Candidate Name: Marina Kosak
Office Seeking: School District 204 School Board
Campaign Website: www.kosakforkids.org
Subdivision/Neighborhood: High Meadow subdivision
Closest School: Graham Elementary, Crone Middle School, Neuqua Valley High School
Occupation and/or Professional Training: High School Administrator
How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? 14 years
Service on Boards, Commissions, Task Forces, etc. with dates served (nonprofit too):
The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.
1. Why are you running to serve the board of education?
The kids. My passion to serve kids has fueled my career for the past 25 years. I have spent my entire professional life working with hundreds of educational staff and for thousands of students. I want to bring my knowledge and expertise in understanding educational data, school budgets and supporting students academically and social emotionally to support the kids and their families in our IPSD 204 community.
2. What is the school district’s most pressing need?
As I write this (Feb. 18th) I feel the most pressing need is to get our students back into school 5 days per week for those families who feel comfortable doing so while keeping the remote option as a choice as well. However, at this time the 204 Administration and BOE have not presented any sort of plan of action for that to happen. Moving forward beyond this school year we need to ensure that our students are supported once they reintegrate into school. Academically there will be gaps that will have to be addressed. Mental health was a rising issue before, however, the pandemic exacerbated it and we have to ensure that our schools are equipped with the resources and tools needed to keep our students safe.
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?
We are an award winning school district in that we have high test scores and multiple schools with an “exemplary” rating. Our gifted students have AP and Honors classes at the high school level and by that data we excel. Our Special Education students have supports through either an IEP or possibly a 504 plan. However, when looking at the achievement gap in District 204 we are way behind the state average on the difference in both our IAR and SAT scores between our IEP students and our non-IEP students. So that is an area that needs to be explored as to how we close that gap. The mandated ELL test (ACCESS) is not a part of the school report card and I have not seen that data. As for our “middle” kids I would like to understand the supports in place for them through the MTSS (multi-tier systems of support) throughout the district as I believe this group of students is often forgotten or looked past.
4. Name three District 204 policies that need review or immediate attention.
Once we get back to school full time we need to take a look at our class sizes. We are way above the state average. Research shows that class size does have an impact on student achievement in the early elementary grades.
Anything fiscal is going to be so important in the upcoming future. As we know the Evidence Based Funding has us funded at 80%. We are going to have to examine the budget closely and investigate ways to do things “leaner” without cutting programs for our kids.
Section 8.10 of the Board Policy is about “Community Connections” and addresses community engagement. Throughout the last few months we have not seen transparency with the BOE or the district administration. While communication is coming through there is no substance to the messages and leaves the public with more questions.
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 have been watching board meetings for quite some time and that has been one reason I made the decision to run. I always try to watch them live, however, if I do have a prior engagement I will watch them archived. In my career I have also been involved with plenty of different school boards and I have seen how a school board can negatively affect the trajectory of a district. I want to ensure that IPSD 204 continues to be an attractive district not only for our teachers to want to stay in but also for families to move to as well.
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?
We have some housing developments in the works both in Naperville as well as in Aurora (the apartments set to be built at the Fox Valley Mall). However, since we are seeing more residential development we will not get as much in local funding as if we had more commercial or industrial development. We are going to have to take a look at the budget closely in the coming years. We want to make sure that we stay attractive in our salaries for teachers so that we can hire and retain the best educators possible. As someone who has worked in education and led at one of the biggest high schools in the state I understand how school budgets work and will look at ways to maintain fiscal responsibility.
7. In a public relations role, how would you orientate a new family to the school district?
Whether a board member or not I think it is the responsibility of all community members to be “ambassadors” for the district and welcome families to our schools. I would encourage parents to get involved within their individual school communities through the different parent groups by introducing them to the group’s leader. It is also important that parents know the opportunities that lie ahead for their children as they become part of the IPSD family. There is truly something for everyone through extracurricular activities, from athletics to activities to fine arts, every student can find an interest in our schools.
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?
As a board member I would seek the input and recommendation of the building administrators to see what would be best for the students in their respective buildings and make decisions based on evidence. However, I could see the Geography curriculum being incorporated into the History scope and sequence, thus not really having to eliminate a course all together. I would like to see a one semester course for either our 8th grade or 9th grade students that will be more of a “life skills” class. They would learn organizational skills, study skills, resources available to them and incorporate other topics that would include the social-emotional learning standards. Parents need to know about curriculum changes that are being proposed and/or implemented. However, it is the responsibility of the school to demonstrate transparency when making major changes.
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?
This year we saw several families in our school district choose home-schooling or transfer to private schools due to the pandemic. I think there are positives with school vouchers like it allows for parents to choose what they believe would be the best education for their child and they can improve education in general because it would require public schools to compete with their private counterparts. However, we must remember that tax dollars are meant for a better secular education for ALL students, not the few who may choose to go to a religious school. There is also research that shows that vouchers do not necessarily improve academic performance.
10. When was the last time you read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?
I am going to be honest and say that I cannot remember when I last read it from start to finish. However, in the last few years during animated family discussions during dinner we have often looked up different amendments and articles as evidence to “prove a point”.
11. Have you received any donations or endorsements from any organized group(s)? If so, which groups?
I have not.
12. Name the school teacher who most influenced you. Please include grade, school, city and state. (Parents/family are not eligible.)
Richard Saucedo, High School Band Director, Carmel High School, Carmel, Indiana
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for taking the time to read these answers. We are in a pivotal time in education and we need people on the board who will make decisions that are best for kids. If you would like to learn more about me or have any questions please feel free to reach out to me via my Facebook page, Marina Kosak for IPSD 204. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to serving my community in this capacity.