Full Name: Richard Rivard
What office are you seeking? D303 School Board 2 year term
What is your political party? Democrat
What is your current age? 41
Occupation and Employer: Adjunct Professor
What offices, if any, have you previously held? N/A
City: Saint Charles
Campaign Website: www.facebook.com/RivardD303
Education: Associate’s of Arts - Waubonsee Community College
Bachelor’s of History - Northern Illinois University
Bachelors of Political Science - Northern Illinois University
Certificate in Civic Engagement - Northern Illinois University
Masters in Political Science - Northern Illinois University
Community involvement: I sponsor a Political Discussion club at Elmhurst University.
Marital status/Immediate family: I am married with three children.
Why are you running for office?
The recent attacks on marginalized groups and the core curriculum in public schools is what piqued my interest in running for the school board. In addition to serving as an ally and advocate on the board for these folks I want to work to build an inclusive curriculum that reflects the realities of society. This means the materials taught in school are representative of everyone including the LBGTQ+ community, the minority community and women. I would also like to see the struggles of the civil rights movements, the labor struggles, and other stories told in our schools as this is the shared experience that has built the world we share.
What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?
I am an educator at the University level so I am current with pedagogical themes and values. I am also an alum of the D303 school system having attended from elementary through high school. This experience and knowledge uniquely equip me to face the challenges serving on the board will present. I am a parent, an alum and an educator.
Have you sought and/or received any training to run for your local school board? If so, from whom?
I have not received any training. I have worked with other candidates in the race and have had my petitions notarized by the local branch of the democratic party. This is where the assistance has ceased. I have studied elections throughout my time in university and teach comparative politics courses so I am knowledgeable in how campaigns are handled.
Would you propose any changes to the curriculum? If so, what?
As I stated in an earlier answer I would work to make the curriculum reflective of the world we live in. That means telling the stories and experiences of those communities traditionally left out of the curriculum. These changes are essential to develop a sense of belonging amongst the student and community at large. When stories are told and shared that reflect ALL members of the community it works to reduce prejudices innately found within people. Hearing voices that are underrepresented will tear down those barriers and lead to a more inclusive and diverse curriculum and therefor a deeper understanding of the experiences of others.
I would also like to develop an expanded social and emotional learning curriculum. One that would teach students Pre K through 12 how to identify emotions, set boundaries, self regulate and advocate for themselves. These skills would reduce bullying, reduce anxiety, and equip our students for the real challenges of the adult experience. Reading, writing, and maths are vital but just as important in society is the ability understand the emotional aspects of life. When one faces a stressful situation in life that is more important than the quadratic formula.
Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?
I would like to see LGBTQ students accepted for who they are and feel the sense of belonging everyone deserves. This entails teaching a curriculum that includes their voices in the materials in class. As well as adopting the comprehensive sex ed standards that were set at the national level. Furthermore this means safety for who they are in the halls, and in the facilities on offer in the buildings.
What is your assessment of how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is handled in your school district?
My sense is this is a secondary issue for the current board and is being developed outside the core mission of the board. It is to be brought in at a later stage and merged but it must be accounted for throughout the entire process. Furthermore, I hear equity described as equal resources at facilities which to me is a way for some to dodge the importance of making sure the curriculum is equitable in representation. It is important that resources are fairly distributed amongst our schools but to focus on that in this context is a means to answer a question without answering the actual question.
I would look to focus on adding the sense of belonging to the DEI aspects which includes more than tolerance or fitting in but acceptance of who we are as a diverse community.
Do you believe the district needs to make any changes to improve DEI in your district?
I do and that means fostering a sense of belonging. This means the curriculum needs to reflect the diversity of the community. Through the implementation of a reflective collection of materials the walls between these groups will begin to fall down. Learning about others and their stories is the best way to reduce barriers to belonging in our community and schools. Fitting in is not a pathway to a healthy and emotionally solid student population.
Are teachers in your district paid adequately now and in retirement?
I support the bill that has been introduced at the national level to raise the minimum wage for teachers to 60,000. I would like to see more resources for teachers and support staff so they have everything they need for their work. Teachers should be able to retire comfortably after a career in public service and the dignity of retirement should not be diluted with worries about financials.
Would you support changes to teacher pay scales? If so, how?
I would like to see the salary structure for the teachers to begin at 60,000 as proposed in United States senate bill called “Pay Teachers Act”. No teacher should have to rely on state services to make ends meet.
What is your assessment of the district superintendent’s compensation?
I understand that the superintendent has academic performance standards tied into his contract. While his salary is commensurate with other districts of our size the inclusion of academic achievements into his contract is short sighted. We must move away from focusing solely on what grade or test result each student scores. There is much more to the development of the student than memorizing a few formulas and facts.
