Updated: Apr 11, 2021
On Election Day 4/6, I woke up at 4am without issue. My husband can attest that barring when our kids were infants, this is not normal. I love morning sleep! I awoke though with peace in my heart and felt great. I went around town to various polling locations for signage placement and took time to reflect on this journey.
The weather was gorgeous and we set up the outdoor furniture in the backyard. It hit 80 degrees. I smiled all day knowing that God had a plan. Whatever will be, would be.
My family and friends gathered that night with Raj and his family to celebrate our journey. We laughed and talked about how we all connected due to our shared advocacy. We are from various parts of our large community, some of us are originally from different countries, and we have bonded over our common interest to support our kids and community. It was a celebration of all of our efforts and several new friendships!
When I decided to run for school board, I saw it as an extension of the numerous volunteer roles I've held in the community between church, school, and local causes. My consideration started in the Fall. I had no connection to the school board or any of the district administrators. I was simply a parent of 3 district children who recognized the board was not acting in the best interest of kids and they were not listening to us. Before the start of the 2020 school year, they retracted the in-person option and that was when I said "something isn't right here". I spoke at the August 3, 2020 Special BOE meeting:
Once our daughter said "Can I please leave the meeting?" during Kindergarten zoom, I said, "Enough! Our kids needs a voice."
Seeing there would be up to 4 openings on the board, I decided to run to bring parent and community representation to these decisions. When I first got signatures in the Fall to get on the ballot, I spoke with the community about their experience with remote-learning being their only schooling option. One mother (a commercial airline pilot) of middle and elementary kids had to take a leave of absence at the beginning of the school year to be the remote-learning parent at home full time. Several parents of students with special needs were overwhelmed without fulltime district support and services. They contacted me after announcing my candidacy and were the first to tangibly and heartbreakingly document regression in their children. Some specifically moved into this town and district to have access to specialized district support and were regretting their decision. Some have already left the area to add to the loss of over 1,095 students from IPSD 204 this year versus around 400 in previous years:
By January, when 204 finally started in-person learning, another mother (a teacher) had to keep her son out of hybrid learning (in person) to be the full-time caregiver of the younger siblings. The younger siblings had to remain remote due to transportation issues with a 9am drop-off and 11:30 pickup; the 2.5 hour school day wasn't feasible for the working educator.
Women have borne the brunt of these decisions to the point of Time Magazine calling it a "Shecession". Where are the women's lib/ERA gals? Well, several ran for local Naperville posts, were endorsed by Lauren Under(performing)wood, and they have one agenda: their own. Here are some on voting day including school board incumbents Susan and Laurie, pictured left and right of Underwood:
There are many more stories of unnecessary challenges as a result of failed leadership and for these families, the struggle is still real. I heard them with sincere concern and hoped to be that presence on our board. I turned in my signatures among many new to running for school board. Among them were several of the 11 of us that would stack the 204 ballot for 4 seats. I was proud to take this leap and had no idea what lay ahead.
In December, right before officially turning in my ballot paperwork, I attended my first ever rally. It was coordinated by 204 Choice (some of whom are now part of the lawsuit filed against 204 for violations of the Open Meetings Act). We were standing up for choice to have option for in-person learning. Several parents spoke and multiple school districts attended. When board member Mark Rising heard I was going to be there (he knew via social media that I was going to run for the board and called me to chat), he relayed to a 204 Choice parent "that wouldn't be a good idea". That was my first indication that the current board did not want my manner of advocacy. The text threads that ensued between Mark and several in our advocacy group during this time are unsettling at best and cause for resignation at worst. Once board member Justin Karubas was "liking" Tweets like these, it affirmed the passive-aggressive nature of our existing board. Various IPSD staff joined him on Twitter to create disruption.
Yet, little did I know the threat I posed to the status quo and the lengths they would go to stop me and many other non-connected candidates throughout the Chicagoland area. One board candidate in District 212 was publicly berated during a school board meeting before the election. This effort was coordinated by the teacher union, teachers, and they leveraged students to attack her. We've both been on the receiving end of some of the most vicious and orchestrated attacks by those among whom we live. She and I (we have never spoken or met) were also the only two Chicago-area board of education candidates quoted in a scathing March 12th Chicago Tribune article by John Kass:
Coincidence? Follow me down the rabbit hole of IPSD 204 politics that ensued over this election.
In early March, a District 204 Metea High School teacher was outed for running an anti-parent Twitter alias "Community Member 204" and was discovered via a snapshot he shared and the IP address connection.
He quickly removed the account and then doubled down using his own name to continue the efforts via Facebook and made this comment on my candidate page, which violates district policy.
HR was made aware of the violation by a district parent who has children attending Metea, where he teaches. He has since then tried to suggest our advocacy group was behind his alias. Once he reached out to my campaign page, I also alerted HR. It is still unresolved. Note: If anyone has personnel concerns within IPSD 204, do not rely on Louis Lee head of HR to assist. He also won't supply the as yet unfulfilled FOIA request to get emails between board members and teacher union representatives.
This is IPSD 204, the 4th largest district in Illinois.
