Lucas Szczesny: 2023 candidate for Community Consolidated School District 59 school board
Town: Mount Prospect
Age on Election Day: 43
Occupation: Senior Manager
Previous offices held: n/a
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: As a District 59 parent I experienced firsthand how the decisions of the board impact our teachers, kids, and parents. I'm concerned with challenges that our district faces, including student outcomes, school safety, allocation of resources, and collaboration with the community that the board promised to serve.
With over 15 years of experience in problem solving and project management across multiple industries, I want to give back to the community. I want to help fix the core problems the schools are dealing with by ensuring our students, teachers and staff have the necessary tools, support and resources needed to drive positive student outcomes, no matter where the students live, come from, or which of our neighborhood community schools they attend.
If I am elected, I want the opportunity to hear from the community and teachers what they are looking to change in the district. Through collaboration with other board members, SLT and community, we can make differences in District 59.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The board can have a significant impact on the process of curriculum selection and how quickly it's implemented, both directly and indirectly.
Curriculum is one of the biggest issues that stands in the way of success for ALL students in district 59. It has been virtually nonexistent for many years now, and it's taking the existing administration and the board years to select a new curriculum, and even longer to roll out a program. On top of it, since it's rolled out one subject at the time, at this pace it will be decades before the full curriculum is implemented.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: Absolutely, board should make sure that the administration is focused on accelerating the rollout of a new evidence based curriculum instead of unsupported programs that were doomed to fail because they don't address the core issues in the district.
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: It is the responsibility of every board member to do what's right for the students of the district, so they are prepared for High School and beyond. As a board member it will be my responsibility to represent the community and do what's right for the students and teachers, who are responsible for a well-being of students.
Together with TR Johnson and Sarah Dzak, we have been vocally fighting for the community well before the election, when no other board member or candidate dared to speak up.
Q: Did you support Superintendent Terri Bresnahan's equity plan that would have paired schools up into grade level centers, redistricted some areas, and repurposed Ridge into a preschool?
A: I believe that every child has an untapped potential, and it is up to parents, teachers, and administration to ensure that our children have the opportunity to realize that potential and to succeed in life. That's is also the reason why my focus is on ensuring that true equity is provided to all kids.
No I did not support Superintendent's plan and I was actively fighting against it. The plan that was created and pushed through by the Superintendent did not focus on providing the support, tools and resources needed.
Q: Did you support Superintendent Terri Bresnahan's equity plan that would have paired schools up into grade level centers, redistricted some areas, and repurposed Ridge into a preschool? Why or why not? And now that the plan has been rejected, how should the district address some of the areas of improvement that were identified during this process?
A: No, I did not support that plan because it would only muddy the statistics temporarily and it would not fix any of the core issues that our district is facing. Together with TR Johnson, Sarah Dzak we were vocally opposed the pairings. We were protesting and fighting to change the board's mind before anyone other board member or candidate dared to speak up.
We were successful at putting enough pressure on the board to vote against it.
I plan on helping improve our district by ensuring that we focus on core issues in our district:
-- Student outcomes: by accelerating roll out of an evidence curriculum, and providing additional support staff, tools and resources to teachers.
-- School safety and student wellness: by enabling teachers to act, hiring behavioral interventionists and SROs, invest in teacher development and tools.
-- Equity through education: by allocating more resources to the schools and student populations who need them most
-- Establish community outreach and collaboration
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: We cannot panic and let fear dictate everything that we do. We need to prepare a structured action plan that is based on medical experts and evidence.
The remote learning on tablets didn't work, we should rethink how this can be done better in the future, make sure that our teachers are prepared and minimize the negative impact of having kids in front of a computer all day.
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 have an MBA degree for University of Chicago Booth School of Business and over 15 years of experience in problem solving, process improvement, and project management across multiple industries, from huge corporations and educational organizations to local and global non-for-profits. Throughout my experience, I learned that one must communicate and collaborate with all stakeholders to achieve a positive change.
Good collaboration means ensuring that all stakeholders have an ample and unobstructed opportunity to be part of the change process. Depending on the policy and scale of change, it should involve the administration, teachers, parents and the community.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am a District 59 parent, my daughter attends a District 59 dual-language program and my son attends the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization (NSSEO). I have the experience needed to manage real change. I am willing to stand up for the kids and teachers, as well as to work hard for the benefit of the district.
As a trio, with TR Johnson and Sarah Dzak, we offer expertise in areas that would make us effective board members: Sarah in education, TR in local government, and me in organizational leadership. Most importantly, we will each have young children in CCSD59 schools, giving us a personal stake in the direction of the district.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I have a number of big and small idea, but one that I would love to help implement immediately is a "day in the teacher's life" training for the Board members.
I believe that it is critical for our board members to know what it means to be a teacher, the work that teachers in our district need to do in order to prepare for the day, help their students learn and check the work they have done, all while managing administrative and support tasks.
Deeper understanding of the efforts the teachers put in to help kids succeed will help the board in their roles as public servants.