Sue Dickson: 2023 Candidate for Antioch High School District 117 School Board


Town: Lindenhurst

Age on Election Day: 60

Occupation: Department of Defense Consultant

Employer: Booz Allen Hamilton

Previous offices held: Oakland Eagle Boosters Vice President, Linden Civic Association Vice President


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 have always felt a responsibility to serve my community in some capacity; from executive positions on our local school booster organization to my old neighborhood civic association, volunteering in New Orleans after Katrina with our church, to a variety of charity organizations I support. The past few years, I've been attending school district meetings and they helped me better understand curriculum initiatives, educational direction of our schools, and the district's finances. I came up through two of Antioch's public school districts myself, and now that my son is growing up through the same schools I went through, I feel a responsibility to be more engaged and actively supportive of those schools. Running for the school board became the logical next step for me to support our teachers, our children, and our community.

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

A: We must provide a quality public education with strong curriculum for our students to succeed. The Superintendent collaborates with both administration and teachers to ensure the curriculum meets state standards as well as the needs of all students. The school board plays a role in the adoption of that curriculum and ensures teachers have the resources they need to teach and students have the resources to learn. The school board must be cognizant of the very different world our kids are living in and provide them with a robust toolkit of knowledge, skills, and abilities.

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

A: I support a robust 21st century, well rounded curriculum. To do so, we should focus on those curriculum trends that strengthen student outcomes. Project based learning helps students learn by participating in projects that examine real-world problems and through that, develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills while they work with their classmates. Gamification that uses game-based elements to teach students new information and they learn more when they are having fun. Experiential learning immerses students in learning opportunities like in-person or virtual field trips which encourage them to learn outside of the classroom. I look forward to discussions with our Superintendent about how we can best prepare our students for the world they will be living in when they leave our schools.

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: As a board member, I would be held to the laws of the State of Illinois curricular guidelines, mandates, and laws and I would support them and be legally obliged to follow them. We must also listen to our community and ensure they are heard. I would actively promote community engagement opportunities to have dialogue around issues impacting our public schools. At the end of the day, we all want the best outcomes for our students.

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: The pandemic was a learning by doing experience for us all. In the initial phase of the shutdown, I home schooled my son as well as three of his neighborhood peers. Four kids, three different schools, four different grades. And I cannot tell you how much I appreciated the efforts our teachers and administration made to try and help our kids stay on track under never before experienced circumstances. There was no system-wide plan to address the severity of what hit us but it was an extreme learning opportunity to address technology and systems gaps, extreme variances in effective communication and online teaching styles, and the critical importance of engagement with our kids. We have a deeper understanding of the systems, tools, and engagement needs and improved ability to better execute should we be faced with a future pandemic.

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 been a project manager for over 30 years, working with and incredible diversity of corporate and military clients, managing dispersed teams, and leading projects where I needed to gain consensus among competing priorities. The last 20 years I've been immersed in the Department of Defense arena and there's a term we use, being purple. Purple symbolizes all branches of the military together; Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red, and Navy blue. Purple is diverse organizations collaborating, learning from each other, becoming stronger together, moving toward a clear goal, regardless of affiliation. We need to listen before we can be heard, to understand where differences in opinion come from, and work together towards the end goal of representing the best educational success of our children. To do so, we need to be "Purple" for the benefit our all our students, teachers, and staff.

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

A: I have 30 years of project management experience leading complex projects, multi-million dollar budgets, working with diverse staff, and have supported a variety of commercial and military clients often with competing priorities and ideologies. I came up through Antioch's public school districts 34 and 117, from Oakland way back when the portables went in, to AUGS, to graduating from ACHS when it was our only high school. My son is going through the same schools I did. I have supported many teacher and student activities in the district including several years as Oakland Eagle Boosters Vice President and volunteering at AUGS events. I will bring business and fiscal management experience as well as a perspective as both a former student and actively engaged mom to the school board.

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

A: There is so much that D117 gets right. Curriculum is designed to help our students become more effective learners through the strategic learning program, co-teaching model, advanced placement program, and Capstone courses. The D117 emerging tech focus provides opportunities to explore business, consumer, and technology courses, and feeds into the Lake County Technology Campus. I'd love to see stronger partnerships with other colleges as well, and beyond tech. We should also increase opportunities for students who do not plan to go to college have access to opportunities to enter the trades or begin apprenticeships. And there are so many opportunities for grants out there that I would love to see the district expand what they have been doing to pursue grants across different programs for our school, for teachers, and for our students.

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