Kristin W. Fitzgerald

Candidate Name: Kristin W. Fitzgerald

Office Seeking: School District 203 School Board

Campaign Website: www.electfitzgerald.com

Subdivision/Neighborhood: Cress Creek

Closest School: Mill Street Elementary

Occupation and/or Professional Training: Education and Health Policy Advisor/Consultant, Community Volunteer

How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? 16 years

Number of school-age children? 3

Service on Boards, Commissions, Task Forces, etc. with dates served (nonprofit too):

  • Naperville District 203 Board of Education, 2013-Present
  • Legislative Education Network of DuPage, Co-Chair 2020-Present
  • Naperville Neighbors United, Planning Team 2019-Present
  • Jefferson Junior High School Family Community Partnership, Co-Chair 2014-Present
  • SUCCESS Family Organization, JJHS Parent Lead 2017-Present
  • Mill Street Elementary School Family Community Partnership, Co-Chair 2012-2018
  • Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer, Corporate Advisory Council 2012-2018
  • Naper Settlement Museum Board, 2013-2016

The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.

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

As a Board Member, I have dedicated myself to advocating for all students. Our work to close achievement gaps, strengthen social and emotional learning and serve more students in early childhood and summer school has resulted in the highest number of exemplary schools in Illinois. Through responsible budgeting, we have saved taxpayers over $32 million. Though the pandemic has added challenges, I am committed to ensuring safe in person learning and supporting our students’ needs. I believe my years of education policy experience and Board leadership have prepared me to overcome these challenges and continue working to ensure student success.

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

The pandemic has been extremely challenging for students, parents, teachers and our community. Providing a safe in person learning environment for students and staff, increasing the amount of in person time safely as well as prioritizing students’ academic and SEL needs resulting from the pandemic are my top priorities as we progress through this school year and into next year. To ensure that we meet students’ needs, our district is developing $5 million in additional programming to provide academic and SEL support. This will continue to be a priority in the summer months, into the 2021-2022 school year and beyond.

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?

District 203’s curriculum is dedicated to helping all students achieve Illinois standards and we are producing outstanding results. Our PI+ program for gifted students also receives many accolades. However, student achievement has not been equitable. There are large gaps in academic achievement for students of color, students with special needs and students with fewer economic resources. In 2017, the District/Board enacted a $2 million annual initiative dedicated to closing these gaps. The results of this initiative are promising; students are showing measurable progress. Likewise, our Dual Language program is increasing the achievement of Spanish speaking ELL students.

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

  • In March of 2020, District 203 was working to update Policy 7.150 Police Interviews along with our Memorandum of Understanding with the Naperville Police Department (NPD) and our NPD Reciprocal Agreement. Our work with the NPD to review and update these documents was delayed due to the pandemic, however we have resumed this effort and will consider these policies soon.
  • Likewise, shortly before the pandemic the Board raised the idea of reviewing 2.240 Board Policy Development to put in place a policy/procedure allowing us to monitor compliance with Board policy and need for policy revision.
  • Last, we review 7.109 Student Behavior annually in March.

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?

I am a current Board of Education Member, elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. Since my election I have never missed a Board of Education meeting. I have regular communication with other Board of Education Members. In the year before I was elected, I watched Board of Education meetings closely so that I could be familiar with Board actions and policies.

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 5th Avenue Development has the potential to have an impact by increasing students in District 203. However, as the plans for 5th Avenue are still in development and may be revised due to COVID related factors, it is difficult to know the true impact. Though previous models proposed housing that may have added students, potential commercial developments would have also added revenue to offset additional costs.

 

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.

In previous years, District 203 has hosted a back-to-school picnic to help new families find out about opportunities to get involved. Parent organizations such as Home and School, School Family Community Partnership, SUCCESS and the Dual Language Parent Advisory Group are dedicated to supporting students and engaging parents in the support of student learning. I have volunteered extensively with these organizations and would highly recommend them to new families. These groups help parents develop relationships with teachers, administrators and other parents in the school community. These relationships are key to family/school connectedness which is a critical factor in student success.

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 believe our school district has the right curriculum. I would not subtract or add. I support the recent addition of civics education to the curriculum. This education is essential for students. I also support our district’s ongoing effort to review and revise curriculum and curriculum sources to incorporate materials that are reflective of our student body. I believe it is important for parents to be familiar with the curriculum. In my time on the Board several parents have expressed concerns about various academic resources. I welcome this input.

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 support families’ choices for home schooling or private school, and District 203 supports these choices by providing bus services for private schools. I do not support school vouchers as they reduce our school district’s ability to meet the needs of all students, particularly those with special needs. However, we have worked to assist all families financially by providing tax relief during this challenging economic time. Our Board of Education supported an unprecedented taxpayer reimbursement of $10 million this year, to return funds to residents that were not expended as planned due to the pandemic.

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

As a former political science major and Congressional staffer, I am very familiar with these documents. I periodically review them whenever my daughters are studying these documents as a part of their coursework.

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. In every election I seek the support of all voters. While many groups are supporting and recommending me, I have not yet received any official endorsements.

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

Don Humay, 12th Grade Political Science Teacher, Wheaton North High School, Wheaton, IL

Anything else you’d like to add?

Serving the students and families of this community has been a true privilege, especially at this challenging time. I am committed to continuing my advocacy for all students to succeed. I hope to be re-elected, and I hope to have the support of the readers of Positively Naperville! Please feel free to reach out to me with any thoughts, questions or concerns at kristin@electfitzgerald.com.

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