T.R. Johnson: 2023 candidate for Community Consolidated School District 59 school board
Town: Elk Grove Village
Age on Election Day: 37
Occupation: Associate vice president, ticket sales & strategy
Employer: Chicago Fire Football Club
Previous offices held: Trustee, Elk Grove Village Public Library
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 District 59 board of education to ensure our students and staff have the necessary resources and support to reach their full potential as individuals and a district as a whole. Having been born and raised in Elk Grove Village, I know what this district and community are capable of achieving when we work together and support one another. I attended school in the district, two of my children are currently in first grade at Byrd Elementary, and my youngest will join them this fall. I have spent eight years on the Elk Grove Library of trustees, including two terms as president, and understand the importance and responsibilities of being a member of the board and representative of the people of this district.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The board has the responsibility of oversight and direction into the curriculum that is selected and implemented in our schools. But more importantly, once selected, they need to provide the support and resources to teachers and staff to effectively implement that curriculum, monitor results, and make any changes necessary to help prioritize student outcomes.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: There have been curriculum issues in the past that the board has slowly been addressing over the past few years. The early results seem to be promising and I think it's important to see that process through before making any significant changes that could set us back further.
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: My role will be to always prioritize student outcomes, but also to make sure that I am soliciting feedback from the community, subject matter experts and district teachers and staff. It's important to always take into consideration everyone's individual and collective concerns and opinions, regardless of what my personal opinion may be. At the end of the day we are elected by our community to be their collective voice in setting our policy and the direction of our district, so they should always be heard and considered in any major decision. That voice got lost for too long during the recent equity journey and we have to learn from that mistake so we don't repeat it.
Q: Did you support Superintendent Terri Bresnahan's equity plan that would have paired schools up into grade level centers, redistricted some areas, and repurposed Ridge into a preschool?
A: No -- I was opposed to Dr. Bresnahan's plan.
Q: Did you support Superintendent Terri Bresnahan's equity plan that would have paired schools up into grade level centers, redistricted some areas, and repurposed Ridge into a preschool? Why or why not? And now that the plan has been rejected, how should the district address some of the areas of improvement that were identified during this process?
A: I was opposed to Dr. Bresnahan's plan because there was no data to support that it would have any impact on the very real issue of inequities in District 59. The most equitable thing we can do is provide all of our students with a quality curriculum and our teachers and support staff with the resources to implement that curriculum in a safe and supportive environment. The disruption of COVID would have only been compounded by hastily deciding on and implementing such drastic changes. Changes that the community was so clearly united against.
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 most important thing we learned from the pandemic is that our schools must remain open and our students must be allowed to attend classes in person. The learning loss combined with the social emotional impact of keeping kids home during their formative years will be something we're combating for years to come. That combined with the burden of a virtual learning environment on parents and staff is something we must do our best to avoid in the future.
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've worked effectively on a team for my entire career and during my time in public service. I am always willing to listen, learn, and reserve the right to change my opinion on an issue once I receive as much information and input from varying perspectives as time will allow. I pride myself on being able to build consensus among a team that may have differing opinions and help us to move forward as a team once that decision has been made.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I've spent the last eight years as trustee on the Elk Grove Village Public Library board. In that time I've served two terms as president and have experience in running an effective unit of government that sets the policy and direction of the library. During my tenure on the board we appointed a new director, undergone numerous capital improvements, navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, and modernized and adapted our collection and programming to match changing demand from patrons. All leading to the library being recognized as one of America's Star Libraries for 2022 and being ranked the #4 library of its size in the nation.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: Putting our surplus of resources and funding to use by directing additional interventions to the students and student populations that need it the most to have the maximum impact.