Michael Thompson: 2023 candidate for Huntley Unit District 158 school board, 2-year term
Age on Election Day: 55
Occupation: Director of Research
Employer: American Vein and Lymphatic Society
Previous offices held: None
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 the two-year term for District 158, and this is the first time I have run for any public office. I think it is time for some new perspectives on our school board, and I feel that I can represent the interests of both parents and community members in our district. I believe in fiscal responsibility and transparency, and I promise to make myself accessible to my community to answer their questions and listen to their concerns.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: Student achievement is the number one priority of any school board. The members that have been elected to the board of education are the policymakers that set the criteria and standards for curriculum with the goal of ensuring students graduate with the skills they need to be productive in their adult lives.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: When test scores plummet, as they have in our district, this should sound the alarm for the board and start them on a discovery mission to uncover the root causes of the decline. Everything from the current curriculum structure to the very classroom environments it is being taught in should be carefully examined. If the focus of curriculum isn't based on sound principles, and is instead satisfying the call for the political flavor of the day, then that curriculum should be restructured.
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: Regardless if a policy or curriculum decision is viewed as controversial, I will handle it the same way; honestly. I will make my reasoning for supporting or opposing such topics clear and public. Furthermore, I'm not a "yes man." I have no problem being the voice of opposition when my reason for doing so is rooted in the mission of creating the best learning environment for our children.
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: We have learned that the erosion of trust in our institutions is something that we will be attempting to build back for many years. The policies we develop to keep our children safe and healthy should be based on common sense and factual information and not based upon conjecture and fear. Furthermore, parents know what is best for their children, and if that means keeping them home or sending them to school with or without a mask, then our district needs to be able to accommodate the will of all parents. When the district makes decisions based on the promise of state and federal funding and not based on actual science, that trust in our leadership is very, very difficult to rebuild.
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 over 20 years experience serving in managerial roles for a number of nonprofit organizations. I have worked with brilliant physicians and dedicated staff to develop strategies to foster growth, retain members and increase sources of revenue. I have learned that the most valuable skill one can possess is the ability to listen to opposing views and find commonalities. There is usually more than one path that leads to the desired outcome.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I'm not in this for my own professional gain. Serving on this board will not help me bring in more business, result in contracts for my company, or even impress my colleagues. I'm doing this because I am tired of bureaucracies and politics infiltrating our schools.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I believe that the best approach for our district is to get back to basics. We need to return to focusing upon the things that made D158 schools great: Our teachers, non-politicized curriculum and providing a learning environment that is engaging and safe for our students.