Elizabeth O Jimenez 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 Elizabeth O. Jiménez and I am 54 years-old. I have been a resident of Berwyn South since 1999. At the age of 10 my parents brought me and my siblings from Mexico to live with them. They were living in Pilsen and we lived there until I graduated high school. Later we moved to Little Village and lived there until I married and moved to Logan Square, eventually settling in Berwyn where I found a place to call home. I am a single mother of three adult children who all graduated from District 100 schools. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Education with a focus on Multicultural Education from Illinois State University and two endorsements. One in bilingual education and one in English as a Second Language. I earned a Master’s degree from Concordia University in School Leadership. I am currently a 3rd grade bilingual teacher in DuPage County.
2. Please provide activities and experience in the community that you have.
When I moved to Berwyn in 1999 and I enrolled my eldest child in the D100 schools I started volunteering in the different school events. Later as my children were growing I became involved with the Piper PTA and was the treasurer for some years, and also became Heritage PTSA treasurer. At the school district level, I have been part of the District Advisory Committee for Educational Excellence(DACEE) since the beginning of DACEE. I was a member of SBEF South Berwyn Education Foundation and SBEA South Berwyn Education Association until 2014 when I left my 2nd grade teaching position at Pershing School. I was elected to the D100 School Board in 2015 and since I have been Vice-President two times. I was the Secretary for the All Berwyn Committee on two different occasions for a couple of years on both terms. I was a member of AWAKE an organization committed to Building Our Community · Investing in Youth · Educational Opportunities · Community Engagement. Co-founder of Berwyn Comunidad en Accion. A grassroots collective of Berwyn people fighting for migrant, racial, and social justice. I am an NEA Directro - National Education Association Director representing over 130K members at the national level. I was just recently electeted for a second term, This position allows me to lobby in Washington D.C. for education funding, title I funding, student loan forgiveness, and other issues that support public education, and our schools.
3. Why are you running for the school board?
I am running for re-election for the D100 School board. From the first time I ran and now my objective has been to retain teachers and attract a diverse group of educators. In addition to having an open dialogue with our community and having representation that reflects the student population.
What objectives do you hope the district achieves while you are on the board?
One very important objective that I believe will support students and our community is to increase teacher retention. While D100 has made great improvements in retaining teachers I feel that we can continue on improving it. According to the Illinois Report Card in 2017 the teacher retention was reported as 77.2% and in 2014 was much lower. In 2022 D100 had a 81.9% retention which was a huge gain from when I became a board member.
4. For non-incumbents, how many school board meetings did you attend before September of 2022?
5. What organizations are supporting your candidacy (either implicitly or explicitly)? What public officials or current or former elected officials are supporting your candidacy?
Myself and the slate I am running with are being supported by the Your Berwyn PAC. The slate has just recently been endorsed by the South Berwyn Education Association SBEA which is the D100 teachers union.
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?
Unfortunately, Covid has affected all of us in so many ways. Children were the ones that were affected the most. Not only academically, but socially and emotionally. Educators and teachers all over the nation are overwhelmed and I know that the D100 teachers have done phenomenal jobs during covid and are continuing to do so. The teachers need support that will help them meet students at their level. We need to remember that a teacher's teaching conditions are our student’s learning conditions. For that reason I believe that focusing on supporting the teachers so that they can focus on supporting the students. We can make sure that we include interventionists that meet students in smaller groups not only in ELA, but also in Math. Also, supporting the Dual language classrooms and our ELL students that are in the general education classrooms. In addition, focusing on the social and emotional learning of the educators and our students.
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?
I do not know all the facts why families are leaving the district. Some have mentioned not getting enough value for the taxes they pay in Berwyn and being distrustful of local government.
Do you believe that this is an issue that District 100 should address?
As a board member of a local taxing body, I believe we must do more with what we are given.
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 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?
As a member of the Board of Education I have no comment on this incident you are referring to since it is a personnel and student issue and protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
On the Sarah Lopez issue I believe that anyone that feels comfortable expressing racial slurs to other have a problem and unfortunately they may feel that they are not in the wrong. However, racism doesn't have to be part of the structures and systems that we live in and I was glad that she resigned from the school board.
What efforts do you think the district should undertake to be racially more sensitive?
I believe that the D100 is making efforts to be racially sensitive. The state of Illinois has mandatory implicit bias training for educators and last year along with some community members, board member Joel Gonzalez and I worked to create an Equity & Anti-Racist Resolution. The school district has also implemented a District Equity and Advocacy Resources Committee. I believe that while the implicit bias training is mandatory it should be ongoing training for personnel. In addition the school district should implement ongoing cultural sensitive training. Also, incorporating culturally relevant pedagogy that will help students and it will support their cultural identities while developing their knowledge in at least one other culture.
The following is the link to the resolution.
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.
When the school code policy took place all three of my children were in either elementary or high school. It was easier for me as a single mother to focus on my children and for them to focus on school rather than on what other children were wearing and they were not. I believe that uniforms reduce peer pressure and bullying. When students are wearing the same uniform it may enhance school pride and school spirit. Also, I support allowing girls to wear black pants so they do not have to worry when they have their menstrual cycle.
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 taxpayer.
If you had served on the board at the time, which plan (tax rate rollback or abatement) would you have supported? Please explain why.
When the 2017 referendum was proposed I asked, “How much will the increase be?”. I was told that it would be only $2M. Unfortunately due to it being in a triennial year the money D100 received from the referendum was more than we asked for. I advocated for the rollback and the abatement. I continued to do so because I believed that we had to maintain the intention of the referendum which was the $2M.
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 on 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? 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.
I voted NO. I opposed and voted against the use of the lookback in November of 2019. I voted against it because it was the right thing to do.
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?
I opposed the proposal to build the homes next to Freedom School.
If you had been on the board at the time, how would you have voted? Please explain why?
I opposed building Ridgeland Estates for many reasons, one being safety issues for our students. Building 29 residential homes near the school that has no green space is unacceptable. Allowing 29 homes would have increased traffic in the area. Since the time I first heard the property was for sale I wanted D100 to purchase it. I know how difficult it is to find green space in Berwyn and this was one in a lifetime opportunity to do so. Green space next to school will prompt growth and prosperity for our students. Students would be able to socialize and it would help them in being in community with each other. In addition, research has found many benefits with green space near schools. Green space provides “mental, physical and social developmental benefits''. Our students deserve opportunities that are accessible including green space where they can run, walk or simply enjoy.
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?
While I know that the property at 3000 Ridgeland was too high I supported the purchase. Freedom staff have a limited number of spaces available to park. Our students do not have green space to walk and our parents do not have access to park when attending after school events. Due to the lack of parking spaces many of the employees are forced to park away from school and they have to walk under the viaduct and it may not be safe for those teachers that have to stay to work late. Not having enough spaces to park also limits parents to participate in after school events.
Also, many in our community may not be aware that when looking for space to build Freedom Middle school the then D100 Board looked for property and the only land they were able to acquire is where Freedom is built now. If you look at the property it is built in an irregular shape. I know for a fact that the increase and decrease of students in a school district fluctuate and in my opinion we do not want to be in a position that we do not have space for our future students if needed. I would support community input to make a decision on how the rest of the space can be used.
If you had been on the board at the time, how would you have voted? Please explain why?
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?
I oppose the extension of the Depot District TIF. When TIFs are created, they take money away from public education.