Michelle Barron: 2023 candidate for Township High School District 211 Board of Education
Town: Hoffman Estates
Age on Election Day: 26
Occupation: I'm currently the Community Collaboration Division Deputy Director of Programs at Kenneth Young Center (KYC). I have been employed at KYC since 2018.
Employer: Kenneth Young Center
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: My motivation for running for school board is to ensure our faculty, students and families' voices remain at the heart of the board's decisions. The decisions that are made affect these groups, and more than ever, it is essential that they remain the focus of those decisions. The district has had some challenges over the years regarding student wellness, diversity, and LGBTQ+ rights. I want to continue to work collaboratively with the superintendent to ensure that faculty receive support better to serve their students in this post-pandemic learning environment. Also, work collaboratively with the superintendent and the District 211 Equity Team to ensure the proposed Equity Plan is implemented promptly and continue to support the district in protecting LGBTQ+ rights.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum is to approve a school's curriculum and decide the textbooks the district will use. The board will continue to monitor the curriculum to ensure it prepares students for the future. The board makes a decision based on the recommendation of the Superintendent and their staff. They are the experts in setting curriculum, and board members rely on their expertise.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: I don't believe there are issues with the district's curriculum, but there's always room for improvement. The pandemic was difficult for everyone but especially our faculty and students. Across the country, test scores have lowered, an increase in social-emotional learning skills is needed, and a need for a culturally competent curriculum. The district has started to change the curriculum to be inclusive and has continued to discuss what else is missing in the curriculum to continue to challenge our students. I have seen significant changes to the curriculum since I graduated from Hoffman Estates High School. They continue to push our students to reach their full potential and prepare them for their career paths.
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 view my role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies as the voice for all faculty, students, parents and the community, and I take that role very seriously. It's essential for a leader to listen, even with whom one disagrees. As a board member, one needs to hear from everyone to make the best possible decision to benefit all students. If elected, I would confront policy or curriculum controversies by engaging in conversation with everyone, especially our faculty and students. As I stated, the board's decisions affect them the most and should be part of conversations about policy and curriculum.
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: I have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that things are rapidly changing as new information is discovered about the disease. I rely on the recommendations from the experts in the field and will continue to rely on their recommendations. As a parent, I know how frustrating it was when recommendations were changing rapidly, and District 211 did a great job navigating this pandemic. The goal remains the same: To keep all faculty, students and their families healthy.
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: As the Community Collaboration Division Deputy Director of the Kenneth Young Center, I must work collaboratively with all levels of leadership to determine policies, protocols and procedures that protect our staff and community, and a guiding point to navigate the best possible outcome. Not everyone is going to agree but the board needs to keep the district's mission in mind and work collaboratively to carry out the mission. By doing this, it will continue to push our district to progress.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I believe what makes me the best candidate for the job is my background. I have lived in the District 211 area since elementary school and still live in the area. My partner and I graduated from Hoffman Estates High School (HEHS), and our daughter will attend HEHS next year. My family and I have strong roots in this community. After college, I started working at Kenneth Young Center and have served the District 211 area with various grants. I have a solid social-emotional learning and finance background. I have implemented evidence-based youth prevention programming and presented in Spanish and English on a variety of topics during parent education nights. I'm also a first-generation Latina and know the need for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our district.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: One idea I have to improve our district that has yet to be discussed is creating a School Board Student Advisory Board. By creating this student-led advisory board, the board is hearing directly from District 211 students on any issues, improvements needed and support students need. This ensures a connection between the board and students and creates that connection to the classroom. Another idea is to decrease the language barrier in our district by hiring faculty that speak different languages and having board meetings available in other languages. Growing up in District 211, my parents and my friends' parents depended on Spanish-speaking faculty and didn't attend board meetings because of the language barrier. District 211 has a diverse population, and we need to meet their needs to keep them engaged in their student's academic success and increase transparency.