Would you make any changes to how the district superintendent is compensated?
I would remove any academic results from the contract moving forward. This will lead to undo pressure from the superintendent on the school below and will trickle down into the classrooms. The students do not need the pressure of a superintendent’s contract status over their heads.
Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.
I have meet Dr. Paul Gordon and in our meeting I came away impressed with his energy and enthusiasm for the challenges ahead. I believe that Dr. Gordon is the right person to oversee the development of the whole student and to build a sense of belonging in our school system.
Should schools in your district adopt and teach sex education according to the National Sex Education Standards? Please explain.
I unequivocally believe D303 should teach sex Ed to the national standard and as a board member I will work to reintroduce this to the agenda shortly after taking the seat. Here’s why this is so important and where the understanding has to begin. In order to promote a sense of belonging amongst ALL groups of students the sex Ed program must be wide and inclusive as to reflect the reality of society. The comprehensive presentation of these topics will allow our LGBTQ+ students and families to see themselves reflected in the materials and will work to expose other students and families to how other people live. Some material is a window into another person’s life and some material is a mirror that reflects how your own life is led. Breaking down these prejudices through the education process will lead to less bullying, ostracization and increased understanding amongst out community and schools. Furthermore, the education works to help students identify boundaries and will work to reduce what could be violent situations as they grow within the school system.
The board rejected these standards and I have been told that 70 percent of boards also rejected these standards in Illinois. The board has the opportunity to reach out to a marginalized group and take a courageous stand for folks in our community. They failed to live up to this opportunity and it is disappointing.
As for the idea that it is “mandated” as a previous headline in the paper stated - the parent OPT OUT remains in place. If folks in the community feel this is too much for their children that is the individual family’s choice. It shouldn’t and cannot be the choice for all families moving forward.
Finally, I have spoken to folks in the LGBTQ+ community and they told me they have not in the past seen themselves reflected in the sex Ed program. Leaving them to feel “wrong, broken, or somehow bad”. That is unacceptable full stop. No one should take part in the curriculum and feel they are broken. This leads to possible self-harm and other mental health issues. As a board member I will advocate for all members of the community.
What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?
Covid brought out the best in many and the worst in a few too many folks in the area. There was a time with remote learning, school closures, and many unknowns that the changing solutions seemed sensible. However, the pushback at seemingly every turn from the anti-mask and anti-vax community only worked to increase tension in our community. I firmly believe in masking and still mask myself in places where there may be many people or people who may be immunocompromised. With what was known and what was done I think folks did a great job navigating the situation. I would have liked to see more support though in the face of the protests especially when groups of people used terror to shut down the library or storm a council meeting refusing to mask.
What did you learn from the pandemic?
I learned that situations may seem dire or frightful but ultimately their are folks out there that are willing to come together and overcome differences to try and make it through incredible times. I am 41 - I finished high school right before 9/11, lived through two wars, two financial collapses and a global pandemic in my adult life. We have lived through immense trauma and I believe we need to take a moment and remember its okay to not be okay.
Are voters that support your district taxed at an appropriate level?
Currently - yes they are taxed at an appropriate level.
Would you support any plans to raise taxes in the district? If so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?
If the needs of the school district require an expenditure that is outside of the already significant budget then yes - I will as a board member ask the community to invest more into the schools. The investment in schools is priceless as it raises the values of the homes of the community as well as create an area that is sought out for relocating.
Would you support lowering taxes in the district? If so, what programs or services in the district would you cut?
I am not opposed to lowering taxes but not at the cost of programs or services provided by the public school system. The tax question is always used as the framework for reducing public goods and services. No one is ever going to make a sign that reads “Kids deserve less services” but the lower taxes signs pop up every time. That train is never late. So lets be honest and realize this is a question that puts the best for the children and the community in a frame that begs an answer. I will not deprive our students of a well rounded robust educational experience.
Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?
Of course, just as I have always accepted the results of every US election in the past. Election denying is a sickness and one that gets to the roots of democracy.
What is your position on open, transparent government?
I feel that the more light on the work of government is always a good thing. It is the gap in the transparaceny and the lack of communication that allows the development of conspiracy and mistrust. That void will be filled by those with agendas that seek individual or private gain at the expense of public goods and services. The open and honest exchange of ideas and robust communication is vital to a healthy discourse and society. Light eliminates the shadows where conspiracy thrive.
Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?
Of course, I feel these acts are fundamental for a healthy democracy. I encourage folks to be curious as to the inner workings of the government.