March 30, 2023


Catherine Johnson, Lincoln-Way School District 210 Board of Education election questionnaire

Lincoln-Way School District 210 Board of Education candidate Catherine Johnson

Full Name: Catherine Johnson

What office are you seeking? Lincoln Way D210 School Board

What is your political party? Independent

What is your current age? 38

Occupation and Employer: High School teacher - District 230

What offices, if any, have you previously held? n/a

City: Mokena

Campaign Website:

Education: Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) - B.S. Secondary Education / Double Major - Spanish / Latin American & Caribbean Politics, Sacramento State University (Sacramento, CA) - M.A. Spanish, University of St. Francis (Joliet, IL) (ELL/Bilingual Endorsement/Certified), Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville (Ed.S. School Administration - in progress / anticipated completion - June 2023)

Community involvement: My husband and I are both high school educators, he coaching varsity girls basketball and I sponsor our school’s National Spanish Honor Society. Both activities require extra hours outside our workday, yet we still try to be as active as possible inside our own community, my husband is on the Mokena Baseball and Softball Association and the Lincoln Way Wildcats boards. I volunteer as team mom whenever possible to local teams my two sons are involved in.

Marital status/Immediate family: My husband and I both work in a public high school (he as a guidance counselor and I as a Spanish teacher) and both of our two boys (our eldest is in 4th grade and our youngest is in 1st grade) have been educated in our local public school district — District 159

Why are you running for office?

First, as high school educator myself for the past 16 years at Carl Sandburg H.S., I know firsthand the challenges and rewards of the profession — I live it everyday. I know what it’s like to try to get students back on track from the learning deficits observed since the pandemic, and be creative in using what resources we have to create engaging environments for student success. As such, I am determined to ask the tough questions to help other school board members and administrators contemplate the logistics of decisions and their impact on everyday school life for educators and students.

The second reason I am running for school board is because my two sons, currently in 4th and 1st grade, will eventually become LW graduates. Any progress that is made with both the current and future school boards will have a lasting impact on their academic and social experience at LW. As such, I am committed to collaborating with fellow school board members, administrators, teachers and parents in order to help ensure our schools are safe and supportive environments.

The third reason is that I truly love this community. When my husband and I moved to the area in 2009 we initially thought it would be a stepping stone. We couldn’t have been more wrong and can’t imagine living anywhere else. The strong relationships we have established with our neighbors and other families who care so deeply about our community’s future has made us truly proud to call Mokena and the Lincoln-Way area our home. I want to help ensure this community prospers and be an integral part of its legacy.

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

As a high school public educator myself, I understand firsthand both the challenges and rewards of the profession. I have headed various curriculum design teams for our World Language Department for levels 2 through AP Spanish Literature, and Heritage Spanish and have been a mentor teacher to new teachers. I also have Sandburg to thank, as it is also the place where I met my husband who is a Guidance Counselor who has taught me so much about all of the support services schools provide to our communities. As such, I have profound gratitude and respect for all of the amazing behind the scenes work from school counselors, social workers and psychologists.

I also am currently obtaining my Ed.S. in School Administration which has provided me with a rich educational background that would be an asset to a school board. Particularly, my recent courses on school finance and law will help me ask essential questions that promote further discussion with other board members to help them analyze how decisions made at the highest level have an impact on everyday school life for both our teachers and students.

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

Like I stated in the previous question, I am currently taking courses towards my Ed.S. in School Administration. While there were a variety of courses related to instructional leadership, curriculum design, evaluation of teachers, I believe in particular my school finance and school law courses particularly helped me in training for this position.

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

No, I don’t have any proposed changes. It is clear that the district’s current focus is closing the learning gaps observed since the pandemic by providing extra SAT preparation courses and after school interventions and tutoring. As part of the school board, we will review data to evaluate the effectiveness of such programs, but in terms of specific changes, I have none.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

I have not heard nor have any evidence that LGBTQ+ students are treated unfairly. I have tried to attend most, if not all of the recent school board meetings, and no public comments or statements of unfair treatment have been made. That being said, I believe that each and every student, regardless of background or identity, deserves the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment.

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

I believe that every school district should embrace diversity and celebrate differences as doing so creates a more welcoming and accepting school culture and in the end truly prepares our students for the diverse world they will encounter beyond the classroom. Additionally, prioritizing equity ensures that every student has access to the resources and support they need to succeed, regardless of their individual circumstances.

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

Currently, I am unaware of any changes that need to be made. However, if elected, I will be an active school board member who regularly attends district events to speak with all the various stakeholders --- parents, teachers and school leaders to help assess the need for future changes.

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

As a school board candidate, I believe that our teachers are truly the backbone of our education system and should be compensated adequately for the critical work they do. While I am a fiscal conservative and put priority on a balanced budget, we must ensure that our teachers are receiving fair pay that reflects their dedication and hard work. We also need to ensure D210 can continue to attract and retain highly qualified educators who are committed to our students’ success, and fair compensation is a key factor in achieving that. It is crucial that we invest in our teachers’ professional development and provide opportunities for career growth as well.

