Oswego Election 2015: Alison Swanson, Candidate for School District 308 Board
Name: Alison Swanson
Occupation: Science Teacher (Astronomy, Earth Science & Conceptual Physics), West Aurora High School
Family: Husband, Jeremy, Allen (9th grade OHS), Austin (8th grade Thompson), Brayden (2nd grade Boulder Hill)
Education: N.B.C.T. (Nationally Board Certified Teacher--National Board of Professional Teaching Standards), Masters Degree in Educational Leadership (with Type 75—Administrative Certificate), Aurora University Bachelor of Science in Biology Degree (Minors in Psychology and Sociology), Aurora University Associates Degree in Applied Science, (Waubonsee Community College)
Previously elected office: Oswego School Board, Vice President (2011-2015)
Relevant Community Service: Oswego 308 School Board, Pop Warner Football & Cheer, Oswego Wrestling
What makes you qualified to serve on the School District 308 School Board?
I understand curriculum alignment, meaningful professional development, the pro’s and con’s of PLC’s and the impact great teaching and leadership can have on a student achievement. I understand the importance of being responsible to the 44,000 taxpayers that help support the Oswego School District.
I understand that my place as a BOE member is to make policy and approve a budget, but I believe you do that best by supporting staff, listening to community concerns, and making decisions that will ultimately increase academic achievement while providing opportunities for students to become great citizens.
What do you believe is the role of a School Board member?
What should be the No. 1 priority for the next School Board?
Student Achievement (more specifically as a system—all students should be reading on grade level!) The number one priority should always to improve student achievement while protecting the Oswego 308 taxpayer.
What are you plans to help repair broken relationships between the district and parent groups, including BPAC and Special Education?
Individually, I go to meetings, ask questions and listen. I believe this is the first step. Building trust is the second and working together is third. All three of these will require communication.
In the face of dwindling state education dollars, what can and should be done to ease the District 308 property tax burden for local homeowners?
We need to rein in spending! I had, and continue to have, a problem with the increase in the amount of money the superintendent can unilaterally spend at one time. We need to look into more collaborative purchasing (perhaps with other districts) as a cost savings measure. We need to continue working with the Village and County to draw in more businesses.
Getting kids in classrooms (higher average daily attendance rates) will also help us collect our “fair share” from the State of Illinois. We are currently going after grant monies owed to us very aggressively. As I am not in favor of a sales tax increase, we may need to look at extending debt. *Which as a general rule I am not in favor of, but we cannot tax people out of their homes.
Many teachers and administrators have left the district in recent years. What should be done to improve employee retention in the district?
Our third district goal is to aggressively recruit, develop, and retain high quality employees. Of course competitive pay and compensation packages will help to retain staff. However, I would also like to see us improve our culture and morale in the buildings.
Our vision for academic excellence should be a shared vision among our entire Oswego 308 team. We all need to roll up our sleeves, collaborate, and contribute our best efforts (sometimes in different ways) to improve student achievement.
We need to spend more time recognizing publicly all the wonderful work that is happening around us. I also believe teachers would like the opportunity for professional challenges. For instance, National Board cohorts, Master’s degrees cohorts and a “leadership academy” for aspiring principals and administrators within our own Oswego 308 staff.
It is important that we promote from within! I would also like some teachers to go have the opportunity to complete the Growth Through Learning evaluation modules and begin informally evaluating each other as a growth exercise. We don’t get to hone our own practice enough by watching each other do great things in the classroom and then sharing the experience.
I have picked up some great technology tools from young teachers just starting out and I have learned a great deal about content and classroom management from more veteran staff.
Should every elementary school in the district be home to all-day kindergarten classes?
Yes. With the alignment to CCSS, the curriculum has become more rigorous at earlier levels. I believe our very resourceful staff could use this extra time in the school day to make tremendous gains in preparing our youngest students for their academic journeys. In an effort to close the achievement gap between incoming first graders, I also support early childhood education.
Is there any place in the district for a two-way language immersion program, now or in the future?
What level of participation should the community have in drawing new school boundary lines?
I believe we had a wonderful committee of citizens, staff and families during the last boundary change. They worked very hard to do the fairest job possible and I’d like to see us do that again. Although I am generally against outside studies, the RSP report helped a great deal through this process.
When we built these buildings over 10 years ago, there were much different ideas where growth would occur. Additionally, new growth currently in planning stages may have an impact on boundary lines. The concept of “neighborhood schools” may take on a whole new meaning over the next ten years. I would encourage citizens and families to get involved.
How would you rate the job performance of the current district administration? Please explain.
It would be inappropriate for me to answer this question as contracts are currently being reviewed. I will say only that there have been some great decisions and some that I do not agree with. However, at the end of the day, once the board has made a decision, we do our best to move forward and do what’s best for kids. Also, our communication with our stakeholders must improve.
The achievement gap between students with IEPs and non IEP students continues to widen in the district. In your opinion, why is this happening? What should the district do to close that gap?
Professional development and training need to be consistent (whether coop or Oswego personnel). I am glad we are increasing rigor by placing most kids into co-taught classrooms. We need to keep our expectations high, train our staff on differentiating lessons, and get more parental involvement.
We should be completing interventions and writing IEP and 504 plans to meet individual needs, not according to the programs and services we have available. I would also like to see a greater checks and balances system in place ensuring we are appropriating funds and grants correctly within the correct groups of kids.