Claudia Garrison is a former Haven Middle School teacher 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 taught at Haven Middle School from September 2001 to June 2012. I purchased a home on Crain St. in August 2010.
2. What elected positions have you held previously, if any? Have you ever run for office before?
The only elected positions I have held in my adult life have been with the various PTAs at my sons’ schools. I’ve never run for office before.
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3. What experience/skills would you bring to the school board from your professional or personal life?
My experience as a teacher in the district will provide other board members with insight into how policy directives or strategic plan goals are actually implemented in the schools. My management information experience as a Chief Financial Consultant for Bank of America will assist me in understanding the financial information provided to the board; one of my goals is to obtain more transparent and easier to use management information for the board. I have long been interested in the impact of current brain research and the application of its findings to education. I would like the school board to consider findings from research presented by Carol Dweck in Mind Set and Paul Tough in How Children Succeed as a starting point for some fundamental changes in our thinking about education and
4. What do you think are the biggest issues for District 65? How would you address those?
- Improving the financial reporting that is provided to the board so better decisions can be made. This can be done by changing the format and content of management reporting that is provided to the board.
- Addressing the low morale among teachers by developing a truly collaborative district. School board members need to improve communications with teachers and building administrators. There needs to be more informal discussion rather than having all the board’s information filtered by the central administration.
- Increasing transparency and improved communications from the central administration to all stakeholders in the district: parents, teachers, and students.
- Ensuring that our district is implementing accepted best practices in our schools and allowing time for those practices to settle in.
- Reestablishing the proper governance role of the school board vis-a-vis central administration.
- Working for improved articulation with District 202 so that District 65 students are fully prepared to take on the challenges of high school.
5. How will you balance finance constraints with the need for more space in the district’s aging buildings?
Building remodeling is already taking place, funded by the issuance of bonds. Since the central administration is projecting balanced budgets through the 2015-2016, the issue of funding building upgrades seems to be addressed for the moment. I regret that one way a balanced budget was achieved was by giving experienced teachers major financial incentives to retire and replacing them with teachers with less than three years of experience. The quality of teaching does improve with experience; a deliberate move to hire less experienced teachers will, I fear, have a negative effect on the quality of instruction. Obviously, from this response, it is clear that hiring and retaining effective teachers across all disciplines would be a funding priority for me.