Becky McCabe: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Unit District 303 board, 4-year term
Town: St. Charles
Age on Election Day: 70
Occupation: Retired educator/part-time leadership coach
Employer: DuPage Regional Office of Education -- contractor
Previous offices held: District 303 board member since 2019
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: No single issue motivates me -- instead I have focused on building the best learning environment for all students since becoming an educator. I have always been child centered and I am grounded in putting children first.
Public service is important to me -- it is a way to give back to children, families, and the community. I have been in education for over 35 years and my experience brings organizational leadership to board decision-making.
I have been a teacher, an award winning elementary and bilingual school principal, a statewide testing administrator and a school district administrator.
Being on the school board means I have the opportunity to influence the future of our educational system. I have the knowledge, expertise, experience, and judgment to be of value to our school district.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board votes on policy and the funding of curriculum. The curriculum is the guidance for instruction so that all students will meet or exceed the standards. The board is responsible for adopting the curriculum.
In order to achieve the goals, the school board partners with the administration to be sure that the resources and the implementation of the curriculum are on target to the vision and strategic plan of the district.
The administration provides the board with recommendations for resources, professional learning, and implementation strategies.
Administration also shows achievement data that provides information about whether students are reaching the goals set by the board. In D303, the Learning and Teaching Board committee works with administration to monitor and discuss the success of curriculum, instruction, assessments, and programming.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: There is a concentrated effort by the D303 board and administration to increase achievement for all students.
We spent the last two years concerned about our students' scores on the SAT, as well as the gaps between our student groups. Using the Equity Audit as one tool, we see that there are inconsistencies in instruction, rigor, and curriculum.
Therefore, the board has directed our superintendent and his team to focus on supporting instructional change, increasing the rigor of the curriculum, and closing the gaps between student groups. I will continue to advocate for strengthening our district efforts to prepare all students for success.
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: My approach has always been to build relationships -- even with those who do not agree with me. I have met with many constituents over the last four years to hear their concerns and to bring their perspectives to the problems and issues that face the district.
I have found this to be helpful in my decision making and in my approach to controversial issues. This doesn't mean that I agree with everyone's solutions to our problems, but it does provide me with a deeper understanding of why people have concerns.
I have worked with other board members to provide more transparency in our work and to provide more opportunities for community members to be engaged. We are not perfect by any means, but I do believe we have become more focused on hearing all points of view.
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: All of education has learned a great deal from the pandemic! There is now research and deep understanding that students need to be in school and they must be safe while they are there.
This means more than wearing a mask -- this means that students must have the supports to deal with the mental and physical health issues that come from a pandemic.
D303 was one of the few lucky districts in a strong enough financial position to be able to provide additional resources, so our elementary and middle schools were open safely from the beginning of the school year.
I can't predict what the health department or state will decide if we have another pandemic, but I can promise that I will do my research and do what is best for the safety of students and the district. I will put neither at risk.
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: Policy work is the focus of the board. My strategy is to listen to all stakeholders, learn all aspects of an issue, be mindful about the process of transparency and therefore be better able to make decisions that will make our district strong.
The community should know the why and how of policymaking and decisions. That's why I deliberately reach out to stakeholders -- especially those who are concerned about the policy issues. I listen to different perspectives to better understand and communicate the viewpoints and the "why" behind people's concerns.
I use my educational and professional experience to proposing effective solutions. It is the practice of the board to receive legal opinions, research on best practices, and perspectives from stakeholders before voting on any issue including policy. I co-chaired the policy committee and the Citizens Advisory Committee.
Both groups focused their work on agreements, commitments, and policy that faced the board. The work was and is public.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: As a D303 school board incumbent, I bring experience, sound judgment, expertise, and fairness to the board table. As a teacher, principal, and district administrator I have a deep understanding of how educational organizations can work for student success.
These insights drive my commitment to our D303 students. I currently consult with aspiring educational leaders. This work keeps me informed about the latest research and practices for instructional and leadership excellence. I have been able to share these new strategies and resources during our board meetings.
I am a listener and someone who reaches out. Having worked with families and community members for my entire career, I know that people truly want what is best for their children and their schools.
Although I may not always agree with people's suggestions to the problems, I am always willing to listen to people's insights and perspectives. I take their thinking seriously as I make decisions and identify our challenges.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I am a strong supporter of quality teacher professional learning and support. This is not a "new" idea, but I believe it is the one focus that will change achievement for all students. Instruction is complicated.
Teachers must have the resources and feedback for their instructional practices to increase student learning and achievement. Closing the gaps in achievement and increasing consistent academic rigor is critical to our students' success.
How we support instructional practices and sustain it over time is vital to moving D303 from good to great. I will work hard to implement initiatives to strengthen excellence in instruction. I believe that the D303 stakeholders and board have thoughtfully and productively engaged in many ideas and issues.
We have a lot on the table right now -- strategic plan, equity plan, and facilities. With our new superintendent leading the way, D303 students have a very bright future. I hope to be at the board table for the next four years.