Candidate Name: Laurie Donahue
Office Seeking: School District 204 School Board
Campaign Website: lauriedonahuefor204.com
Subdivision/Neighborhood: Brookwood Trace
Closest School: Springbrook Elementary
Occupation and/or Professional Training: Retired Telecom Senior Director. During my career, I led large global business and technical teams including $1B procurement and $250M investment programs. I hold a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Benedictine University. Additionally, I am a professionally certified program manager.
How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? Naperville has been my home for 40 years. My children attended District 204 schools from kindergarten through high school graduation.
Service on Boards, Commissions, Task Forces, etc. with dates served (nonprofit too):
2017- Present, Indian Prairie District 204 School Board Member. In 2019, the board members voted to select me as the board secretary.
2018 – Present, Director Indian Prairie Education Foundation
2012 – 2017, Naperville Sister Cities Commission, 2016 Chair
2011 – 2014, Hawthorne Credit Union Board Member, Secretary 2013-14
Not boards, but additional volunteer activities
2018 – Present, League of Women Voters, “Voter Girl” program lead
2004 – Present, Animal Assisted Therapy Edward Hospital
The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.
1. Why are you running to serve the board of education?
A cohesive board is a key attribute of a high performing school district. I’ve been a diligent board member striving for knowledge, insight, community connection and self-improvement. Our board made important changes to focus on Social Emotional Learning and equity. I want to see this work continue. Retiring in 2018 allows me to devote significant time to actions that will allow our students to achieve their greatest.
I bring a proven track record with my school board experience, career background, and extensive volunteer activities of integrity and the ability to work with others to create success.
2. What is the school district’s most pressing need?
The most immediate challenges are related to the pandemic. This is a complex environment with evolving guidelines and district resource constraints. Teachers and staff have done an admirable job focusing on essential learnings, but we know some students are struggling. Our staff need to continue their track record of finding innovative techniques to deliver excellence in teaching. For struggling students, interventions are needed to accelerate learning, support social emotion needs, including addition mental health resources, and a robust summer school needs to be offered.
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?
District 204 is responsible for providing a quality education for all students. As a Board, we’ve set our mission to be: “Inspire all students to achieve their greatest potential”. To support this, we need to provide the support, tools, encouragement, and nurturing required for each student to succeed while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
4. Name three District 204 policies that need review or immediate attention.
District policies are regularly reviewed and updated using legal advice based on changes to state or federal laws or local needs. The District participates in a service (PRESS PLUS) offered by the Illinois Association of School Boards to support policy changes and maintenance. For instance, ten policies were reviewed and updated in December and another two in January. Omnibus Bill HB 2170 is awaiting Governor Pritzker’s signature. If signed, this will require policy changes including, graduation requirements, assessments, and curriculum.
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?
As a current board member I am an active, prepared participant in every meeting. I talk with fellow board members at least 3 times a week on average.
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?
Both the re-development of Fox Valley and the City Gate West projects have potential for significant impact on District 204. These projects were zoned as commercial, but now have plans for residential units. To protect funding the board put in place an innovative TIF agreement with the City of Aurora and is in the process of negotiating changes to the student generation tables for both Aurora and Naperville. Builders’ fees are determined by the tables and they have historically underestimated student counts. The board needs to continue to be vigilant at the state and local level to protect district funding.
7. In a public relations role, how would you orientate a new family to the school district?
A key factor people and businesses review when deciding where to locate is the school district. Having a high performing school district attracts families who want a superior education for their children. This in turn attracts businesses to the community and increases property values. Indian Prairie has been consistently highly rated in both state and national reports. The US News ranked District 204 high schools in the top 5% in the USA and Naperville is consistently rated as one of the best cities in the USA to raise a family.
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 resist removing a subject unless it was no longer applicable or there was low student interest. The District continually assesses our course offerings. Parental input is welcomed. In the past, our district faced budget reductions and instead of cancelling a subject, the decision was made to increase class sizes. I consider all the subjects listed in the question as important offerings. I am an advocate for increased STEM incorporation, opportunities for HS students to earn professional certifications, and college credits. These skills will give our students an advantage after District 204.
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?
US public schools are charged with providing a high-quality education for *all* students. Moving to a school voucher strategy is likely to remove funding from public schools, reducing their ability to provide a quality experience to all the students they serve. As an example, if you line up all Illinois mandates, District 204 is 80% funded. Any reduction in funding will make this situation more challenging. Private schools can be selective on who they admit, potentially relegating our most needy students to underfunded public schools.
10. When was the last time you read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?
The last time I studied these topics was likely high school. I was pleased to see Illinois HB 2265, requiring a semester of civics, signed into law in 2019. In my first year on the board, I authored a modification to the Illinois School Board Association belief statement related to this to include high school voter registration. Additionally, to encourage civics knowledge, I lead the “Voter Girl” program for the Naperville League of Women Voters.
11. Have you received any donations or endorsements from any organized group(s)? If so, which groups?
I am self-funded. I am endorsed by Lauren Underwood.
12. Name the school teacher who most influenced you. Please include grade, school, city and state. (Parents/family are not eligible.)
Mr. Biglin my 12th grade AP Biology teacher in Southfield-Lathrup High School in Southfield, Michigan made learning interesting and triggered my curiosity.
Anything else you’d like to add?
At least two seats in District 204 will be filled with new, inexperienced people who will be on a steep learning curve to fulfill their new role. There is a vast assortment of issues involved with leading a large, complex school district. My knowledge and background will provide continued strength and cohesiveness to the District 204 Board.