Amanda Drenth 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.
Amanda Drenth, 46, I grew up in Maywood, IL. I received my high school education from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Master’s degree from Roosevelt University in Elementary Education (summa cum laude), endorsed to teach middle school science. Currently employed as an education consultant, I have a spouse and three children. We have lived in Berwyn since 2013. We have strong roots here, as my spouse grew up in Berwyn.
2. Please provide activities and experience in the community that you have.
As a former teacher here and a parent of children who attended the D100 schools, I have participated in many community events over the years for students and the community, i.e. supply give back initiative, science nights, literacy nights, talent shows, back to school picnics, etc. I engaged in the campaign and door-knocked for the school referendum. I co-chaired with Summer Butler, the committee for the inaugural and second annual Juneteenth for Berwyn. I have attended, donated to and supported the local AWAKE non-profit. I am my daughter’s local girl scout assistant troop leader. As a vocalist, I have participated in multiple local fests with my band, performing music at places like Proksa park.
3. Why are you running for the school board? What objectives do you hope the district achieves while you are on the board?
I love our community. I want to be a part of making positive changes in our school district. Until last year, I served as a teacher in D100 for 8 years. I am committed to advocacy. During my tenure in the district, I helped protect transgendered student rights, bolstered after school science programs & wrote science curricula, served on the equity committee (DEAR committee), and in the last 4 years served as Vice President and Co-President of the teachers’ union. As a parent, educator, activist and community member myself, I understand the importance of having different perspectives and equity of voice at any table. My experiences working in the district have shown me what changes we could make to improve. I am running so I can advocate for some of those changes to happen, for the betterment of the students and community.
Some objectives I hope the district achieves include more support for teachers. I would like to see more hiring of full and part-time teaching assistants (TAs) to support schools. Classroom teachers, and special education teachers could use more support across the board in our district. I would like to see coaches in every school site, not spread across multiple schools. I would like to implement some changes to the dual language program to ensure that it is sustainable for years. I would like to see more resources for district programs to address diverse learners; everything from opportunities for accelerated programming, to more afterschool programming and community support. I would like to have a look at the process by which we hire new staff. Another objective around support is a stronger relationship of cooperation between the board and the South Berwyn Education Association (SBEA).
4. For non-incumbents, how many school board meetings did you attend before September of 2022?
I have attended so many meetings as a teacher and as union leadership that this question is hard for me to answer. However, attendance of school board meetings prior to Sept.
‘22 includes the pandemic, and I would never begrudge anyone for not attending in person. With
the availability and access to all the meetings in real time online, it’s irrelevant how many one
has attended in person, as you can still watch and keep yourself up to date.
5. What organizations are supporting your candidacy (either implicitly or explicitly)?
Your Berwyn Pac is supporting our slate’s candidacy. We have garnered the endorsement of the South Berwyn Education Association (SBEA); something that they have not done as a union for over 10 years. It’s hard to say who supports us implicitly.
What public officials or current or former elected officials are supporting your Candidacy?
Alderman Rob Pabon
Alderman Joe Carmichael
6. COVID - The district's test scores dropped from 30% in 2019 to 18% in 2022 in English and from 30% in 2019 to 17% in 2022 in Math. Statewide scores did not drop as dramatically.
What do you think the district should do to try to catch students up academically?
There are a lot of reasons why state scores do not match up to our local scores, and while I get why we like to compare ourselves to something, I don’t know if state scores would be the most appropriate comparison. That aside, any time there is unfinished learning and unfinished teaching, students may struggle to make up the ground. This is especially true in a community with a lot of low income families who don’t have the luxury to provide for things like outside tutoring, etc. Whenever any students need more support, teachers and districts need to implement best practices of pedagogy, invest in high quality curricula with embedded rigor, and invest in professional learning for staff to meet any challenges. Those challenges should also be met with more staff support. There have always been students who need support. The pandemic promoted many challenges and exposed weaknesses in our national education systems at large.
7. Working class families leave District 100 - Enrollment has declined in District 100 over the past 5 years from between 3700 to 3800 students to 3100 students. The percentage of families with a median income below the national average also declined from 81% to 64%. Why do you think working class families have been leaving the district? Do you believe that this is an issue that District 100 should address?
This question might be better directed to elected city officials and/or the BDC who may have data on it. I will give my opinion as to why I think folks are leaving, but it would be only an opinion. Folks have many reasons for leaving a community. However, I have felt the impact of increased property taxes, and it would be an understandable reason for leaving. D100 can make Berwyn a desirable place to live by cultivating strong schools and investing in our teachers and students. Care must be taken though, because if those in charge of financial stewardship focus only on aggrandizing the district, they may not be mindful that it will cause a financial burden that many community members may not be able to sustain.
8. Racism - Sarah Lopez, a former member of the District 100 board, was fired from her job with the city of Berwyn for making racial slurs against a city contractor. She resigned from the District 100 board after the incident became public. There was also a case in the district where the district was sued by an African-American family because their daughter was allegedly pulled by her hair through the hall by a district administrator. Do you know this statement above to be true?
I don’t know more than what the news reported.