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

As I mentioned previously, while I am a fiscal conservative and place top priority on a balanced budget, we must ensure the our teachers are receiving fair pay and ensure we can continue to attract (and retain, since retention is beginning to drop), highly qualified educators. Teacher pay scales will be negotiated next spring 2024 during collective bargaining and this will need to be evaluated.

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

As a school board candidate, I believe that it is essential to review and assess the superintendent’s compensation to ensure it is fair and reflects their performance in leading our school district. The superintendent plays a vital role in managing our education system, and their compensation should be aligned with their responsibilities and of course, the district’s budget. At the same time, we also must consider the compensation of our other educators and staff members who are crucial to our students’ success. It is essential to maintain a balance and ensure that all our employees are receiving fair compensation for their hard work and dedication. As a member of the school board, I will work with the other members to review and assess the compensation of all district employees, including the superintendent to ensure they are fairly compensated.

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

As I stated previously, I will work with other board members to review and assess the compensation of all district employees, including the superintendent to ensure they are fairly compensated.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.

As a school board candidate, I fully support Dr. Tingley and his leadership in our district. He has played a critical role in managing our education system, and under his leadership we have seen significant progress in improving the quality of education for our students, especially during unprecedented and historic times of the COVID-19 era. Dr. Tingley has demonstrated a strong commitment to student success, as well as a deep understanding of the challenges facing our schools. Notably, he has worked collaboratively with teachers, staff members and parents to build a more supportive learning environment for our students. From my meeting with him, Dr. Tingly has shown he is responsive, thinks with an open-mind, and shows willingness to make adjustments as needed to ensure that our schools are meeting the needs of our students and community.

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

A crucial aspect of sex education is to help provide students with the information and skills they need to make informed decisions — especially in regards to their health and well-being. Sex education has been taught in schools for over 80 years — it is not new. Age appropriate, sex education allows students to better understand themselves and promotes understanding and respect for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or identity.

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to all schools and I would like to thank our district and school board for demonstrating remarkable resilience, flexibility, and creativity in ensuring that students continued to receive access to a high quality education. While not ideal, the district’s adoption of a remote learning schedule and their commitment to providing students with laptops and internet access ensured that students could continue their education. Incredibly, the district’s efforts to provide students with meals and support services during the pandemic also helped alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty faced by families.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

The pandemic has taught us very important lessons about education and the role of schools in our community. While it was a challenging and extremely uncertain time, it provided an opportunity for reflection as we had to navigate new ways of learning and teaching. The need for flexibility and adaptability of the educational system is one important lesson. We teachers overnight had to re-imagine our delivery, and continue to do our very best to meet the various needs of our students. The importance of exploring innovative solutions to grant access to education, in the form of technology was essential. While these above lessons were not necessarily surprising or new to me due to my role as an educator, the profound role of schools in our communities was fully observed. Our schools continued to provide social and emotional supports to our children and also continued to provide meals for low-income students.

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

Ultimately, it is up to the voters to decide whether they feel they are being taxed at an appropriate level. As a school board member, I will work to ensure that our budget is transparent and that tax payers are informed about how their tax dollars are being spent. I also believe that it is essential to explore alternative funding sources to support our schools such as grants, partnerships and donations. By diversifying our funding sources, we can reduce the burden on tax payers and ensure that our schools have the resources they need to provide high quality education.

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

No, currently I would not support plans to raise taxes in the district. As stated previously, I believe that it is essential to first explore alternative funding to support our schools such as grants, partnerships and donations.

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

No, I also would not support currently lowering taxes in the district. With our buildings ageing, and cost of materials rising, we need to ensure our buildings are both clean and our facilities are ready for continued use.

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

Of course, I will respect the democratic process and accept the voters’ choice on Election Day. Running for public office is a privilege and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my community.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

I believe that fiscal responsibility and accountability to taxpayers must be at the forefront of all government spending decisions. As a parent and taxpayer myself, I understand the importance of ensuring that every dollar spent is done so wisely and with the best interests of our students and community in mind. Since returning back to school to obtain my Ed.S. in School Administration I have practical experience conducting thorough research and analysis to determine the most cost effective solutions for school districts and I will work closely with school administrators, teachers and other stakeholders to prioritize spending that will directly benefit our teachers and students, such as expanding educational programs and services and maintaining safe, well-maintained facilities. Additionally, I deeply believe in transparency and open communication especially when it comes to the handling of taxpayer dollars.

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

Yes, I strongly support FOIA and the right of citizens to access government records. Transparency and accountability are critical to a healthy democracy, and citizens have a right to know how their government is operating. FOIA helps to build trust and confidence in government and ensures that our schools are accountable to the public.

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