Becky McCabe, St. Charles School District 303 School Board election questionnaire

Election 2024
St. Charles School District 303 Board of Education candidate Becky McCabe

Full Name: Becky McCabe

What office are you seeking? School Board member - St. Charles CUSD #303

What is your political party? Non-partisan

What is your current age? 70

Occupation and Employer: Retired educator - working part-time as leadership coach through the DuPage Regional Office of Education

What offices, if any, have you previously held? School Board member - St. Charles CUSD #303 (1 term)

I have been an officer on the D303 School Board (secretary), Vice President and Secretary on the Thornley on the Fox HOA, and moderator of my church (HOPE UCC, Naperville). These are all positions that were elected by the members.

City: St. Charles

Campaign Website: electbecky.com

Education: Advanced Degree; Education, Organization & Leadership - University of IL, Urbana-Champaign - 2003Masters of Education; Elementary and Early Childhood Education - University of IL, Urbana-Champaign - 1990

Bachelor of Science; Elementary and Early Childhood Education - High Honors -University of IL, Urbana-Champaign, 1981

Certificate of Early Childhood; College of DuPage - 1975

Community involvement: League of Women Voters

We Can Lead Change

American Association of University Women

Kane County Coalition

Kane County Democratic Women

Marital status/Immediate family: Married to Ken McCabe (49 years)

Two grown married sons: Jesse McCabe married to Rachel McCabe - son Miles (16 yrs) and Mia (13 yrs) Both attend D303 schools - East and Wredling

Michael McCabe married to Summer McCabe - son Hayes (4 yrs) and Jetty (2 yrs)

Why are you running for office?

I have been in education for over 35 years and have experience that brings organizational leadership to the Board table. I have been a teacher, an award winning elementary and bilingual school principal, a state-wide testing administrator and a school district administrator.

Public service is important to me - it is a way to give back to the children, families, and community. Being on the school board means I can positively influence the future of our educational system. I have the knowledge, expertise, experience, and judgment to be of value to our school district.

I have always been child centered and I am grounded in putting children first. Building the best learning environment for all students is a principle I’ve lived by since becoming an educator.

As an incumbent running for re-election, I would like to continue to support the new superintendent in the work of creating the Strategic Plan, implementing solutions to the needs of all our students and moving our district from good to great. I believe I can continue to bring value to the discussions and dialogue.

What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?

I have been in education for over 35 years and this experience enables me to bring organizational leadership to the Board table. I have been a teacher, an award winning elementary and bilingual school principal, a state-wide testing administrator, and a school district administrator. I have the knowledge, and experience to be of value to our school district. My career provided me with a deep understanding of how a classroom, a school, and a district organization work for students. These insights drive my commitment to the students of D303.

As a School Board incumbent, I recognize the current educational and school district issues. I understand the plans and vision for the future of the district. I know that we are going in the right direction for improving student learning and achievement.

I currently work with aspiring educational leaders in other districts. This requires me to be informed about the latest research for instructional practices and leadership. Having this knowledge has helped me to be more supportive to administration and teachers when they present their work to the Learning and Teaching committee.

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 the solutions that people suggest to the problems, I am always willing to listen to people’s insights and perspectives. Throughout my term on the Board, I have met with many parents and community members who do not necessarily agree with me or Board decisions. I take their thinking seriously as I make decisions and look at our challenges.

Have you sought and/or received any training to run for your local school board? If so, from whom?

I have read and participated in the Illinois School Board Association’s workshops for Board members and candidates. Otherwise, I have learned from my first campaign.

Would you propose any changes to the curriculum? If so, what?

The Board and District are committed to providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum in all areas so that all students can reach high levels of achievement. Our administration is creating a structure of content expertise in the selection of instructional practices and curriculum materials. This is a new step for our district. I agree with the administration that this innovative process will add substance and viability to our curriculum. We are currently implementing a new math curriculum and addressing the reading curriculum resources. The Department of Learning and Teaching will be recommending a new reading program this spring.

In order to meet our goal of moving from good to great, we need more than just a rigorous curriculum. Our teachers need instructional practices that meet high achievement standards and accomplish student mastery. I strongly support that our core curriculum must meet the highest of standards and that as a District we must provide teachers with the professional learning they need to implement and instruct to those levels of learning.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

The Equity Audit reported that the vast majority of our students feel connected to a trusted D303 adult. There are supports in place for the general social emotional needs of students throughout all grade levels of our district. This year the entire district is focused on the sense of belonging - students need to feel that they are safe, welcome and respected in order for them to be engaged learners.

