Marissa Grossenbach: 2023 Candidate for Lincolnshire-Prairie View District 103 School Board
Age on Election Day: 45
Occupation: Management Consultant & mother of three
Employer: Mothers Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes
Previous offices held: Member of D103 Board of Education since 2017
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: My professional background is in the field of business and project management. And, I am mother to three children who are current students in the district. With these qualifications, I felt I could make an impact with a position on the board. I have served on the board for 6 years, and I believe I have made a positive contribution to the district and would love the opportunity to continue to serve. I have never been motivated by a particular issue, but rather the belief that I could provide a voice for the community. I try to come to the table with a willingness to listen, a reasonable and logical thought process, and data driven recommendations.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board member's role is to represent the community and monitor performance of the district. School district administration provide recommendations and rationale for setting or modifying curriculum. Board members are expected to listen, provide feedback, and contribute to an overall richer end result. We often ask ourselves, "What's best for kids?" when reviewing curriculum changes. Within the overall structure of curriculum, standards based grading and state testing, the board gives agency to its teachers to educate based on what is best for their students. The board also ensures teachers are equipped with the tools and training they need to be successful in an ever-changing educational landscape.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: Curriculum must evolve as the needs of the community continues to change. Our district operates with an overarching 5-year strategic plan. The plan is developed with input from parents, community members, board of education, staff and students. Every strategic plan includes implementation of curriculum changes. As a current member on the board, not only did I participate in the planning meetings, but also review and monitor progress towards our strategic goals. The current plan includes research and implementation of increased opportunities for inquiry based learning as well as individualized learning. Inquiry based learning is an approach that includes building strong relationships that enable learning. As the district embarks on this shift, we are beginning with creating a culture of inquiry, or in other words, sparking curiosity and wonder with our students on a daily basis.
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: I try to stay up-to-date on current affairs whether that be legislative actions or discussions in the local community. My typical next step is to find good sources of data from which I can further research the issue. Issues are never black and white, but many shades of gray. I do my best to try to understand the situation from a variety of perspectives. I also rely on the administration to provide data on how the curriculum is delivered today, and an analysis of changes moving forward and how those changes impact our students, staff and budget. Lastly, I strive to have patience. Changes should not be made hastily and we often have to review and revise our plans before final decisions can be made.
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: D103 did a wonderful job navigating the pandemic learning experience. We were able to offer options: remote learning as well as in-person learning opportunities. Staff and students adjusted to the new 'norm' with zoom classrooms, online assignments and creative ways to connect through the screen. We have learned that we can adapt, and can adapt quickly. We also learned that it's ok to make mistakes along the way, especially when it results in a better experience for our students and families. If a new outbreak requires swift decision making, we will work with the experts in the field as well as district administration to come up with options, evaluate those options, and determine which option works best for that situation.
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: In addition to my project management background, I am founder of a small nonprofit business. I appreciate difficult discussions and solving hard problems. When creating the nonprofit, we had to create every policy from scratch. We had to decide when to provide governance as a board of directors and when to allow the staff to have accountability. I see a lot of parallels in our governance of the school district. While our policies are not typically created from scratch, the board membership changes every two years. With each new board member, we have to re-norm in order to perform. We have to understand differing perspectives and use those to formulate the best solutions. In my time on the board, we have maintained a respectful rapport that I am quite proud of and I hope to continue the cohesiveness we have been able to maintain.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I think I've finally reached the board of education sweet spot! I have six years of service under my belt. My youngest child was 3 years old when I was first elected to the board. I have had the privilege of seeing the workings of all 3 school buildings from early childhood through junior high. I have been involved in construction projects at each building, multiple strategic plans and the pandemic. My time on the board enables me to share historical information with new board members and hopefully make each transition easier for the board and administration. Lastly, I am willing to put in the time it takes to be prepared for meetings and provide constructive feedback when needed. I truly enjoy being an advocate for the community and I hope I am able to continue in that role for another term.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: This is a difficult question to answer because I have frequent opportunities to provide feedback to the district. I also recognize that not every great idea can be acted upon. Ideas take time, thought and often, money, to implement successfully. However, I am extremely excited with the implementation of inquiry-based learning. This type of learning encourages students to ask questions, conduct research, and explore new ideas. I recently attended a staff workshop that explored educational structures that encourage wonder, curiosity and agency in the classroom. These methods are aimed to build motivation. Studies show that student motivation to learn declines significantly between elementary and high school. Motivation is driven by the belief that a person can learn and the perception that the learning is important. When we motivate students to be curious and excited about learning in their elementary years, we will have played a small role in a positive future for them.