Full Name: Kelli MacMillan
What office are you seeking? Mokena District 159 School Board
What is your political party? Independent
What is your current age? 45
Occupation and Employer: Financial and Accounting Consultant
What offices, if any, have you previously held? N/A
Campaign Website: N/A
Education: B.A. Business Administration / Finance
Community involvement: I am a member and volunteer of the Mokena PTA. I am a founding member of District 159 Parent Council Facebook group that focuses on connecting people in our district and helping them stay connected. We record and post Mokena District 159 School Board meetings each month as a service to our community, so that people that can’t make the meeting are able to watch at their convenience. I am dedicated to keep finding ways to engage with our parents and neighbors and help spread awareness of district activities and encourage engagement.
Marital status/Immediate family: I am a married, mother of 3 daughters currently attending Mokena School District 159 schools. My husband and I look forward to raising our girls here in Mokena and feel extremely grateful for the wonderful public education system Mokena offers.
Why are you running for office?
Our district does a lot of things really good and our students are getting a high quality education; I am happy to have my daughters enrolled. As a board member, I aim to inspire us to do even better, for the benefit of every student. LW210 feeder districts have a big bill to fill, and as they continue to improve D159 must keep pace. I believe we need to “raise the bar” to ensure our students are best prepared to excel in High School. As a small district, we are poised well to implement real, meaningful improvements that can make an impact. I’d love to see Mokena students at top of the heap entering into LW210, and I believe we can do it!
What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?
First and foremost, I am a mom of three kids currently attending Mokena School District 159. I have a vested interest in our district and community as an area home owner. My background in Business Finance encompasses other disciplines (e.g. operations, contacts / compliance, accounting and human resources), that I will utilize in evaluating decisions brought before the school board. I am dedicated to serving my community, educating myself on the issues and connecting with parents. I am also determined to do all we can to give every D159 student the best possible educational experience.
Have you sought and/or received any training to run for your local school board? If so, from whom?
The work that I’ve done the past two years will provide a solid foundation for the role of School Board member. I keep abreast on what is happening in the district via school board and finance committee meetings. I connect with parents and the community on a consistent basis. I know the BOE policies. I’ve reviewed the budget. I participated in the Strategic Planning process in 2021 and know the Strategic Plan. I’ve reviewed and analyzed the past 3 years report cards: by school and by district. I’ve read the parent handbook. I’ve reviewed and our current and past 5 Essentials Survey which provides feedback from students, teachers and parents. ETC...
Would you propose any changes to the curriculum? If so, what?
Our most recent district and school level report cards indicate a large portion of students are not meeting grade level expectations in ELA and Math. I think we need to immediately prioritize doing more for students to get them where they need to be. I believe our core areas of instruction (ELA / Math) should remain top focus and we need to allocate the critically necessary resources to our teachers and students to combat lost learning, in short order. Generally speaking, I would love more curriculum resources to be provided to parents for support at home. When curriculum is being evaluated, I believe the district should do more to solicit parental feedback in that process. Trained educators are best suited to make curriculum decisions, but we will be stronger as a district if we make concerted effort to involve parents more during these important processes, not afterwards.
Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?
I am unaware of an instances of LGBTQ students getting treated unfairly. As a school board member, I will do anything I can to immediately cure our district of situations where LGBTQ students or any other group of students are getting treated unfairly.
What is your assessment of how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is handled in your school district?
I have not done an assessment of how our district handles diversity, equity and inclusion. I believe D159 offers a high quality education to all students.
Do you believe the district needs to make any changes to improve DEI in your district?
I am unaware at this point.
Are teachers in your district paid adequately now and in retirement?
I want to offer our teachers a more attractive and competitive contract when renegotiating next year. Teacher retention is a real concern and even more so during a time of teacher shortages that we’re experiencing. I want the teachers to be in a healthy work environment that they feel valued and heard. Our goal should be that teachers to feeling good about the value proposition. This will be a top priority of mine as a school board member. I’m believe this is the winning equation that will pay dividends for our students and community.
It is important to note: I am not in favor of raising taxes in any way, nor do I think it is necessary to accomplish this. Mokena residents pay a lot in taxes and we need to focus on the most efficient spending.
Would you support changes to teacher pay scales? If so, how?
Yes, we need to be competitive. We need to offer a better value proposition to retain our teachers. Value proposition includes salary, benefits, working culture, etc.
What is your assessment of the district superintendent’s compensation?
Our district teachers average salary is ~15% less than state average. Whereas our district administrators salary is only ~5% less than state average. My priority is our teachers compensation.
Would you make any changes to how the district superintendent is compensated?
I would establish specific short term and long term goals that are timed, relevant, and measurable - to which we would hold the superintendent accountable for. Our strategic plan is filled with unspecific, undefined objectives with loose deadlines. It is hard to establish if these goals are truly being achieved and it is over multiple years. I would love to see the Administration to establish some good short-term goals that address lost learning, ELA/Math Readiness, increasing parental engagement, etc.
Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.
Yes. I support our superintendent and the work the administration does for our students day in and day out. Our administration is relatively new and Covid has impacted much of their work. As a school board member, I would look forward to working more closely with the administration and achieving a greater understanding of how things work and why.
Should schools in your district adopt and teach sex education according to the National Sex Education Standards? Please explain.
It is my understanding that our district opted out of that instruction and I support that decision. I always support parents teaching their own children what they feel appropriate in this regard.
What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?
We were in unchartered territory with Covid-19 and I respect people had varying perspectives. I know that our district did the best they could with the information they had at that time. A lot of the decisions that were made were in accordance with State / Federal mandates, and I support that rationale. I’m grateful those days are behind us.
What did you learn from the pandemic?
I learned just how much multi-tasking I could do! I gained a deeper appreciation for our teachers and all they did to go above and beyond. Covid wasn’t easy for anyone and we got through it by helping each other and becoming more resourceful. I think we all learned a lot about ourselves but also how much we missed that person/person connection.
Are voters that support your district taxed at an appropriate level?
I think our taxes are too high. I appreciate the effort our district and village give to maintain a comparatively lower tax rate. I would not be in favor of increasing taxes for our residents. I think we can become more diligent and efficient with spending to maximize the impact for our students.
Would you support any plans to raise taxes in the district? If so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?
Would you support lowering taxes in the district? If so, what programs or services in the district would you cut?
No, I would not be in favor of lowering current tax rates in favor of cuts on programs.
Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?
Yes, of course.
What is your position on open, transparent government?
I am in favor of transparent government. When our school board passed on the opportunity last year, our District 159 Parent council Facebook group began to record and post school board meetings for public consumption. I believe all open meetings should be recorded and made available to the public to encourage engagement.
Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?