Tim Mc Gowan – 2021 District 211 Board of Education Election Candidate Questionnaire


Photo courtesy of Tim Mc Gowan

Gabe Classon and Maya Nayak

The Viking Logue sent out a questionnaire to all nine candidates in the District 211 Board of Education race. Below is candidate Tim Mc Gowan’s unabridged response. See here for The Logue‘s full coverage of the April 6 election, including other candidates’ responses to the questionnaire.


BIOGRAPHY: Tell us about yourself. What qualities, experiences, and skills make you a good choice for the Board?

I’m a father, community activist, small business owner, and 2006 graduate of William Fremd High School. I’m running for the District 211 Board of Education because there are voices that need and deserve representation at the district level. From issues of racism and sexual violence to mental health and bullying, our students are struggling with issues that prevent them from achieving academic success. While I am thankful for my D211 education and grateful to my teachers, these are some of the same issues I heard about or directly experienced. To be frank, my time at Fremd wasn’t always comfortable. And when I had the opportunity to hear from students this summer, it became obvious that students are still experiencing these problems 15 years later. My personal experiences give me an important perspective on the issues that affect students in our community who are often overlooked.

MOTIVATIONS: Why did you decide to run for the Board of Education? What would be your top priorities if elected?

This summer was pivotal for me. As social injustice was occurring all across our country, I met students and community members in this district who have recounted their own concerns about injustice within our school district. Schools should actively be working towards being a place students enjoy coming to, where they feel welcome and safe, but it was clear that was not the case in D211.

If elected, my top three priorities are accountability, community, and equity. Accountability means that the district will be more transparent in their decision-making process. We need to engage everyone from teachers to students to staff when making decisions that affect them. D211 also sets high standards for everyone, including students and the administration itself. As a member of the school board, it is necessary that I make sure we provide everyone the resources they need to meet these standards. The second pillar of my campaign is community. My entire campaign has been focused on listening to the community and that will continue to be the case if I am elected. The community needs to be more involved in a dialogue with the school board and our concerns need to be heard. By holding office hours in community spaces, like the public library, board members can increase the parents’ accessibility to the school board and create opportunities for open dialogue. Finally, equity. My approach to equity is two-fold. We have students in our community who are food insecure or housing insecure, issues that have only gotten worse due to the pandemic. Students can’t learn until their basic needs are met. The district needs to partner with nonprofits in the community to ensure that students and their families receive the assistance they need. The district can also host family events like resume workshops or job fairs and host community outreach events with nonprofits so that families are connected to resources available to them. After the community came together to demand a plan to address racial inequities, the district created an equity team, but we need to have some urgency around this. Black students only make 6% of the student population but are receiving 24% of the suspensions and 38% of the school related arrests. Latinx students make up 25% of the population but receive 39% of the suspensions and 35% of the school related arrests. We are contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline that sets our youth up for failure. We need to look at the ways that staff bias leads to these outcomes and how we can better support them in unlearning their biases.


How can the district support the mental health, physical well-being, and academic achievement of students during the pandemic? How should the district approach reopening?

The biggest challenge facing our district is the lack of mental health support for students. During this pandemic, students have felt the impacts of isolation from their classmates and teachers. But even before this pandemic, students did not have access to the mental health services that are necessary for them to be the best learners they can. As students get back on track with in-person learning, it’s important that we focus on well-being in addition to academic achievement. I will start by increasing district communications with parents about the resources available to them and their students. We also need to make sure that mental health is treated as a priority, not an afterthought. Students should have easy and regular access to mental health resources.

In regard to physical well-being, the district is providing the option to play certain sports and attend practices. I am a proponent of keeping these running as long as they adhere to COVID safety protocols. The district needs to be extremely careful when approaching reopening schools. Students under 16 cannot be vaccinated yet, and vaccinations are still rolling out for people above that age. Right now, the district is doing a good job of offering both hybrid and in-person learning options. Until it is safe, we cannot mandate all students return to in-person learning and must keep a virtual option open. We also should not question why people may want to stay home as the pandemic continues. It is an unprecedented time and the devastating nature of this pandemic needs to be taken into account before mandating a broad policy that could possibly harm students or their families.


STUDENT CONCERNS OVER EQUITY: Over the past year, district students have addressed the Board over racial equity and sexual violence concerns. Please describe how you would approach these issues if elected.

In regard to racial equity, I plan on introducing initiatives to enhance the curriculum. We need to diversify the curriculum to better represent and serve all students in the district. I also plan on encouraging diversity within the teaching staff for D211. Research shows that all students benefit from having diverse teachers. I am also a proponent of anti-bias training for all school staff; anyone who interacts with students should be required to complete this training.

