Olutola "Tola" Makinde: 2023 candidate for Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 school board
Town: Pingree Grove
Age on Election Day: 54
Occupation: Store manager/project manager
Employer: Soccer Enterprises Inc
Previous offices held: Member of the District 300 DEI Committee/Project Manager
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
A: I am running to be a member of the District 300 school board because I am interested in advocating for all of the children in our community, including those who may otherwise feel unheard and unrepresented in district decisions. A particular issue that motivates me is equity in education, such as equitable use of resources. As a community, we still have many challenges in front of us but together, we can meet those challenges and get back to giving our kids the best possible education available.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The board does not have a role in setting curriculum. That is the state's job.
Where the board does play a role is in reviewing the materials that are used in the classrooms to teach what is required by the curriculum set by the state.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: I am concerned with using materials to teach state required curriculum that includes the use of materials that highlight people of color and other people from marginalized groups, whenever possible. Every child in our district is entitled to see themselves in the materials that they learn from. I would like to see that done whenever possible.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: School boards have two main functions. To provide the best education possible to all kids in the district and to do so financially responsibly. In a school district the size of District 300, it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. And, making one group happy is not always the best thing for all of the kids or the staff. We must gather all available information from all relevant sources and come to a decision in the best interest of the district and our kids. Occasionally those decisions will be unpopular and, especially nowadays, will put the members of the board in an extremely uncomfortable situation but that is part of the job.
Q: Concerns are growing regarding a new resurgence of the pandemic. If another massive outbreak of infectious disease occurs, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that will guide your decision making?
A: One thing that I know is that we have learned how to make lemonade out of lemons. We have learned which of our processes worked and which ones we can improve on. I will leverage what has been previously done and looks for ways to improve in order to benefit all parties involved.
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.
A: I am a team player. As a leader, one of my main focuses usually is to motivate and inspire the team I'm leading. I always make sure everyone understands their roles and how they are important to the project at hand. My negotiating, listening, influencing skills, team building and communication will be important skills that I bring to the table. These skills will be important since I will be one of seven members working together for a common good. I will make sure to understand everyone's perspective even those that are different than mine when making decisions. This will allow everyone to be on the same page and be able to differentiate between the pros and cons in making the right decision.
An example of producing effective action and decision on the school board is when you have clash of personalities. You have sort it out quickly, handle the situation as best as you can even informally if necessary before it becomes a problem.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am a parent who has put four children through District 300. I have seen many changes in this district over the years, some good and some bad. I have over 25 years of project management experience that has helped me gain skills in leading teams and working within groups in effective ways. I have been a member of the district's DEI program since its inception in 2020. From my experience with the DEI program and raising four children of color in the district I understand the needs of all kids in the district when it comes to feeling that they belong here. DEI positively impacts ALL kids, not just kids from marginalized groups. I bring a diverse perspective to the board based on my background and ethnicity.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I would like to see us hire and retain more teachers and staff of color as well as people from marginalized groups, i.e. people with disabilities, people from a variety of different religions, and members of the LGBTQA+ community, among others. But this is not an idea that "no one is talking about." On the contrary, more and more people in District 300 and our surrounding communities ARE talking about the need for a diverse staff. All kids want to see themselves in the people who are helping shape their lives. This is where we start.