Melissa Kelley Black: 2023 candidate for Naperville Unit District 203 board

  • Melissa Kelley Black

    Melissa Kelley Black

Posted3/10/2023 1:00 AM


Town: Naperville


Age on Election Day: 54

Occupation: Former educator and business owner

Employer: No answer given

Previous offices held: No previous political offices


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 am running for Naperville 203 school board to ensure that our schools provide high quality educational opportunities to all students. I have been an educator, business owner, and involved Naperville 203 parent since 2005 so I realize the importance of supporting our students, staff, and administration as they recover from challenges of COVID-19.

We currently have over 90 staff vacancies and the school district is struggling to hire as well as retain personnel. The quality of education and the district's ability to meet the needs of the students is dependent upon having great staff members available to work with our children.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

The focus of the district needs to be on finding timely solutions to the staffing problems and prioritizing actions that result in measurable improvements to the academic setbacks our children suffered due to the pandemic. High quality education is a priority to our community members and makes Naperville a desirable place to live.

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

A: The objective when setting up and monitoring curriculum is equity and continuous improvement. In successful districts and schools, educational equity means that every student is provided the educational rigor, the unique academic and social emotional supports, and resources, they need to succeed.

The school board's role is to set high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction. The board needs to make sure that these goals are the priority when making decisions regarding curriculum. Monitoring progress should include using data to make strategic decisions regarding the growth of all the student groups. We want the curriculum to be accessible, equitable, and inclusive so we support the growth of all the students.

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

A: The job of education is to create critical thinkers that have the skills to face the challenges of today and the future. My concern is that assessments show that many of our students are not mastering the skills necessary to perform at grade level or be prepared for life after high school.


Each year since 2017, the percentage of students that can meet or exceed state standards on the SAT has decreased. The achievement gap between students groups is large so we are not meeting the needs of many of our children. Map testing shows only 15% or less of all students can meet or exceed state expectations.

These issues are likely to grow worse due to the disruptions to education in the last few years. We need to provide additional services and supports to our students. We need to hire and support great teachers and staff to provide essential services and supports to our children. We need to address these challenges with timely actions that result in measurable improvements.

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, my responsibility is to develop a relationship with the community that includes transparency, trust, and accountability. I may not agree with all citizens, but I will show them consideration and utilize logical reasoning to support my decisions. My priority will always be to give all the students the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed.

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 COVID-19 crisis has tested education systems in unprecedented ways. There are lessons to be drawn from the experience that we should apply to any future pandemics and to ensure that "building back better" is an effective, evidence-informed undertaking.

• The crisis has reinforced the need for adaptive and agile policymaking

• Meeting the equity challenge depends on data as well as detailed and deliberate action

• Additional support for teachers

• School leadership matters

• Without effective assessment for learning, it is impossible to meet the needs of individual students

• Great teaching and learning are not enough: schools need to address the well-being of students

• Technology solutions must be accessible -- and include a no-tech safety net

• Parental and community resources must be harnessed to support learning

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: Through my experiences of owning businesses, working with nonprofits, and performing as a team teacher, I understand the importance of collaborating with a team to reach a shared goal. Groups of individuals can bring a broad range of ideas, knowledge and skills to bear on a problem. This creates a stimulating interaction of diverse ideas which can result in a wider range and better quality of solutions.

My approach to problem solving is similar to the scientific method. I gather and examine existing facts, data, and knowledge to form my opinion. Next, the team would engage in discussions to decide the best course of action. I like to establish clear goals, a measurement tool to monitor the progress of the implemented decisions, and review the progress data to ensure that our actions have resulted in our desired outcome. This way the team can make timely adjustments to ensure the ongoing success of the students.

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

A: As a former educator with both a bachelor's and master's degree in education, I understand the practical implications of policies upon students and the educational system. My children have both above average abilities and disabilities. I have acted as a teacher advocating for students and as a parent seeking effective services for my children. I have attended educational conferences at MIT, Harvard, and Stanford.

I've worked with educational and medical professionals from Lurie's Children's Hospital, Rush Medical Center, and Northwestern University. Our students and schools need extra support and help to effectively address the challenges and added stresses created by the pandemic. My knowledge and experiences give me valuable insights into the issues, obstacles, research, and practical knowledge necessary to make effective educational decision for Naperville 203.

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

A: I am intrigued by idea of placing QR codes on assignments. QR codes can be linked to the specific strategies or information needed to support student learning (for example, reading, spelling, or mathematics strategies). Teachers can link videos that demonstrate the problem solving process for each question on the students' assignments. QR codes can be an easy way for parents to access the information they need to help their children with learning at home. The additional time and effort used to create the codes, links, and videos would be a wise investment if we have another pandemic or crisis that interferes with in-school learning.

Go to comments: 0 posted
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.