However, there are areas where we must be sure that our staff are well prepared to create positive relationships with all students. Our LGBTQ students report that they have experienced students bullying them and that many teachers do not know how to address microaggressions. We must ensure that entire staff are well prepared to work with diverse students, know how to educate and intervene when microaggressions occur and have the tools/skills to address the social emotional needs of all students. This work is beginning. I am hopeful that we will see significant growth with our staff because they are eager to do well with all students.

What is your assessment of how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is handled in your school district?

We have started this journey. The recently completed equity audit identified significant achievement gaps for some of our student groups and highlighted that there are inconsistencies as well as disparities between school buildings. The Consortium for Educational Change (CEC), along with University of Chicago professor, Dr. Chapin Hall, provided the Board with recommendations that are needed to create, sustain and not interrupt the work to build a safe, equitable and highly successful learning organization.

Closing these gaps will require changes that are complex and critical for high achievement for all students. To me, this is a top priority. The administration and Board are working together to create and implement a vision that provides success for all students.

We have hired a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion director who is leading our organization to understand the many connections and needs that must be addressed to provide a successful education for all students. This work must include all stakeholders, support the D303 Strategic Plan and the Board’s requirement to close achievement gaps.

We must have a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is aligned to rigorous standards. We must have instructional practices that are culturally responsive. With those resources and practices in place we will be able to ensure that all students have a high-quality educational experience and develop to their full academic/social potential. This vision must be accomplished and be the focus of the District’s work. Reaching the highest potential for every student must be our mission.

Do you believe the district needs to make any changes to improve DEI in your district?

There remain some significant areas of learning and relationship building that D303 must address. The completed equity audit identified many academic gaps and areas of inconsistency throughout the district. Students need to feel that they belong and that there are adults they can trust. To provide that sense of belonging all staff must learn about culturally responsive teaching and environments. Our staff have expressed their readiness to do the work needed so that all students will be successful. The Board must support that work if we want to move our district from good to great.

At this time, we are working on the next steps that the District must take to close those gaps and support all students in our district. This will be folded into our Strategic Plan and will become infused throughout our vision, our work and organization.

Are teachers in your district paid adequately now and in retirement?

I believe that in order to hire and retain high quality teachers and staff we should provide competitive and realistic compensation and benefits. The current and previous Boards have worked closely with all the unions to be sure that our funding and budget constraints are well understood by all parties. D303 teachers, staff and Boards have settled all their contracts in a timely manner within the funding that we can sustain over time. Looking at the number of applicants we attract and the low number of teachers leaving D303, I would say that we have been successful in retaining and hiring high quality staff.

Teacher retirement funding is not a local school board decision and D303 has paid its contribution per law.

Would you support changes to teacher pay scales? If so, how?

Again, I believe that in order to hire and retain high quality teachers and staff we should provide competitive and realistic compensation and benefits. D303 teacher salary is comparable to all Kane County school districts. Any changes in pay scales would require negotiations with the unions and be based on funding and budget constraints.

What is your assessment of the district superintendent’s compensation?

It is a fair and competitive package for such an important role with high expectations. We are able to meet the needs of the district and the new superintendent with the current contract.

Would you make any changes to how the district superintendent is compensated?

Not at this time. The new superintendent is in his first year. The contract includes high expectations and compensation that reflects the seriousness of those goals and to the work that must be accomplished.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.

Yes, I fully support Dr. Paul Gordon. I was on the Board when we did the search for a new superintendent and voted along with all other Board members to hire Dr. Gordon. He brings the experience we need, the strong communication skills that our community wants, the vision and expertise that our students deserve and the relationship building that supports our work to make D303 a great educational system.

The Board laid out a very focused and intense agenda for our district. Dr. Gordon has jumped right in to make that work a reality. In the short time he has been here, Dr. Gordon worked with his team to complete and improve our strategic planning, equity work, strengthen our curriculum in reading and math, and lay out processes for facilities work.

We are on the right path and we are moving forward.

Should schools in your district adopt and teach sex education according to the National Sex Education Standards? Please explain.

District #303 does not use the National Sex Education Standards. The state of Illinois gives local districts that option and we, as a Board, decided, along with the vast majority of school boards, to opt out. Our families have been satisfied with what we provide students in health classes and they have the opportunity to opt out if they so choose. I do not see any reason to change our current health curriculum.

What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?

The pandemic was difficult, scary and unpredictable. I was on the Board during the pandemic and as most school boards, we were expected to know everything and act immediately on all things. As a Board, we were provided with information to make decisions yet some solutions to issues were not possible due to legal and health restraints. There were instances where decisions were made based on information we had at the time and then data and requirements changed weeks later and so did the decisions. Our administration was informed of changes daily and expected to implement policy and structural changes instantly. It was an extremely difficult time. Yet, our administration, teachers and staff did amazing work to provide a safe learning environment. As a Board, we protected the District from legal and funding challenges and did our best to keep everyone safe.

