Amanda McMillen

Candidate Name: Amanda McMillen

Office Seeking: School District 203 School Board

Campaign Website: www.amandamcmillen.com

Subdivision/Neighborhood: Old Farm

Closest School: Kingsley

Occupation and/or Professional Training: Social Work—Nonprofit Management 

How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? 5 years

Number of school-age children? 3

Service on Boards, Commissions, Task Forces, etc. with dates served (nonprofit too): All Day Montessori Board 2011-2015

The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.

1. Why are you running to serve the board of education? 

I want to support the district in returning to in-person learning in the safest and quickest way possible while also utilizing the knowledge we have gained around using technology to engage more medically fragile populations. I also want to support with addressing the achievement gap to ensure all students can reach their fullest potential. Finally, I want to continue responsible fiscal oversight and prioritize resources to help students as they reenter schools post-pandemic including social emotional support, academic enhancement, and extracurricular opportunities.

2. What is the school district’s most pressing need? 

Figuring out how to reopen fully while also protecting and prioritizing the safety of students, teachers, and staff. I feel it is important to continue to follow the guidelines outlined by the health and safety professionals including following the latest CDC guidelines for schools including wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and contact tracing. I think the social distancing will be the biggest challenge as more students return. We also need to get as many staff vaccinated as possible and students signed up for rapid testing.

3. What are strengths and weaknesses, if any, of the school district’s programs dedicated toward special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), students “in the middle” and gifted students?

I have experienced firsthand the support and resources provided to students with different abilities. I have been impressed by the resources to help our students integrate and excel within the classroom setting. Additionally, Naperville has specialized programs for ELL students and gifted students. However, there continues to be academic achievement gaps for ELL and black and brown students, which indicates there are gaps that need further exploration and review to ensure all students are successful. Additionally, it seems that support for these students remotely is greatly lacking and more resources should be provided to parents and students.

4. Name three District 203 policies that need review or immediate attention.

  1. Classroom size and safety procedures to avoid an outbreak of COVID or any other highly contagious disease should be reviewed and incorporated into formal policy.
  2. Professional development for board members should include multicultural education, cross cultural communication, and diversity issues and developing cultural competency including understanding and reducing implicit bias.
  3. Hiring process and criteria for teachers, staff, and administrators to ensure that practices are in place to hire representatives based on the current diverse representation of the students and families in the district.

5. How often are you in touch with members of the current School Board? And how many years have you attended/watched school board meetings live or after they’re saved in the archive?

When I began my bid for school board, I reached out to four different members of the current board to learn more about the specific responsibilities, their experience, and perception of the immediate needs of the board at this time. I have also reviewed board meetings and board-sponsored events from the past year to hear more from the community on their concerns and experience with the current pandemic on their children and families.

6. What up-and-coming City of Naperville development do you think will impact School District 203 funding the most? As a board member, where would you look to make budget adjustments?

The current Naper Commons project at Naperville and Warrenville roads is proposing construction of 214 new homes, which will have significant impact on the schools on the northern end of Naperville including Beebe, Jefferson, and Naperville North. With this construction, the board will need to review the appropriate accommodations available to reduce overcrowding and resources needed for these new families.

7. In a public relations role as a school board member, how would you orientate a new family to the school district? What engagement opportunities would you suggest for parents to connect with the school regarding volunteer activities, parent-teacher committees to oversee curriculum, etc.

I would recommend that families can get involved in the Home & School groups at their local school and participate in numerous committees including the Diversity Committee and/or School Improvement Teams. Additionally, volunteering with the classrooms and schools for field trips, celebrations, and special events such as book fairs is often a great way to be present and involved in our children’s education. Parents are also welcomed to observe school board meetings and submit suggestions.

8. Consider K-12 core curriculum to include English (reading, language arts writing), science, technology, engineering, mathematics, arts (STEAM), foreign languages, computer science, civics/government/current events, economics, history, geography, physical education/health and social-emotional learning standards. If the school district were forced to eliminate a subject in order to add a new one, what would you eliminate? Any thought of what you would add at what grade level? What’s the parents’ role in monitoring curriculum changes and choices?

I personally feel the current core curriculum subjects are holistic and are essential for providing a competitive and diverse learning experience. There are some subjects such as social emotional that are more developmentally relevant at the preK to elementary levels and could be replaced with more career-oriented training in the high school levels. I wonder if some courses at a high school level such as economics or computer science could be optional and supplemented with other career-oriented options such as technical skills around construction, mechanics, electrician, etc.

9. Research reveals that high self-esteem and student achievement are closely related to positive parental involvement in school. Considering growing interest in school choice, home-schooling and private schools, what are your thoughts on school vouchers?

I am not a proponent to school vouchers because they would pull valuable resources away from the school district which would require cuts to much needed resources that help District 203 provide such a robust and competitive education for students.

10. When was the last time you read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?

Not since high school.

11. Have you received any donations or endorsements from any organized group(s)? If so, which groups?

I have not received any donations from any organized groups to date. I am receiving support from the Lisle Township Democrats and the Naperville Township Democrats in distributing my literature. I have participated in every invitation that I have received to share information about my candidacy via questionnaires, forums, and interviews.

12. Name the school teacher who most influenced you. Please include grade, school, city and state. (Parents/family are not eligible.)

My most influential teacher was Mrs. Barbara Higgins who was my 10th grade English Teacher in my hometown of Wooster, Ohio. She was a teacher that was full of joy and love for all of her students. She made everyone feel heard, supported, and cared for. Many students, including myself, would share their personal challenges, and she was always there for her students.

Anything else you’d like to add?

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