Management consultant Candance Chow is running her first campaign for election to the Evanston-Skokie District 65 school board. Here are her answers to the questions Patch posed to every District 65 candidate.
1. How long have you lived in Evanston?
I came to Evanston in 1995 to pursue my M.B.A. at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. I have lived in Evanston since graduating Kellogg in 1997 with the exception of two years spent in downtown Chicago.
2. What elected positions have you held previously, if any? Have you ever run for office before?
The only elected positions I have held are board positions and president of the Kingsley PTA, where my two daughters attend school. There definitely wasn’t a need to run for those posts!
Click here for information on the other District 65 candidates.
3. What experience/skills would you bring to the school board from your professional or personal life?
For the past 20 years I have gained valuable skills and experience in the business world and I now feel a responsibility to employ those skills to serve the Evanston community.
As a Board member, I will draw upon my experience in strategy development, data analysis, problem solving, and building performance metrics for not-for-profit organizations and businesses. I also have significant experience establishing and cultivating strategic partnerships that will help D65 tap the deep knowledge of local educators, experts and educational funders to meet the evolving needs of our students. I invited you to visit my website for more details about my professional experience at www.chow4d65.org.
Lastly, I have been deeply involved in the classroom and with the PTA at Kingsley Elementary School over the past five years. I have learned a great deal about the needs and issues facing teachers and families, and have valuable perspective on the strengths we have and challenges we face. During my two-year term as Kingsley PTA President and many years in other PTA leadership positions, I launched several successful programs. I chaired the Kingsley Wellness initiative (one of my personal passions) and sponsored engaging programs to help children learn about heath and good nutrition. I was a founding member of C.O.P.E, Caring Outreach by Parents in Evanston. This program engages parents, children and school staff to provide support for families in need. I made it my mission as PTA President to listen closely to the needs of the families in our school community as well as the faculty and staff. Just as in my professional life, this skill helps to inform my leadership and guide my decisions.
4. What do you think are the biggest issues for District 65? How would you address those?
- Approaching Student Achievement More Holistically. I strongly believe that our upcoming strategic plan development should yield a set of balanced goals that go beyond student achievement to include what I consider the necessary ingredients to attain that achievement. This balanced approach would drive accountability and would include goals and metrics related to: Curriculum Rigor and Instructional Success; School Climate and Preparedness to Learn; Parent and Community Engagement; and Faculty and Principal Effectiveness. I believe we must look at each of these components to make continued progress in eliminating the Achievement Gap and in ensuring each student receives a challenging, engaging educational experience in D65.
- Addressing the unfulfilled promise of Differentiation in meeting the needs of all learners. I call for us to take an honest look at how we are set up to Challenge Every Child. I believe in differentiated learning and at the same time acknowledge how difficult and complex it is to implement successfully and consistently for all children. We need to focus more attention to this strategy and evaluate its practical success for all kids. We have made great strides in the past decade to reduce the number of students who are severely struggling in our classrooms. We need to stay committed to this goal. But we also need to look at the level of challenge for students at other places on the learning spectrum. Our most recent Student Accountability Report showed that the % of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) who are considered to be at or above the level of achievement necessary to be college and career ready (CCR) dropped from 25% to 16% since 2009 in reading. Additionally, the number of black students who are considered CCR has gone from 30% in 2007 to 22.5% in 2012 for math, white students saw approximately half that drop during the same period. About 55-60% of our students achieve at this level, and we need to understand how we can do better by these children.
- Ensuring that our Inclusion Program is resourced and implemented effectively. Our Inclusion Program success is critical and impacts every classroom. We must ensure our commitment to Inclusion is supported with the appropriate classroom resources and that we evaluate, make adjustments and challenge our thinking aggressively and often. Under-resourcing this program will have an adverse on the social/emotional stability of students in the program as well as their achievement and the achievement of students as a whole. Additionally, it puts an unfair burden on classroom teachers leading to lower teacher morale and ability to achieve their goals in the classroom.
- Better alignment with D202. We need to ensure that we have a curriculum and grade-by-grade student outcomes that move backwards from graduation and career/college readiness to pre-k enrollment.
- Fiscal impacts of funding teacher pensions. The state will likely push this burden to school districts in the coming years, and we have to prepare for and model how that will impact our current budget projections. I support the recent joint resolution by D65 and D202 Board on this topic. The Board and Administration will need to work hard to limit the classroom impact of any budget cuts related to this new expense burden. I also think we need to look at potentially recouping some of the revenue the District forgoes through our six TIF districts as a way to offset these costs.
5. How will you balance finance constraints with the need for more space in the district’s aging buildings?
My first priority would be to work with the Administration to set overall goals around our capital investments and build a real capital development plan for the next five years that reflects an equitable approach to capital planning with objective criteria for how we prioritize projects and allocate resources to modernize our schools. That said, I believe we need to accelerate our work on equipping every D65 building with safe entryways as the current plan draws these improvements out over a seven year period. I would also want to explore public/private partnerships to help fund improvements such as equipping our middle schools with STEM labs to remain competitive with other school districts and enable our students to excel in these critical areas. Ultimately, if this approach yields capital investments that exceed our current debt limit, we will need to revisit the option for a capital referendum, but only after we have clearly articulated the need, the long-range plan and the associated tradeoffs if we don’t proceed.