I was proud of D303′s ability to have our elementary schools open from the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Our financial stability made it possible to add and move teachers into classrooms, allowing us to stay within the health and safety guidelines. However, the frustration with the secondary schools structure was clear as time went on and the Board worked with the administration to open in person as quickly as possible. For some in our community that wasn’t good enough. The anger and frustration often showed up at Board meetings.

It was the intention of the School Board to be transparent and to hear all stakeholders. We moved our board meetings to live streaming. We provided ways for our community to express their opinions in a variety of ways. There was enormous fear in the world during this period - and that occurred in our community as well. As a Board, we could not alleviate all the fear or frustrations, but we definitely listened to everyone.

I feel that as a Board we did the best we could during an unpredictable historical world-wide event. I know that not everyone agrees with our decisions. I believe we met our obligations to protect our students, staff and the district.

Whether people agree with what the Board did during the pandemic, the Board must focus on including the D303 stakeholders on what our students need now and how we can immediately enhance the learning and well-being of our students. I believe we have the District leadership and clear vision to accomplish our goal of going from being a good district to a great one for all students.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

It will take years to understand the full impact of the pandemic on student learning and well-being. However, D303 is not waiting. As a Board, we directed the administration to determine where the gaps and needs were for all students. Using local and state data, we have focused on certain grade levels and cohorts of students to determine immediate needs. That was and is a top priority. We continue to look at how to improve and accelerate learning while also addressing the social emotional needs of students. This approach will be ongoing as we unpack the impact of the pandemic.

Having been on the Board through the pandemic and also from working with principals in my coaching role, I saw what I already knew about educators - they work incredibly hard to meet the needs of their students and to keep them safe. I also learned what I knew about families was true - they care deeply about their children’s learning and well being. Those two huge factors were crystal clear during the pandemic - and should be recognized as the foundation of our work as a district and community.

We have never before experienced what happened during the pandemic. The traditional educational processes or answers may or may not be appropriate to finding solutions for student success. We must be ready to pivot our thinking as we find the root causes of problems and use the best solutions to meet student needs. The future of D303 students will depend on Board members who are open and willing to listen, dialogue, and understand the facts and research about instruction, learning, behavior, and what success is for all students.

Are voters that support your district taxed at an appropriate level?

As a Board member, I believe that it is crucial to have a balanced budget. We must be good stewards of our community’s money. This means providing the highest level of student success while also living within our means.

The financial status and rating of D303 has been outstanding. Past and current Boards have planned and projected carefully on how to maintain the high level of educating students and keeping taxes at the lowest rate possible. We have had the lowest tax rate and lowest debt rate in Kane County. We are one of the lowest leveraged school districts in the state. We have received accolades for our financial status.

However, we are headed into a few tough years as inflation impacts District resources. This is the case for all school districts. Future Boards will need to address new financial issues and live within its means even as it also expects to improve student achievement.

Would you support any plans to raise taxes in the district? If so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?

No one wants taxes to be raised. Living within our means is a school board member’s mantra. Our community is willing to pay for a strong educational system - they want their students to be well educated and to have their property be valuable. As I stated earlier, D303 has had the lowest tax rate and the lowest debt rate in Kane County. We are one of the lowest leveraged school districts in the state.

However, we are faced with significant facility issues that could require an increase in revenue. Any increase would require a referendum - which would require significant community discussion and understanding of the situation and the outcomes. I have been involved as a teacher and administrator with referendums. Successful referendums were clear about the “why” to the community and provided a sensible answer to a problem.

Would you support lowering taxes in the district? If so, what programs or services in the district would you cut?

At this time, lowering taxes does not make sense due to the impact of inflation. However, we may instead have to cut programs and services to balance the budget. Those decisions would require discussions that should be transparent to the community. Those decisions may not be popular or embraced by staff or families. However, being a Board member is about being good stewards of our community’s resources. Facing difficult decisions is part of being a Board member.

Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?

I will accept the voters’ decisions.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

I believe in an open and transparent government. Through approving live streaming, co-chairing the Community Advisory Committee, improving community input through audits, focus groups, communication tools and also moving Board committee meetings to more dialogue, my actions as a D303 Board member show that I fully support an increase in the transparency of our work and will find ways to increase community input.

Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?

Yes. I support the Freedom of Information Act and citizen’s ability to have access to government records. This Act puts sunshine on our government - and I believe strongly in that principle.