Kimberly Cavill: 2023 candidate for Township High School District 211 Board of Education
Age on Election Day: 41
Occupation: Special Education program assistant
Previous offices held: D211 School Board member, 2019 -- current
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 fiercely protective of our public schools. A good education creates opportunities for social mobility, schools serve as the delivery system for many different types of care, and good schools prepare students for a successful future. Student safety is my top priority for my second term. Research shows the best way to keep kids and families safe is to build strong connections between students, their families and the school houses. Necessary school safety measures make our buildings more inaccessible than ever, which means we need to find new ways to rebuild our relationships. We must have enough social workers and psychologists to serve our students in a timely manner. We must invest in systems that protect our buildings without making them feel like cages. We must enforce consequences for misbehavior, but wrap those consequences in opportunities to reconnect and do better. Connected, supported students are successful students.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: Good school boards oversee curriculum by measuring four things:
To what degree do our students achieve what they're supposed to achieve?
Does our curriculum meet state and/or national standards?
Does our curriculum adequately prepare students for their lives after graduation?
Is our curriculum relevant to every student we serve?
In order to answer those questions, the administration must collect and present relevant data several times a year. Boards should review it carefully, then provide oversight in open session as to whether or not the administration is meeting expectations. Boards should also set clear direction for the administration to address problems and ensure we prepare our students well. Individual school board members and partisan politics should not play any role in dictating curriculum.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: When there's a big change in curriculum, no matter the subject, the administration must present the rationale behind the suggested changes, and the board owes it to the community to discuss it in open session. Recently, I voted to approve two additions to our existing 9th and 10th grade sex education curriculum. That felt like a big change to some members of our community, so it was right that we had a lengthy discussion about it in an open session and asked hard questions before making a decision.
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 provide leadership, even if it makes me unpopular with some community groups. You can't make everyone happy. However, you can behave decently, even when disagreeing. I do not tolerate disrespect, chaos, threats, violence, insults or heckling. Treating one another like mortal enemies in a holy war tears at our community bonds, and makes our children pay the price. That's unacceptable. We have to work collaboratively and find a way to respect our differences without diminishing each others' individual rights. That's what I do as a board member.
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: Schools should only close to in person learning as the very last resort in the most serious circumstances imaginable. Investing in good ventilation and clean air systems keeps people healthy. Having a cash reserve means moving a lot faster than other districts to get necessary equipment and keep schools safely open. Things change fast, so the administration and school board have to be nimble, open to evolving evidence, and willing to listen to all voices. The same is true for staff, students and parents. You can't run a school that meets my high expectations without a reliable pool of substitutes and bus drivers are superheroes. In short, what John Donne wrote is true: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
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: During my four year term, I've shown I work hard to address people's concerns, regardless of whether or not I share them. I provide leadership by asking pragmatic questions about how policy decisions will affect students and families. I strongly argue for my point of view when called for, but I'm always conscious that boards work best when members work together. You can't do that if you won't listen. I'm flexible enough to change my mind when other board members make points I hadn't considered. For example, in 2021 I voted down a package of capital improvement projects I personally approved of after other board members pointed out we had a good opportunity to seek community input before spending that money. I see through theatrics and focus on the practical effects of policy decisions.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I'm in this race for students, families and schools, not to carry out a political or personal agenda. I have no aspirations for any other political office, and I refuse to weaponize our students or schools as part of a partisan war. My agenda is to make sure our schools are the best they can be, and I balance competing interests to get the maximum benefit for our community investment. My oldest child will attend Palatine High School in two years, and I work hard to ensure all of us have good reasons to feel as excited about D211 students' futures as I do.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: Incoming freshmen and their families get the chance to walk through their schedule just before school starts, but we should provide the same opportunity for every student, regardless of class. It would help parents feel more connected to their child's experience and reduce students' anxiety about their first day of class. We should also advertise district shows in more community publications. Our talented students are as good as the performers at Metropolis theater in Arlington Heights, and more community members should come and see what they can do. I'd also love our elementary feeder districts to bring their classes to our schools for matinee productions, or to get tours of our specialized departments.