Alejandra Reyes Bungalo Questionnaire Responses
1. Please provide some biographical information including age, where you grew up, education, current job, family info and how long you have lived in Berwyn.
My name is Alejandra Reyes and I have been a Berwyn resident since 2012. I am 37 years old and have dedicated my life to education. I graduated from Loyola University with a bachelors in Bilingual Education and Spanish. I started my career in education as a bilingual teacher. Over 11 years, I taught first, second, fourth and fifth grade as a classroom teacher and I taught preschool through fifth grade as an English as a Second Language teacher. I then went on to get my masters in Educational Leadership at Northeastern University. I am now in my fourth year as an assistant principal in a dual language school. I currently have three kids attending Berwyn North District 98. I have two children at Havlicek and one at Lincoln Middle School. My youngest has an IEP, but is placed in a general education classroom. My middle child is in the dual language program and my oldest attends Lincoln Middle School. I am married to Rob Pabon, the 5th Ward Alderman, you may have heard of him.
2. Please provide activities and experience in the community that you have.
I co-founded the Berwyn Free Library Initiative, throughout the last few years we have built several little free libraries and have provided more than 10,000 bilingual books to the community, something that is key in supporting biliteracy. I have been on the AWAKE board for three years, we provide summer educational programs for free to kids in the community. I was the secretary my first year, co-president my second year, and currently serve as the president of the board. I also am a part of Lincoln’s PTSA and volunteer at events throughout the school year.
3. Why are you running for the school board? What objectives do you hope the district achieves while you are on the board?
My four main objectives are:
-More special education professional development for ALL teachers, specifically for general education teachers.
-Reviewing the dual language program and making it a stronger two-way dual language program.
-Improving parent involvement across the board but especially at the middle school.
-Creating a teacher advisory board, apart from the union one, that routinely meets with the school board to help build and strengthen the relationship between teachers and the board.
4. For non-incumbents, how many school board meetings did you attend before September of 2022?
Before September of 2022 I attended several meetings, a few in person and few virtually. I stopped attending because they continued to be virtual despite students being back in person. They are now in-person again.
5. The district's test scores dropped by 50% after the pandemic. What do you think the district should do to try to catch students up academically?
They should reconcile that as a nation, scores have dropped everywhere. We can’t expect our teachers and our children to make this up in a year when we are still dealing with the social emotional issues that have affected EVERYONE due to the pandemic. The district should continue to strive for excellence as they have throughout the nationwide pandemic but also investing in the social emotional health of our children.
6. Before the pandemic, the district's teacher retention rate was lower than the state average and the absentee rate was higher than the state average.
Last year, the district had a severe shortage of substitute teachers. What do you think the district should do about the teacher shortage and retention?
Again, shortage of substitute teachers is a nationwide problem. One way that the district could address this, and maybe they already have, is by looking into nearby colleges and universities. Offering benefits that nearby districts may not offer, such as paid holidays, might also entice substitutes to be loyal to our district. I believe that offering incentives such as bonuses for being bilingual or an LBS1 would also be beneficial to retaining teachers. District 98 teacher pay is pretty equitable to the districts around us, if not better.
7. Last spring, students gave a presentation to the board asking to drop the dress code. Do you support or oppose the dress code? Please explain why?
I oppose the dress code in the elementary schools for multiple reasons:
-Although there is a claim that uniforms eliminate the pressure on low-income families, that is not the reality in today’s economic climate. Many families rely on hand me downs, charitable donations, and resale. This makes buying uniforms difficult.
-Strict uniform policies also increase student absences. I’ve always lived by the policy that I rather have the student in the school than in the right clothing. Many parents would rather avoid receiving a phone call that their child is out of uniform or their child getting detention and choose not to send them to school.
-Uniforms also limit one of the few places that kids are able to express their creativity!
-Schools with a BIPOC student population of 50% or more are four times more likely to require uniforms than those with a BIPOC population of 20 to 49%. We shouldn’t be creating policies around racial lines.
8. Last spring, the district purchased the old 16th street theater building at 6508 16th street for $517,000 and is currently spending money to renovate the building and turn it into a District Food Center and Culinary Arts Center? Do you support or oppose this? Please explain why you support or oppose.
At this time the district has provided the public little information about the building, but I support this project as long as the students have access to this building, through the Culinary Art Center and other opportunities. If the district is going to invest that much money into a building, I would expect it to be a building that students will be able to use on a daily basis and that will enhance their learning experience.
9. In 2019, the board voted 5 to 2 to extend the Roosevelt Road TIF District for 12 years, thereby reducing the district's revenue over that 12 year period by millions of dollars.
Do you support or oppose the extension of the Roosevelt Road TIF District? Please explain why?
I 100% oppose the extension of the Roosevelt Road TIF District. We are losing revenue that would have greatly benefited our students and families. Funds that could have been used to buy a new sound system for the Lincoln Middle School theater club or to give the Havlicek auditorium a makeover. These additional funds could have been used to hire additional crossing guards so that we know our children are safe while walking to school. We could have used the funds to build a sensory room in every building for our students with autism. Think of how far our school district would have come if we had not had a TIF for almost three decades.