By Josh Bootsma

Background: The Lansing Journal made efforts to contact all candidates in the April 6 election to gather information to share with Lansing voters. Using a “candidate info form,” we asked the same questions of each local office seeker. Answers were prepared and submitted by the candidates. We have been sharing the info race by race in a series of “Voter Guide” posts.

LANSING, Ill. (March 6, 2021) – The Thornton Fractional High School District 215 Board oversees four schools: TF South High School, TF North High School, the TF Center for Academics and Technology, and the TF Center for Alternative Learning. District 215 serves residents of Lansing, Calumet City, Burnham, and most of Lynwood.

Why District 215 Board elections matter

In the last year, Lansing families have felt the direct impact of District 215 Board decisions more than normal. The pandemic has changed the way Lansing students have gone to school, and the school boards in Lansing are responsible for approving the major changes Lansing schools have experienced in the face of COVID-19.

In addition to making re-opening and safety decisions, school boards establish vision, adopt budgets, vote on tax levies, set calendars, approve curriculum, and hire the superintendent, who oversees the four schools in the District. Dr. Sophia Jones-Redmond is the superintendent of District 215. All of these decisions have impacts on Lansing’s students.

District 215 Board elections – Uncontested

The individuals below are the names voters will see on the April 6 ballot for the District 215 Board elections. Board members serve a four-year term. Four candidates are running uncontested.

Andrea Ballard

Town of residence: Calumet City

Education: Bachelors in Elementary Education – Jackson State University, Master’s in Education with Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorder – University of St. Thomas

Occupation: 4th/5th grade Special Education Learning Behavior Specialist at Hoover Elementary School (District 157)

Resumé highlights:

  • I am able and eager to hear other points of view and help to build a consensus that is in the best interest of the students and the community.
  • I am committed to learning the process of developing policies and working as a team with the hopes of reflecting the input of every dedicated member.
  • I am grateful for the opportunity to advocate for our district. I am committed to actively representing the interests of our students, the families and ultimately the community as a whole.

Most important issues: In alignment with our district’s mission statement and my core values as a veteran educator of students with physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges, I believe as a board member we must commit to providing a quality learning environment, especially during this unprecedented global pandemic. We must stay abreast of current state and national wide changes to guidelines that have been previously set to make sure that our students and families are receiving materials and nutritional meals that are so needed. It is key to maintain clear and consistent communication with administrative, educational, and all support staff that will help keep our education process moving forward. We must stay abreast of all educational trends that will ultimately set the tone for providing a diverse, relevant, and responsive learning environment. It is imperative that our young scholars continue to develop the skills that will prepare them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers and will propel them to a successful future no matter the pursuit.

Goals and promises: I promise to be committed to the task, no matter how challenging. I plan to be a fair and objective board member who will value all other ideas and opinions. It will be necessary to utilize this learning experience as a way to build me as a board member and as a person. I promise to be a community listener who will work tirelessly to be an advocate for those I am serving.

District 215 Board
Rich Dust (Photo provided)

Richard Dust

Town of residence: Lansing

Education: Valparaiso University: BA in history and education, MLA in Sociology

Occupation: retired

Resumé highlights:

  • Taught social studies at T. F. South for 37 years
  • Coached cross country, track and softball at T. F. South for 37 years
  • Member of the District 215 School Board for 12 years

Most important issues: The board has recently put great effort into increasing equity for everyone within the district. This started with an equity statement that includes all groups in our district and the formation of an Equity Committee. This is the first time the board has had a standing committee for this important area. This vital work must continue. Also, we have to continue to handle the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring the safety of our students, teachers, staff, and families as our first priority. These efforts will build on the other areas of progress the board has made in recent years. We have instituted a full school day for all students and have had a balanced budget every year. There have been increases in graduation requirements, honors courses, A.P. courses, vocational courses and extra curricular activities. Also, we have improved relationships with our unions by going from an adversarial model to a collaborative and cooperative model.

Goals and promises: We will work with students, staff, families and the community to find the best way to get all of our students back into school in a safe manner. Equity work must continue within the district. Our Equity Statement includes all groups within our schools. There is much more work that needs to be done to bring this equity about. This includes continuing the rewriting of our curriculum to make it more relevant to all students. The board will continue with responsible spending—living within our means. There will not be a referendum for any tax increases. We will always be looking for new ways to increase opportunities for all of our students in both academic and extra curricular areas. The board will strive to maintain a good working relationship with our unions to benefit our students. Finally, maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for our students, teachers, staff, and families, no matter what the circumstances, will always be a main goal.

Diana Jackson

Town of residence: Calumet City

Education:

  • Thornton Fractional North High School – June 2002
  • University of Illinois-Chicago – May 2007, Bachelor of Science-Accounting
  • National Louis University – May 2012, Master of Business Administration

Occupation: Senior Accounting Manager

Resumé highlights:

  • I have worked in the accounting field for more than 20 years
  • I have worked with various not-for-profits and educational institutions that serve our youth

Most important issues: The most important issue for me is equity. We need to ensure there is equity between our schools and within our schools. We need to make sure all students within our district our treated fairly and equitably. We need to ensure our student athletes are treated fairly across all sports regardless of gender or program.

Goals and promises: My goal as a current parent, as a District 215 student, and a District 215 Alumni my promise is to ensure that there is equity and inclusion for all our students in our district. My promise is to ensure that we allocate funds to the appropriate program and causes that benefit our students as a whole. My biggest promise is to ensure we provide our students and staff to with a safe, and healthy, and collaborative working environment to ensure success of all parties.

District 215 Board
Marcie Wilson (Photo provided)

Marcie Wilson

Town of residence: Lynwood

Education: Bachelor of Science – Jackson State University, Master of Public Administration – Roosevelt University

Occupation: Educator

Resumé highlights

  • Adjunct Faculty Member at Indiana Wesleyan University: I have been an adult educator for 15 years. I have trained and coached students who needed extra help bridging to college and career readiness courses. As an adjunct faculty member, I teach courses online and face to face in Human Resource Management, Conflict Resolution and Communication skills.
  • Social Media and Branding Consultant: As a social media and brand consultant, I coach individuals, churches and businesses on how to promote effectively online and build their brand to grow their audience. For churches, I show them how to effectively conduct online service.
  • Teacher at Heritage Middle School: For the past few years, I have taught at Heritage Middle School. It is such a great feeling to help to educate the children in my community.

Most important issues: It is important for the students in 215 to know that someone cares about their future. Being able to participate in the development of a student is rewarding. I also believe students need to know they have options beyond high school. As a board member I will be able to help students to see their future.

Also, it’s important to make sure every student has the best programming, teachers, and administrators with enough money to make it all happen.

Goals and promises”

  • I promise to dedicate my time, talent, and resources to make District 215 effective for our students.
  • I promise to help students thrive post-COVID academically, mentally, and emotionally. Since life has changed for our students, I am dedicated to making sure they can thrive in all areas.
  • I promise to try my best to keep them safe.
  • I promise to help the students see a future for themselves whether it’s college, career, or military.
  • I promise to be a team player and keep the best interest of the students in the forefront.

The District 215 Board elections will be held on April 6, 2021. District 215 offices are located at 18601 Torrence Avenue, Lansing, IL.

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