Matthew T. Kuschert: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Unit District 303 board, 4-year term
Town: Campton Hills
Age on Election Day: 41
Occupation: Business owner and general manager
Previous offices held: Current school board member (appointed December 2021)
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: Each of us has a responsibility to the community in which we are raising our families. I have a personal investment in the school system, as my two young children are students in District 303.
Even before we moved into the community, the school system was of primary importance in choosing where we would move. My wife and I intentionally chose the St. Charles school district due to the strong reputation for quality learning outcomes.
As a sitting board member, I now possess a greater understanding of the inner workings of the district. I have assumed responsibility of co-chairing several committees, including the selection of a new superintendent, policy, learning and teaching, safety, and negotiations. Additionally, I am actively involved in many the remaining committees for which I do not serve as co-chair. This has provided me with an abundance of knowledge regarding how important decisions are made within District 303.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: I currently co-chair the Learning and Teaching Committee. This responsibility involves review of curriculum and instruction across the district. Ensuring continuity and consistency of delivery districtwide will help bring our academic achievement to place where we can all be proud.
I work directly with the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services regarding the curriculum development, design, and implementation. The role of the board is not to actually deliver material, as that responsibility lies with the administration and school staff.
As a board member, my role is providing oversight and governance to the process. We have installed an experienced superintendent, and I have the utmost confidence that through our ongoing discussions, we are headed on a trajectory of excellence for all students.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: As the co-chair of the Learning and Teaching Committee, I am actively involved in review of all areas of academic instruction. Each and every academic area is critical to the success of our students.
A focus on academic achievement opens any and all doors for our student body. Consistency of instruction will help ensure that each student is provided with the resources they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. It is vital that we are instructing students on the materials for which they will be assessed on a state and national level, as these are the mechanisms with which we determine the achievement or lack thereof of our student population.
We certainly need to maintain our focus on elevating achievement outcomes in core competency areas (math, science, and literacy).
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: I have always approached challenging discussions or negotiations with an even-keeled demeanor. When the stakes are high, there are undoubtedly differences of opinion regarding the best approach for the desired outcome. I have found that it is paramount to solicit feedback from all constituents in an effort to understand where people stand on a given topic.
An emphasis on civil discourse is necessary when discussing potentially controversial topics, as it need not involve personal attacks on people who may disagree. If the intended outcome is to arrive a sound decision, then it needs to be based on nothing more or less than the greater good.
My role as a board member is not to serve my own agenda, rather it is to be representative of the community. It is important that all parties take a diplomatic, solutions driven approach, especially with potentially polarizing topics. Compromise, provided it does result in disparate outcomes for students, is almost always necessary.
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: The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenging time for everyone, and it was unlike anything we have faced in our lifetime.
Mistakes were made in an effort to deal with an emergency situation, which resulted in poor outcomes in student achievement. We have learned a great deal about the need for students to be physically present in school as the virtual learning experience was not ideal, based on the educational, emotional, and social outcomes that are still ongoing today.
I wish I could say that I am an expert and have all of the answers, but I am confident that as a collective body we can thoughtfully navigate similar challenges far better in the future.
One of my biggest learning outcomes from the pandemic is that we must move away from tribalistic, divisive discussion. Not only is this wildly unproductive, but it actually impeded us from arriving at quality decisions during an emergency situation. It is incumbent upon us to recall how the wedges driven between us exacerbated the problem.
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: My answer to this question harkens back to my approach to any challenging discussion. We must first adopt a solutions-driven mindset, solicit feedback from each of the stakeholders involved, carefully consider the potential outcomes, and arrive at a mutually agreeable solution that is in accordance with any applicable law.
My approach does not change based on the topic, as my approach is a framework for arriving at desired outcomes.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities that lend themselves well to the responsibilities of a board member. Each career situation that I have tackled, I look around to see what is not being done and needs to be done, and I help build a framework for why and how to do it. I have created processes to solve challenges within each of the organizations that I have served.
My experience in higher education, talent management, coaching, and owning and operating my own business are applicable across industry, and they have positioned me well to make a positive impact as a board member, over the last 13 months.
Fortunately, I have been gifted with a can-do attitude which has allowed me to gracefully tackle critical initiatives such as hiring a new superintendent, co-chairing Policy, Learning & Teaching, Safety and negotiations with the teachers union. I take a solutions-driven, exploratory approach to solving issues, so I feel I am best to continue to be an impact.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I am actively involved in a number of initiatives to enhance the performance of the district, so I have been intentional about my ideas and feedback to the administration.
As a former talent management professional, I have been pleased with the progress on a number of related talent issues. However, I believe any and all organizations would be better equipped for a successful future if they employ effective succession planning for the most critical roles in the organization.
Critical experience models can help to get an idea of the crucial requirements of each role and the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to effectively satisfy the requirements of the role. Knowing the aforementioned information affords organizations the ability to review their current bench of talent and the corresponding readiness of potential successors, whether the organization needs to ultimately deploy the succession plan or not.