Former director of the U.S. House Iran-Contra Committee Casey Miller is running his first campaign for election to the Evanston Township High School District 202 board. Here are his answers to the questions Patch posed to every District 202 candidate.
1. How long have you lived in Evanston?
Almost 20 years (my wife and I moved to our current home in August, 1993).
2. What elected positions have you held previously, if any? Have you ever run for office before?
I have never run for nor held elective office.
Click here for information on the other District 202 candidates.
3. What experience/skills would you bring to the school board from your professional or personal life?
I have broad experience in both the public and private sector in formulating policy. I held senior staff positions in the U.S. House of Representatives (among others jobs, I was Director of the House Iran-Contra Committee and counsel to the Speaker of the House). I have also been active in volunteer work in Evanston, most notably as President/Commissioner/Coach of the Evanston Baseball and Softball Association for the past 13 years.
I have a long record of bridging disagreements and building consensus, and of an analytical, non-ideological approach. I am not afraid to change my mind if reason demands. I have operated with civility in the most contentious circumstances and have always managed to maintain the respect of even the most difficult adversaries. I have been personally responsible for managing a multi-million dollar budget. I have demonstrated my commitment to strengthening the community and to helping all the youth of Evanston. Finally, I have a son who is a senior at ETHS; his experience informs me. My younger son is a 7th grader at Haven; my hopes for his future well-being motivate me.
4. What do you think are the biggest issues for District 202? How would you address those?
The biggest issue is the achievement gap. ETHS is an extraordinary school for many students, but too many students fail to share in that excellence. The Board must continue to seek ways and provide necessary resources to bridge that gap.
Secondly, the school has recognized that not all students will go immediately to college or other post-secondary training. ETHS must continue to expand its efforts to help these students (addressed more fully in the next question). Finally, the uncertain economy and the condition of state and federal finances will continue to put stress on ETHS's budget. Each expenditure of resources should be measured against the value it adds to classroom training.
4. What will you do to improve the graduation rates and job placement for those students who do not go on to college right away (if at all)?
ETHS must work to ensure that every child who enters as a freshman will by the time s/he graduates acquire the skills and habits necessary to succeed, whether that is in college or in a career/technical field. The first point of emphasis is to create a culture for both students and staff that emphasizes high expectations for all students -- improvement by those previously not in advanced classes, continued excellence by those already achieving at a high level. ETHS must provide all students with the critical analysis and writing skills necessary to succeed in advanced courses. The school must continue to emphasize the full variety of student academic and tutoring supports. The curriculum itself should constantly be evaluated to see that it aligns with ETHS objectives and with external (state or federal) requirements. There should be greater coordination with D65 to ensure a seamless K-12 educational experience.
ETHS should work to focus on the needs of each student individually so that it does not force students into foreordained outcomes. This means that ETHS should provide greater opportunity not just for those headed to college, but also to those interested in careers in technical fields or the arts. Programs for career and technical education should be expanded and students should have earlier access to these programs. The school should strengthen and enlarge partnerships with Oakton Community College and Northwestern University. The school should pursue alliances with local business to provide internships, job training and job placement.
Career and counseling services should ally with external organizations, including the City, to find opportunities for graduates. The school should strengthen mentoring programs so that there is a strong adult-child relationship for each student at ETHS. The school should seek ways to increase parental involvement in all aspects of high school life.
5. What will you do to improve safety in and around ETHS?
ETHS is not an unsafe school. In December, 2012, Evanston Police Chief Eddington stated that there has been no history of violence inside the school. Nevertheless, recent events near the school underscore the responsibility of the Board and Administration to ensure that the school remains safe. To that end, the school and the City agreed in January to place a second school resource officer in the building.
Other steps to consider include: increased lighting on and around the grounds; increased police patrols in the neighborhood; and working with the City to develop the area around the school to make it more welcoming. The school can also encourage greater participation in sports, arts and other activities that provide safe options and in alternative social networks where students can foster self-esteem. I mentioned in the question above the importance of connecting each student with an adult mentor in ETHS -- these kinds of connections can be invaluable in steering students away from risky behavior. Ultimately, the solution to violence lies in providing students the hope and the means to lead productive lives. That means above all providing all students, including perhaps those most at risk, with the skills and education they need to succeed. Along those lines, as part of the agreement with the City to add a second safety officer, ETHS has added a new full-time career/job coordinator to help those students not going to college move directly into the workplace. The expansion of career and technical services at ETHS is also part of this effort.