Candidate Name: Kader Sakkaria
Office Seeking: School District 204 School Board
Campaign Website: www.kadersakkaria.com
Subdivision/Neighborhood: White Eagle Club
Closest School: White Eagle Elementary
Occupation and/or Professional Training: Information Technology – Chief Technology and Data Officer
How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? More than 25 years
Service on Boards, Commissions, Task Forces, etc. with dates served (nonprofit too):
Board of Director at NCTV17
The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.
1. Why are you running to serve the board of education?
From my professional background, I know that higher education in the United States is rapidly developing new models of learning. We need to prepare every student to achieve success after graduation, however they define it, which means we need to incorporate these new higher education pathways into our K-12 curricula. In order to do so, we must address the systemic inequities present in our district and empower all students and families to get involved. I’m running for the school board because it has the unique ability to address these issues in a transparent, effective manner.
2. What is the school district’s most pressing need?
The most pressing need is finding a safe return to in-person learning, as soon as possible. We must follow the science and expert guidance to determine the best path for school reopening, and share this process with the community to develop a dialogue. The board must also formulate reopening policy with the recognition that remote learning disproportionately impacts marginalized students, and that only increases the speed at which we need to move.
3. What are your thoughts on the school district’s programs dedicated toward special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), students in the middle and gifted students?
As a parent of a student with special needs, I am deeply grateful for the care and expertise that special needs and ELL educators display every day in their work. For these educators, as with all educators, the board needs to ensure that they have the resources, both physical and intangible, to serve every student in their charge. Current programs can always be improved with an eye towards equity, and this goes for gifted students as well. We need to be conscious of who we identify as gifted, and how we’re working to close systemic gaps.
4. Name three District 204 policies that need review or immediate attention.
First, the board policies surrounding communication with the community. There is a both lack of transparency about how the board is legally bound to operate, and room to improve the board’s norms surrounding community engagement. It needs to be a top priority. Second, school zoning. I believe we could benefit greatly from exploring a cluster zoning model, which would allow more focused attention and resources to be provided to disadvantaged groups in our district. Third, the budgetary process. It starts too late and leaves the board scrambling to put things together right before the school year starts.
5. How often are you in touch with members of the current School Board? And do you attend/watch school board meetings live or after they’re saved in the archive?
I am in touch with members frequently, and have attended meetings whenever possible, permitting my family’s schedule.
6. What up-and-coming City of Naperville/City of Aurora development will impact School District 204 funding the most? As a board member, where would you look to make budget adjustments?
High density developments in Aurora and Naperville will have a direct impact on dollars spent on each student. For example, Fox Valley Mall being reprovisioned to be high density homes.
7. In a public relations role, how would you orientate a new family to the school district?
It is critical that every family feels like they can have their voice heard – this is an equity issue. The system works such that parents with more resources have an advantage, so the board needs to be proactive in reaching out to new families, informing them of pathways to contact the board, places to get information, and so on. When possible, there should be outreach in their preferred language, and a clear contact point whom they can go to with questions as they’re getting oriented in the district.
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 would be very much disinclined to eliminate any of the listed subjects. However, if pressed, and speaking as a computer scientist, I think there could be some reduction of the technology, engineering, and computer science curricula into two classes instead of three. I would be inclined to add a personal financial skills course, perhaps starting at the middle school level.
As advocates for their students, parents have a critical role to play in monitoring curriculum changes and choices. The board needs to ensure there is an open dialogue for all parents, regardless of prior involvement, to voice their opinions on these matters.
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?
We need to follow the research and empower parents to be closely involved with their student’s education. For some students, the right choice will not be mainstream public school – my son has special needs that require attention outside of what high schools can reasonably provide. That said, a 2017 metastudy concluded that vouchers are not a systematically reliable way to improve educational outcomes. So, I support empowering parents to make choices for their children, just as I have done, but I don’t think vouchers provide the systemic change necessary to make this district more equitable for all students.
10. When was the last time you read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?
Very recently, during the impeachment debate and trial in Washington. I wanted to make sure as house managers and ex-president’s lawyers were presenting their case on why it is constitutional or not.
11. Have you received any donations or endorsements from any organized group(s)? If so, which groups?
I have not received donations from organized groups, and will not seek donations from these groups. I have been endorsed by Ian Holzhauer who is running for Naperville city council.
12. Name the school teacher who most influenced you. Please include grade, school, city and state. (Parents/family are not eligible.)
Vasala Nair, my 8th grade teacher from India. I failed 8th grade as the curriculum in India is standardized irrespective of student ability to learn. Her encouragement along with my parents help I was moved to a school that was more adaptive to my learning abilities and was able to now get dual masters degree one from India and one from Kellogg/Northwestern University.
Anything else you’d like to add?