Bryan Mercado: 2023 candidate for Park Ridge-Niles District 64 School Board, 2-year term


Town: Park Ridge

Age on Election Day: 47

Occupation: Real estate broker

Employer: ReMax Properties Northwest

Previous offices held: Park Ridge Community Church trustee


Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

A: I'm worried right now that the loudest voices win and that's causing a pendulum swing that is dramatic and not representative of majority of the district. Just as we learned with the handling of COVID-guidenlines, full day kindergarten and more - have been driven more by emotions and political perspectives than solid logic models. It's time to disarm the polarization, and come to the table sincerely, with the best interest of the kids and the community. While schools are a microcosm of the community, they are not a laboratory for advancing political agenda's. Park Ridge has a reputation for being a community with top-notch education. As it stands today, there is a shadow cast on that great education and that shadow is constant bickering, controversy and otherwise disagreeable stakeholders - who work to advance personal agendas that do not represent the majority of community members. I don't want that for my hometown and I don't want that for my kids.

Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?

A: The school board is integral in setting and monitoring curriculum. The educators are responsible for defining needs and making recommendations. The board does not always get a say in all curricula decisions, but when they do, they should take recommendations from educators and put them into the context of the needs and wants of the local community. And, most importantly, they should support a curriculum that builds students into productive adults.

Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?

A: I think we have lost sight of what issues are really important for the kids and which issues will have the greatest impact on the kids' educational journey. We need look at issues involving special education, critical race theory and its impact (positive and negative), gender identity and gender expression guidelines, and put together a long term plan that makes sense for long term capital improvements and preventive maintenance on our districts assets. Also, my third-grader struggles to spell. This is unacceptable. Certainly COVID remote learning had an impact, but there is no catch-up plan in place, and did you know D64 - omits spelling tests. My third-grader has never had a spelling test. When writing and compression is so important, how have we walked away from a foundational building block for that?

Q: How do you view your role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents - even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?

A: Everyone's voice is important and should be herd. We need to understand that what makes our communities great is that everyone brings a different perspective and different skills to the table. My role is one in which I want provide all of the information, wether it is positive or negative to constituents. I know that they're will be people that may not like certain decisions that were made, but they deserve to understand what went into those decisions and why certain decisions are made by the board. The board and administration needs to do a better job of being Accountable for their decisions even if there is a negative outcome, Communicate better to the constituents why decisions are being made and in the manner of which they are made and be Transparent on the decisions that were made if the situation surrounding that decision changes, especially if it changes negatively.

Q: Indecisiveness on the board held up decisions on important projects, including all-day kindergarten and building expansions? What would you do to end those logjams and delays and to get the board making the decisions it needs to make in timely fashion?

A: Faster decisions can be made, when complete and accurate information is provided to decision-makers, and when decisions are not conflated to include items other than the issue at hand. In the situation of full-day kindergarten and building expansions, the community and board lacked the information they needed to make a timely decision, items unrelated to full-day kindergarten were rolled into the decision, and worse, they did not have faith and trust in the decision making process. Strong decision making processes are needed to make good decisions. Also, as when things seemed to be off track the leaders should call a common sense time out. The one thing that I was taught at a very young age is your never going to get everything right all of the time and if things go wrong you need to admit when you made a mistake or are experiencing challenges and ask for help and communicate the challenges to the key stakeholders so they know the facts of any perceived logjams or delays.

Q: The community and board have been at odds about COVID policies, especially masking. If the pandemic worsens, those rules could return. Did you support the state-mandated orders that students should be masked on campus and practice social distancing? Why or why not?

A: My family and I did comply with the state mandated orders of masking and practicing social distancing when the orders were in place. In the case with COVID in early 2020, there were a lot of unknowns, and everyone had their own opinions and comfort levels. I think the board made a decision that they thought was best at that time. You can agree or disagree, but the reality is that only time will tell if that decision was right or if that decision was wrong. Today we are way better equipped to navigate through COVID concerns as our medical professionals have a better understanding of the virus, how it affects the body, what treatments work and don't work, and have access to therapeutics and vaccinations. Experience gives perspective and time offers new opportunities to build knowledge about these issues so we can address them most effectively in the future.

Q: Concerns are growing regarding a new resurgence of the pandemic. If another massive outbreak of infectious disease occurs, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that will guide your decision making?

A: What we have learned is everyone's situation is different and what is comforting and reassuring to one may not be to another. We need to understand that everyone has their own comfort level with COVID. The facts are that we have a better understanding of COVID, we have therapeutics and vaccinations that are very effective, we have hospitals that are better equipped to handle COVID and we know what to do to reduce the spread of the virus. We now have more tools than ever to navigate through a resurgence of COVID and I think with these tools in our tool box we as human's can make the best decisions for our kids and our families to the best of our ability all while considering our fellow neighbor's.

Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.

A: I have done a lot of work over the years from being a condo board member, coaching Park Ridge Baseball, hockey team manager, a team leader for Habitat for Humanity, Field school VShow & Follies set construction lead, Park Ridge Community Church trustee and youth mission trip chaperon. All have been filled with people that came from different backgrounds, had different strengths and weaknesses, different views and opinions and personalities. I have found that it is impossible to see eye to eye with everyone on every decision. It is important to remember that just because someone's view and opinion's are different from yours doesn't mean that they are not any less or more important than yours. I find it important to embrace view's and opinion's that may be different from my own and to collaborate together for the common good, and realize that sometimes you may be surprised that those differing view's and opinion's may not be that different from my own.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: I have a unique perspective and connection to the community at many different levels, most importantly to those moving into our community. I hear what is important, what is concerning and what residents would like to see in and by our schools. I bring no political agenda but rather a belief that with proper Accountability, Communication and Transparency we can and will be one of the best school districts in Illinois.

Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?

A: Develop a realistic long-term plan for capital improvements and capital maintenance to prevent tax payers from having to foot the bill for poor planning on the districts part.

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