Do you think the termination of Lopez from her employment with the city and her resignation from the board was justified? Or do you believe that she was unjustly Terminated?
In my opinion, anyone who spouts racist slurs openly or covertly should not hold any position where they are making policy or serving black and brown communities. If they were, their racist views would undoubtedly play a role in their actions; and opportunities would be present for them to exact prejudice against members of the community. I do not believe she was unjustly terminated. Her resignation from the board was justified.
What efforts do you think the district should undertake to be racially more sensitive?
I was a member of the Equity Committee (DEAR) in D100, so I know that some efforts in the district are already ongoing, but there needs to be a more intentional effort on the part of the district. There is never an end to this work. Everyone should do the work required to understand one’s own implicit biases, personally. The district can promote those efforts by being an agent for positive change in our community. We can do this by understanding our student population and their families better, garnering strong community connections, revisiting hiring practices, and dismantling deficit thinking around our students.
9. Dress code - District 100 currently has a dress code for students in the upper grades. Do you support or oppose the dress code? Please explain why.
I am in favor of any policy that creates equity for students. I personally have no problem with a dress code as long as they are equitable. Dress codes to a degree eliminate social pressures of fashion, which can be financially burdensome. Furthermore it creates an opportunity within the community to pay it forward with uniform exchanges. Students grow so quickly, and exchanges like that ease the burden of having to purchase new clothes over and over.
10. Tax increase - In 2017, the tax levy increased by 50% from $13.5 million to $19.5 million due to a tax rate increase. Residents had passed a tax rate increase referendum that proponents stated would increase the levy by 15%, not 50%. To rectify the situation, the board rolled back the tax rate increase. Another plan that was presented to the board was to keep the tax rate as is and abate money back to the tax payer. If you had served on the board at the time, which plan (tax rate rollback or abatement) would you have supported? Please explain why.
I am not privy to all of the financials that surrounded both of these options. I am sure there was a lot of guidance that the board members were afforded to make a determination. So I cannot give an informed answer.
11. Use of look-back to restore tax rate - In 2019, the district had the option of undoing the tax rate rollback from the previous year using the "lookback" option allowed under state law. The board passed a levy in 2019 that used the lookback option and increased the tax levy by 10%, which was above the cost of living cap. If you had served in the board at the time, would you have supported or opposed the use of the lookback to increase the tax levy by 10% and restore the previous tax rate? Please explain why?
I am not privy to all of the financial information tied to the lookback and levy. I am sure there was a lot of guidance that the board members were afforded to make a determination. So I cannot give an informed answer. I will say that all the board members must move with mindfulness about the balance of supporting students/schools and stewardship of the funds the district receives.
Also, all of the candidates in 2019 stated publicly that they would not pursue the lookback option. Then some of the candidates who were elected then voted for the levy that used the lookback. If you were one of those candidates who stated that you would not pursue the lookback and then voted for the levy that used the lookback, please explain why you went back on your promise to not pursue the lookback.
12. Ridgeland Estates - In 2021, the city approved a project to build 29 single family homes on the property at 3000 Ridgeland, the area immediately north of Freedom Middle School. Part of the proposal was to use the Freedom School driveway as the south alley to the homes and to give the district the property west of Freedom School where a stormwater detention vault for the homes would be built. In exchange, the district would receive $250,000 in TIF funds to build a parking lot west of the school and the alley would have served as a second fire lane to the west side of the school. The originally proposed contract between the city and the developer specified that the developer would receive all of its TIF money before District 100 received any TIF money. Many people opposed the project because of traffic safety concerns and other issues. Others supported the plan because the district would get a parking lot and a second fire lane. Did you support or oppose the proposal? If you had been on the board at the time, how would you have voted? Please explain why?
As a citizen, I opposed the proposal as it would create more population density and excessive traffic in an already wildly congested corridor of Ridgeland Avenue. I was not on the board, so I did not see any of the information and details about the proposal. Without it, I cannot say how I would have voted.
13. Purchase of 3000 Ridgeland - In October of 2022, the district purchased the property at 3000 Ridgeland from Kasper Development, the developer that was going to build the Ridgeland Estates homes. Kasper had purchased the property from Physician's Records for $900,000 the year before and had razed the property. The assessed value of the property at the time District 100 purchased the property was less than $800,000. The district purchased the property for $2.4 million. Do you support or oppose the purchase of the property at 3000 Ridgeland for $2.4 million? If you had been on the board at the time, how would you have voted? Please explain why?
As a citizen, I am glad that the school district acquired the property. Berwyn has a finite amount of real estate, and it being right next to our schools creates a great future opportunity. That said, I have no idea what type of financial information the board was provided, nor am I privy to any of the negotiations that occurred, so I cannot answer in an informed way.
14. Depot District TIF extension - In May of 2019, the city presented to the district a proposal to extend the Depot District TIF district for 12 years. Extending the TIF district would cost the district a loss of property tax revenue of $4.8 million dollars over the 12 year period. Do you support or oppose the extension of the Depot District TIF? Please explain your reasoning.
There are never easy answers to these questions, but I will say that generally I do not like to support initiatives that cause the district to sustain a loss of funds over time.