Sally Tomlinson: Candidate For New Trier High School Board | #schoolshooting


NEW TRIER TOWNSHIP, IL — Illinois school boards were tasked with a series of tough decisions in the year since buildings were ordered shuttered to in-person learning amid the state’s first wave of COVID-19 infections.

In New Trier Township High School District 203, which launched a hybrid learning model in October 2020, three of the four board members with expiring terms are not seeking reelection. Six candidates, including one incumbent, are seeking four open seats on the school board.

Ahead of the upcoming school board elections, Patch provided questionnaires to all candidates running for the New Trier High School board. Responses from candidates are published verbatim and in the order they are received. Early voting is open ahead of the April 6 consolidated election.

Sally Tomlinson

Age (as of election day):
57

Town of residence:
Winnetka

School district:
New Trier Township District 203

Family:
Allan (Husband), Emma (New Trier 2017), and Sam (New Trier 2019)

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
No.

Education:
BS, U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; MBA Northwestern Kellogg Graduate School of Management

Occupation, years of experience.
Community Volunteer (20); Leo Burnett Advertising (10); NCNB (2)

Campaign website:
top4newtrier.com

Previous or current elected or appointed office:
None

The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it:

While there are several pressing issues facing the school board, the most immediate one that I feel needs addressing is the mental health toll that the pandemic has taken on our community. I think there is an opportunity to provide even greater social and emotional support to our students, especially as they return to full in-person learning after more than a year of hybrid and remote learning. Upon taking office, I would work with the administration to ramp up 3 of the 6 steps in their approach to mental health, namely better identifying students at risk, reducing the stigma surrounding the use of mental health services, and providing more opportunities for interaction and support between students.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

While I am one of the four caucus-endorsed candidates, I leave it up to the reader to compare and contrast our qualifications, what our visions are, and how we hope to achieve them. It is up to the community to make their own determination of which candidates best align with their own aspirations for New Trier, not just in the short term, but over the next four years. I hope voters will thoroughly research each of the six of us before casting their votes.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.

While there are immediate pressing issues, as discussed above, the school needs to continue to advance its goals and objectives laid out in its 2030 strategic plan. As one of 28 members on the committee that worked on it, I endorse its institutional values and goals. Further, it incorporates community feedback from over 5000 surveys and 400 qualitative focus group hours so I believe it reflects the township’s directive as well. Each year, the school sets interim goals and strategies against this long-range plan and as a board member, I would hold the administration accountable to them.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

I have an MBA from Northwestern that gives me the financial and analytical literacy to execute one of the most important roles of the board: that of being a responsible financial steward.

And, aside from providing me experience managing multi-million dollar budgets, ten years spent at Leo Burnett Advertising honed my ability to serve many constituents, lead strategic planning initiatives, and collaborate and communicate effectively.

Finally, I have volunteered extensively in each of the schools my children attended leading up to and including New Trier. Most recently, I served on the 2030 Strategic Planning Committee and spent 3 years on New Trier’s Parent Association executive board. This breadth of work has given me an in-depth understanding of our schools and demonstrated my continued commitment to public education.

Why should voters trust you?

First, I am not a single-issue candidate. I want to help New Trier achieve its mission “to commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion, and lives to the service of humanity.” The 2030 Strategic plan provides the road map to accomplish this. Second, I don’t represent one constituent. I am a non-partisan candidate who understands that I must balance the needs of the students, parents, staff, taxpayers and others in our community. Finally, what motivates me? I am grateful for the amazing education my two children received and I am committed to making sure all children are given the same opportunities.

If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office a success?

Because I’m not a single-issue candidate, one accomplishment would not define my success. Rather, I would like to see progress made against
• Closing any learning gaps that have resulted from COVID to continue to deliver intellectual growth and readiness to our students
• Increasing the social emotional support provided to students
• Strengthening New Trier’s culture to be more welcoming and supportive of all people
• Expanding the school’s community outreach and communication efforts
• Maintaining the school’s strong financial position in terms of its Aaa bond rating, healthy reserves, and the goal of avoiding referendums

What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the handling of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?

I believe the school’s finances are well managed. Right now, budget increases are tied to the CPI-U, which has historically been low. Yet 80% percent of the school’s operating expenses come from salaries and benefits that have been growing faster than inflation. Through careful management, the school has not asked for an operating referendum since 2003. Regarding capital expenditures, the 15-year facilities plan seeks to spread out the costs of anticipated projects over time with the goal of avoiding the need for a capital referendum. Going forward, I will encourage New Trier to continue on this path of fiscal responsibility and the avoidance of operating or capital referendums.

Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?

I support Black Lives Matter and all peaceful protests. Having participated in the Winnetka BLM march last summer, I was heartened to see the breadth of community involvement in this event, including students. Student involvement and support is a critical component of New Trier’s effort to provide a climate in which “all people are welcomed, respected, supported and valued.”

Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?

It is important to distinguish the role of the board versus the role of the administration. The board provides oversight and holds the administration responsible for demonstrating progress against the strategic platform of Culture, Climate and Equity. I would expect the administration to continue its efforts in recruiting, training, and retaining a diverse staff, supporting student-focused equity goals, evaluating curriculum for its ability to provide both a mirror of and a window beyond students’ life experiences, and communicating its policies and expectations to all constituents. As a board member, I would like to see the administration pursue both qualitative and quantitative research efforts to help monitor progress being made.

What are your thoughts on the district’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Are you in favor of remote learning, in-person learning or a hybrid of the two? Do you support a mask mandate for students and school staff, or mandatory coronavirus testing for both students and staff?

First, I acknowledge that the country was dealing with a novel virus, so each decision made was based on new data in a rapidly evolving environment. New Trier went from a state-mandated shutdown in March to now having students in class in-person up to 4 days a week. This was accomplished by revising the curriculum to accommodate a remote learning system never implemented before. The school introduced PPE, social distancing and group limitations (mandated by the state) and saliva testing (its own initiative) to begin to bring people back into the school safely. And New Trier adopted a block system to help manage the population of students in the building each day.

Looking at peer schools, with similar-sized enrollment operating in Illinois, I have not seen another district institute practices that have gotten students back to the classroom more safely or faster. That said, I believe this pandemic has taken a huge toll on our kids’ mental health. And, I believe that New Trier will have to focus efforts on how to best address this (see my answer to Question 1).

In terms of what in-person learning looks like (masks, social distancing, and symptom screenings) I have to defer to the experts at the CDC, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the ISBE as they set the policies that New Trier must adhere to.

When the vaccine is available to them, do you support mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff?

At this point, I don’t support requiring someone to take a vaccine that has only been given Emergency Use Authorization among the 16+ population. However, as more research and data become available, I would anticipate that any policy New Trier institutes would necessitate a thorough and expert healthcare analysis by the above-mentioned groups.

Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
No

The best advice ever shared with me was ____________?

My friend’s father, an accomplished businessman, was fond of saying “don’t make a decision until you have to.” This resonates with me as a potential board member because I’m an analytic by nature. I will seek out all available sources of information, recognizing that the need to make sound decisions in a dynamic and changing environment will make optimal timing important.



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