Review the candidates who will be on the ballot in the March elections for the Flossmoor School District 161 Board of Education.
(Four 4-year terms)
Misha Blackman, Flossmoor, age 49
Education: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), in progress, University of Saint Francis; M.A. in Economics, Roosevelt University; B.S. in Economics/Business Administration, Roosevelt University
Occupation: Extensive experience serving as an advisor to senior leadership on several boards; my diverse background includes over 20 years of banking experience and experience in strategic planning, project execution, board participation and acting as an advisor/consultant to an entire organization.
Current employer: N/A, Doctoral Candidate
Family: Married, one daughter who is a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
Incumbent? Elected to the board in 2017; currently serving as board secretary and finance committee chairperson
Other elected positions? N/A
Most important issues:
- Continued collaboration; I will continue to work with the administration, teachers, parents, students, and stakeholders, so that district priorities are met. I will continue my quest to make sure success is realized for all district students. My focus is on creating an environment where every child can succeed.
- Raising student achievement; I will focus on retaining qualified teachers and improving instruction and curriculum, which I believe are the keys to improving student achievement. I will advocate for more instructional resources to be allocated to programs that have demonstrated improved student achievement.
- Fiscal responsibility; budget stewardship and financial decisions will continue to be deliberate, measurable and aligned with desired district goals. Fiscal responsibility is paramount to ensure that we are spending money wisely to benefit our students. Fiscal decisions will continue to be focused on doing what is right for all schools and will benefit district residents by protecting and preserving property values.
Goals: My goal for the next four years is to continue to focus on my philosophy of “every kid, every school.” I support a safe return to school; and I continue to strive for an inclusive community where we work and learn from each other to attain a common goal of excellence for the children of District 161.
Carolyn Griggs, Flossmoor, age 48
Education: B.S. Elementary Education, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1993; M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction, National-Louis University, 2000; Ed.D. Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Policy, Loyola University, 2003
Occupation: 10 years in public education, taught grades Kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd (Urbana Public Schools District #116 and Evanston Public Schools, District #65); curriculum designer and educational consultant for ETA Cuisenaire; Independent Contractor for Age of Learning/ABC Mouse; assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Roosevelt University; professor and department chair at Concordia University; Dean, College of Education at Chicago State University
Current employer: Chicago State University
Family: Married to husband Stanley Griggs; four children: Josiah, 17, senior at H-F; Luke, 15, sophomore at H-F; Rachel, 13, 8th grader at Parker Junior High; Isaac, 11, 7th grader at Parker Junior High
Incumbent? Yes, this is my 4th year on the board.
Other elected positions? none
Most important issues:
- Planning strategically for the 2021-22 academic year by acknowledging the challenges of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.
- Addressing the needs and gaps in student learning that have been created in the last year that will require a systematic pathway for growth and development
- Ensuring the district's financial security and maximizing the district's resources.
- Selecting and implementing curriculum that represents an understanding of the students in our community and their needs.
- Hiring practices that recognize the importance of high-quality, passionate, effective educators committed to and excited about being a part of successful change in our diverse community.
- Creating dynamic learning environments for all students that leverage their strengths and celebrate their growth and success.
- Ensuring we have supportive environments for teachers to thrive and develop their skills to enable them to lead efforts towards improved student outcomes.
- Improving communication plans for parents and caregivers to ensure they are informed and have consistent and timely opportunities for input concerning Flossmoor School District 161.
Goals: As a school board member, I want to support the good work of positioning the district for improvement, growth and success. I want to see increased efforts toward collaboration with student needs as the focal point. By identifying ways of supporting students academically, emotionally, socially and physically, we can be successful. By valuing and understanding teacher and administrator contributions, we can work collectively for the greatest outcomes for Flossmoor School District 161.
Cameron Nelson, Flossmoor, age 44
Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering and B.S. Psychology, both from University of Illinois,1998; J.D., Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2001
Occupation: Intellectual Property Attorney
Current employer: Greenberg Traurig
Family: Married to Michelle; four children, ages 10, 14, 15 and 18; all are or were students in SD161.
Incumbent? Yes; served one four-year term
Other elected positions? No.
Most important issues:
- We need to continue our work to build a professional, positive, high-expectation work environment for both teachers and students.
- We have revamped SD161's math and ELA curriculum, and need to make similar improvements in our science and social studies curriculum.
- We need to continue working on addressing and narrowing the "achievement gap" by ensuring all of our students are held to high expectations and challenged.
Goals: My goal is to see each school in SD161 regain and maintain status as a top-flight, "destination" school for our residents. We can get this done by ensuring a high-expectation, professional work environment for our teachers, a professional and supportive environment for our students, and by ensuring we have a high-quality curriculum in place.
Aracelis Janelle Scharon, Flossmoor, age 42
Education: Ph.D., Science Education, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2013; M.A., Science Teaching, Dominican University, 2008; PreK-12 Tech Specialist and 9-12 Science Educator Endorsements M.A., Cultural Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, 2005; B.S., Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2001
Occupation: High School Dean of Instruction – STEM; Advance Illinois Educator Council Member; ISBE Professional Educator Competency Committee Member; ISBE Diverse Learner & Ready Teachers Committee Member; School Equity Data Analyst Consultant; US Department of Education Fulbright Specialist - Online Learning; Former science and computer science teacher
Current employer: Gary Comer College Prep High School
Family: married to husband Saleem Siddiqui; daughter, Safa, a 6th grader at Parker Junior High.
Other elected positions? Illinois Science Teaching Association, Board of Directors, Elected Term: 2021- 2022
Most important issues:
- Promote student access to high-quality learning and positive school experiences without compromising diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Elevate the teaching profession in our district so that we can continue to recruit and retain great teachers and support staff from diverse backgrounds.
- Ensure equitable representation across and within the district on program and school policy decisions.
- Focus on achievement growth goals by grade level bands to continue the process of closing the gap and providing students opportunities to programs and resources to accelerate beyond proficiency.
- Foster a greater sense of accountability to our community through communication and transparent data-driven fiscal and budgeting practices.
- Amplify student voices and uplift the student perspective on district programs and policies to strengthen student culture and climate within and across schools.
- Work with school administration, teachers, families, community members and fellow board members to balance committee and working group representation that informs program and policy decisions.
- Create a district-wide equity plan and thoughtful and genuine equity evaluation that elevates cultural responsiveness and advances inclusive policies.
- Address college and career readiness gaps in math, ELA and science through partnerships and increased counseling with parents, teachers, school counselors and social workers.
- Develop accessible and easy-to-read data reports that can be used to communicate with the community and current and prospective families. These reports would include the use of property tax funds, school achievement progress, programming and school policy.