The Parent Diversity Advisory Council (aka PDAC), is set within the school district and it has a dedicated page at the IPSD website. IPSD 204 administrator Jennifer Rowe holds the title of Executive Director of Educational Equity and earns a salary of $125,619. She is the PDAC administrator liaison and stars in this district youtube video that demonstrates how to perform the district-wide Covid Surveillance Screening:
PDAC + Covid Screening Demo = $125,619 salary for Ms. Rowe. This covid screening is under contract for $1.5 million with our district. It was presented at the January 25th board meeting and discussed at 42 minute mark. At the March 8th board meeting, Superintendant Talley stated that 2,000 saliva tests were submitted and resulted in 2 flagged possible cases. T-W-O.
This $1.5 million dollar contract may not qualify for government reimbursement as the unregulated standard of testing may be ineligible for reimbursement through federal coronavirus relief funds. So, who will pay that hefty bill?
This is IPSD 204, the 4th largest district in Illinois.
Members of the PDAC organization were very proactive in supporting the remote-only learning option. Additionally, the teacher I highlighted as practicing Critical Race Theory is on PDAC and became very proactive in attacking my campaign.
CRT Rachel is lying and clearly tender over my anti-CRT stance. So, she and the chair of PDAC, Saily Joshi, had a woman reach out to me regarding Culturally Responsive Teaching/Critical Race Theory. The email exchange was used to become a change.org petition that had to revise its title at least three times due to libel.
This was a channel for the district special interests to defame my name and attack my campaign. Additionally, the school board candidates worked with PDAC to stage a second event in the name of area Democrats getting out the vote with a workout class at the Naperville Riverwalk. Who did the workout class? The petition creator. Who was there? Two current board members, PDAC Sally, school board candidates, and other democratic candidates. This video began circulating soon afterward and highlights the conflicts of interest within IPSD. Caution: It's cringey.
An investigator reached out to me before the election with information on the discovery of "contracts" that were paid to various "pawns" that were used to disrupt the election. Payments go into the thousands of dollars. These parties best tread carefully; people are watching the money trail.
PDAC needs to be removed from the district platform and should be a stand-alone 501(c). I urge the community that wants politics kept OUT of the school district business to call for the same. They and the Indian Prairie Parent Council are currently lobbying school-based PTAs to change their bylaws and have PDAC representatives become part of the PTA executive board. This is a strategy and we need to pay attention.
The union-backed slate that formed during the campaign included the incumbents Laurie and Susan alongside Allison and Supna who are both higher ed teachers that have been eyeing a board role for years. Allison tried to fill a vacancy on the board in 2018. These candidates are all connected. Each of these 4 openly support Critical Race Theory and received heavy support from PDAC and the local democratic organization (Wheatland United) during election. These 4 Friends of Education (aka union-friendly, not pro-student) have won the 4 seats.
Their pawn? She, CRT Rachel, PDAC Saily, and other wokesters celebrated this week:
The constituency has not heard from the "winners" since Tuesday. Nerves, perhaps? This board is facing a vocal and aware community that will be assessing compliance of the Open Meetings Act with forensic analysis. The lawsuit is still pending. The board will be required to finally go on record with their viewpoints and voting rather than defer to the Superintendent. Expectations are high. The burden will be on this board to set a new standard and it will not be easy.
Rajesh and I chatted this week about how we came in 5th and 6th behind the 4-person "machine" slate. My husband said “you guys actually came in 2nd and 3rd”. He is sweet and I’m so grateful to him, our kids, and our awesome family and friends! We took this journey together!
Raj and I met as candidates and developed a natural friendship thanks to shared priorities as parents and citizens. We have plans to continue our efforts.
I performed well in Will County and could have snagged the 4th seat but DuPage county was an incumbent strong-hold. I had the highest voting day turnout of any Will county board candidate with 1,660 votes.
Thank you to the 4,200+ people who cast a vote for me.
We got closer than they imagined and I am proud to have run a robust campaign. I am so grateful to the district staff who privately sent me messages of support and were very kind in setting themselves apart from the district politics. I worked hard and stood firm in advocating for the kids and community. Even when some teachers (including some who taught our kids) worked to smear my name/cancel my campaign, and when neighbors and people who attend our church were cruel (but love to say they are "Christian"), I never wavered. As they ramped up their efforts, I knew they were nervous. Little me who didn't take any campaign funds and knew no one in these political groups was getting too close. Board member Justin Karubas asked me to meet for coffee the week before the election to find "common ground". I declined the offer. Wonder if he "liked" that? (He has blocked me on Twitter since the board meeting where the community brought major heat.)
So, the Chicagoland area union-backed slates were mostly successful at keeping us off their boards with a few exceptions. I am happy for those districts who got out the vote and were able to mobilize even a small change.
Thanks to this experience, a new wave of advocacy is taking hold. Raj started a new FB page called IPSD 204 Board that is meant to improve community dialogue and board transparency. All 7 board members will be invited to engage on it. I encourage other school district communities to follow suit.
Check back in the coming week as I'll be sharing ways for us to tackle everything from Critical Race Theory to school choice and more. This will be a marathon so for most of our communities, it is time to hydrate and keep moving. We have some hills and valleys to the finish line. Are you ready to join the efforts?
I found a new voice this past year...are you ready to use yours?