In regard to sexual violence concerns, we need to act immediately. Students are demanding for more information to be released regarding these incidents. This data needs to be reported, tracked, and provided when requested. Teachers within schools should serve as a positive resource that students can turn to. To bridge existing information gaps, I plan to implement an education series of community workshops for parents, students, teachers, and other staff to increase awareness of the chain of command for reporting cases, the resources available at each school (i.e. Title IX coordinator), and strategies for prevention. Students deserve to feel safe and secure while in school.

TRANSGENDER STUDENT LOCKER ROOM ACCESS: After five years of vocal community input from both sides of the issue, the district in January 2020 implemented a policy to allow transgender students unrestricted use of the locker room corresponding to their gender identity. What approach should the district take toward transgender student locker room access?

For me, equity is one of the three pillars of my campaign. I am an ally to the transgender community, and I support ways to be as inclusive to students who identify as transgender as possible. I believe they should have access to the locker room that matches their gender identity, and we should also make sure to have policies that protect our transgender students from bullying and harassment.

Regarding the lawsuit, the district should have settled in their decision earlier. The decision to protect transgender students’ rights is not one that should have taken four years. I have had the chance to speak with community members who also believe that time and resources were drained during this process. Instead of the four years of fighting and the possibility of continuing to fight, the district’s focus should have been protecting the student’s civil rights, saving taxpayer money and resources, and setting an inclusive precedent from the beginning.

Fiscal Policy

PROPERTY TAXES: Striking the right balance between minimizing the tax burden on district residents and ensuring the future financial security of the district is challenging, especially during these economically uncertain times. What is your stance on abating or rebating a portion of the district’s property tax levy?

It’s important to keep our future financial planning in mind when thinking about this decision. I would be in favor of property tax abatement in the coming years, especially as we recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. At the same time, we want to be able to have the money on hand instead of needing to borrow money in the future. At the end of the day, the taxes paid will benefit our students, who are our top priority, so no money is being wasted.

EXPENDITURES: In which areas should the district focus its spending? Are there areas where spending should be cut?

Thanks to the board, we are currently in a secure financial situation. I will not consider cutting programs that disproportionately impact students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. As an example, the district has discontinued its Driver’s Education services. While many students can afford to go to private services, low-income students no longer have access to the lower-rate Driver’s Ed programs through our schools. Students from low-income families are the ones who take up part-time jobs in our community to support their families, but without a driver’s license, that option is no longer available. These are the kinds of impacts we need to consider when making budget cuts. We should prioritize programs related to student mental health and other socio-emotional services.

Role of the Board

COMMUNICATION WITH THE COMMUNITY: Recent months have shown increased community interest in Board proceedings. How should the district communicate with the community? How should the community be able to communicate with the district?

While addressing the board during public comment is one way for the board to hear about public concerns, it does not offer the opportunity for dialogue. There should be more working groups and committees within the district that are available for the wider community to join and contribute to the work of improving the district. As board members, I plan to host office hours to hear from constituents about the challenges they are facing and how the district can support them. This will begin on Zoom, of course, but I hope to eventually host office hours at local libraries.

COOPERATION WITH OTHER BOARD MEMBERS: While the vast majority of Board resolutions are passed unanimously, many important votes have come down to a 5–2 split. Additionally, some have raised concerns over the introduction of divisive politics into local elections. Please comment on how you would work with other Board members if elected.

Listening to others, especially those who disagree with me, is necessary to develop a full understanding of every problem. At the end of the day, board members are public servants and it is our job to meet the community’s needs. To do that, we have to listen to the community and prioritize community input at every step of the way. There will be times when I will not agree with all other board members and there will be times that I do. My top priority is to be a voice for students and represent your voices when they might be ignored. To me, that is more important than consensus.

Final Thoughts

OTHER ISSUES: You may feel strongly about an issue for which we did not ask a question. If this is the case, please take the opportunity to share your thoughts on that issue here.

Even a year ago, I would not have imagined myself running for public office. This past year made me realize that my voice is powerful, and it has also helped students across the district realize their power as well. We are already seeing incredible impacts that are resulting from student action. I hope that D211 students continue to advocate for their needs and come together to create change.

A POSITIVE NOTE: It’s been a rough year, so let’s end this on a positive note. What is your favorite thing about District 211?

The community’s pride in our district’s schools. Many students really do walk away with lots of love and admiration for our high schools, which not all districts can say. Our alumni go on to do incredible things like attending prestigious universities, playing professional sports, and even coming back home to the district to teach the next generation.