Kristine M. Gericke: 2023 candidate for Naperville Unit District 203 board


Town: Naperville

Age on Election Day: 50

Occupation: Copy editor

Employer: Epsilon

Previous offices held: District 203 board member 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: I hold a deep belief in the mission and value of public education. I believe that every child should be welcomed and valued as a unique individual. Education isn't only about classrooms and books. It is also about instilling a love of learning and helping kids find their own passions.

As a board member, I cannot be and have not been motivated by a single issue. There are many things that have to be considered and it is not prudent to be hyper-focused on one or two issues.

First and foremost, a board member's motivation should be on educating all students in the district to the best of their abilities. I have approached my work on the board with a commitment to educating our students to enter a world that is constantly evolving, equipping our staff with the resources they need to excel in their work and being a steward of public funds. Remaining focused on those three areas will guide the work of an effective board member.

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

A: Setting and monitoring curriculum are two duties of the school board. Policy must reflect all state and federal laws and it outlines the mission, goals, and beliefs of our community and gives direction to the district staff. Additionally, the board monitors progress. Regular updates and presentations from administration and various forms of community engagement provide data to aid the board in assessing if our curriculum and instruction are meeting the goals that have been outlined.

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

A: All curriculum deserves attention and regular review. It is the board's responsibility to monitor the district's progress toward our (the community's) goals. District 203's continual review of curriculum ensures we are in compliance with state and federal laws and that the curriculum offered is relevant and impactful for our students.

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: Disagreement forces thoughtfulness. It is a positive challenge and provides time to reflect on your positions. It is a chance to ask, "What reasoning am I applying to a situation?"

Leadership isn't doing something because you can, it's doing what is right. It is sometimes the harder path and not always the popular one. It isn't possible to please everyone but you have to take in as many data points as possible to make the most informed decision. Laws must be upheld, whether or not I agree with them.

My role is to provide the best education to our students. My role is not to decide what laws I like or don't like. If there is something out there that inhibits our ability to deliver the best possible education to our students, I have to advocate for a different path. As a member of the board, I have to articulate to other authorities how laws are affecting our kids' educational opportunities and experiences.

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 taught me how important it is to keep an eye on the future. We have to continually look at ways to best position ourselves to serve our students in many different situations. We don't want to play catch-up.

We have a dedicated staff that goes above and beyond to help students achieve, in addition to supporting each other while navigating different landscapes. It is just as important to support them so they can excel in their profession. We are in a strong position with technology that can help alleviate any disruptions with in-person learning.

Lastly, the pandemic taught me to remain focused on our students' well-being. It underscored the importance of keeping our students at the center of our work and advocacy.

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 find great value in group settings. They provide opportunities to listen to different perspectives and to challenge my own thinking. It is just as important to listen to understand as it is to engage in dialogue. I believe that people come from places of positive intentions. It is important for me to bring an open mind and to create a space of trust so that everyone present can be open and honest.

We all have passions and that must be respected. Whether you agree or not, we have to value each other's perspectives. Over the past six years, I have strived to listen, respect and engage in dialogue with the community, my board colleagues and the district administration to build consensus. Collaboration and consensus are keys to a functional and effective school board.

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

A: Serving on the board of education combines two of my passions: public service and education. I enjoy listening to multiple perspectives and engaging in dialogue to better understand different positions, doing my homework and then coming together with my board colleagues in a collaborative setting to continue moving our students forward.

Advocating for kids has been a constant in my adult life. As a board member, my advocacy has expanded to include our staff and community. I have endeavored to use my voice and skills to provide young people with the knowledge and tools they need to find happiness and success in their adult lives.

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

A: I would like to see more engagement with our graduates. I want to understand their experiences as they reflect on their time in our district. I value their insights. How well did we prepare them? What can we do better?

I feel this is a good way to balance best practices and the expertise of our educators with what our former students encounter in their postsecondary pursuits. Following our graduates would give us additional data on how to better serve all of our students. This would be a natural extension of our current initiative to hear student voices and gauge their sense of belonging.

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