we need to do whatever it takes to be IN the community and not just available at board meetings.