Motivations – 2021 District 211 Board of Education Election Candidate Questionnaire


Gabe Classon and Maya Nayak

The Viking Logue sent out a questionnaire to all nine candidates in the District 211 Board of Education race. See all of the candidates’ responses to one of the questions below. See here for The Logue‘s full coverage of the April 6 election, including the candidates’ responses to other topics on the questionnaire.

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

Curtis Bradley: While serving on the Community Engagement Committee in 2016, I felt that we made a lot of progress with some of our initiatives as it related to the 5 year strategic plan for D211. I was also a member of School District 54’s Foundations Committee for a year. After years of deliberation, working, and living in the community, I decided it is time to get more involved. I’ve always had a passion for developing people, from coaching sports, coaching my employees, and mentoring student athletes. My top priorities are to ensure that constituents have a voice that will be listened to and respected, and I believe the district must elevate equity and work harder to assist struggling students.

Denise Wilson: I am running for District 211 school board as I think we can do better than status-quo.

Per the National Education Association, for the years 2018-2019, Illinois taxes payers paid teachers the highest average salaries of Midwestern and Neighboring states. And District 211 schools are not even rated in the top 10 schools for Illinois.

US News, rated Fremd High School as number 19 with only 57.2% students leaving college ready. All other District 211 schools rated less than 50% college ready. Keep in mind this before the last year of remote learning. Which for most has not been successful. We can and must do better!

District 211 has a favorable budget varies of $12M and a land sell of $17M. Why are our taxes going up with this much in the budget? Our state has lost thousands of jobs, small businesses are struggling, the last thing we need is a tax increase.

Robi Vollkommer: I am running for the BOE to try to bring back a focus on academics and to reduce costs wherever possible. I have served as an advocate for students and families for years, and those in the community who have worked with me know this. The BOE position would allow me to continue what I have been doing all along.

Some of my accomplishments are:

*I worked succesfully with D211 administration to offer Japanese language classes for students at all five high schools after seeing a need for students to have a continuum of their Japanese language studies in high school.
*I am a strong advocate for academics and persuaded SHS to update their Academic Scholar Wall after 7 years of neglect.
*I persuaded SHS to offer a field trip for orchestra and choir students when only a band field trip existed.
*I persuaded SHS to get a certificated teacher to offer AP World History after noticing this course was offered at other D211 schools.

There is still work that needs to be done however, and I am hoping I am able to continue to advocate for students and families at the next level.

Kristen Steel: The 2020/2021 school year has been a challenging one and community members have become more aware of what is happening in the district, and the shortfalls that are in front of the community. Township High School District 211 is much more than just curriculum, it is preparing students for life after high school, this is clearly stated in their mission. Many of the district students are struggling and face new challenges- both at home and at school- and it is the role of school, the district and the BoE to create a safe and fulfilling environment which will allow them to succeed. I will prioritize getting our students back to full- time in person learning, safely and effectively. The Board’s purpose is representing the community, while always keeping the students as top priority. In the aftermath of COVID and returning to school, investing in our youth now is more important than it has ever been. Township High School District 211 must have better communication with the community, a willingness to give the voice of residents’ equal weight as extended to the administration, and implement this into practice. This office is accountable to the public they serve. We must support the health and well-being of our students at every opportunity and do far more to measure and drive success.

Jessica Hinkle: I am seeking to serve our community because, while I do believe D211 has been of the best districts in Illinois, I think we need to do even more. We need to not be complacent and need push forward being focusing on the best student experience while being fiscally responsible. And just as importantly, we need to hear our students, parents and teachers voices and act on them.

Roxanne Wittkamp: I am running for a seat because I want to see D211 continue to be a standard of excellence in education. I want to see students continue to grow into contributing members of society, and I want to ensure that students are treated equally, fairly and their educational needs met. My primary concern is the current board’s ability to work as a team after attending several school board meetings. I could see and feel the animosity between some of the members. The pandemic has put board members and Dr. Small in a position they haven’t experienced before, so now more than ever; the board members must work as a team and address the community with unity. Another concern is ensuring all student’s educational needs are being met. Curriculum updates and new materials along with updated technology are needed to help D211 students succeed. I advocate for learning technology and professional development for teachers to learn the latest technology to be used in the classroom. Lastly, the school district’s biggest challenge in the next year or two could be the possible gap in learning from the pandemic. Depending on the subject, students will need more help and support through tutors and small group learning.

Anna Klimkowicz: My motivation to seek re-election is to safeguard our schools so our communities can continue to depend on them for excellence far beyond any single board or board member’s term. I’ll use my experience as a board member to make sure we provide opportunities and support to every family, especially because the need for both continues as a result of the pandemic. I listen to all points of view and fairly consider arguments or concerns on their merits, regardless of origin, because effective school board members balance everyone’s interests and show aptitude for teamwork.

I see four areas of need:

  1. Academic and Social Emotional Support: My first priority is expanding social-emotional supports to students, their families, and staff. Students cannot learn if they are coping with trauma and we need to make sure our school counselors and community partners are ready to provide the help they need.
  2. Finances: Maintain fiscal responsibility and remain debt free.
  3. Strategic Plan: Review the key priorities and goals of the 2016 Strategic Plan to determine the future direction in order to best envision “The 211 of Tomorrow.”
  4. Equity Team: This past summer our students pushed us to implement an equity initiative to make sure everyone feels valued and connected to our school community. We started thatprocess the fall of 2020 and I would like to see that work through to the end.

Tim Mc Gowan: 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.