Melissa Mourtissen 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
I am a 45 year old single parent of one 5 year old who attends dual language pre-school at Prairie Oak. I have lived in Berwyn for 6.5 years. As a child and young adult, my family and I moved a lot for work and school but I consider myself growing up in Glenwood and Glendale Heights. I am a full professor of political science at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. I am a first generation college student with a PhD in urban and American politics from UIC, an MA in American Foreign Policy from The George Washington University, a BA in political studies from UIS and an AA in liberal arts from Triton College. I am also the Executive Director of the Illinois Political Science Association.
2. Please provide activities and experience in the community that you have.
Politically I have been involved with the Your Berwyn campaigns since their genesis in 2020. However, I attended rallies (for instance, BLM mural) and marches (for instance, the march for child migrants during the Trump administration). I also ran for Berwyn Democratic Committeeperson in 2022. Socially, my son and I participate in most of NBPD’s programs. We patronize Berwyn businesses as much as possible especially my son’s favorite pizza, DiNico’s. Prior to school my son attended three different home daycares in Berwyn.
3. Why are you running for the school board? What objectives do you hope the district achieves while you are on the board?
I am running for school board to bring a stronger voice for pre-school education as it is instrumental for many families. I am also running to bring the voice of a career public educator and unionist to the board so that it can better see the same issues through this important lens.
4. For non-incumbents, how many school board meetings did you attend before September of 2022?
Four or five over the course of my living in Berwyn, but I did not keep track.
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?
As a community college educator, I am feeling the effects of students’ education disruption due to the pandemic. If by “the district” you mean the administration, then the “district” needs to rely on the expertise of the teachers who are in the classroom and listen to the things they are saying. In many districts, the problems stemming from the pandemic that have contributed to lower scores have stemmed from outside the classroom. They could be aided with wrap-around services such as increased funding for social workers. Standardized test scores should not be the gold standard of anything – they are one piece of information that is attractive to the public because they are easy to accumulate and put on a website. But they do not represent the totality of student learning – nor should they. Test scores tell us only that – what the student did on that day on that exam. Most of the exams are problematic to begin with, and do not measure things, like growth, that really matter. In the classroom, I do not rely on test scores alone – instead a combination of assessment materials that gauge in a more holistic manner the learning of my students.
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?
The teachers that feel supported are the teachers that stay. So a better question to ask would be, do teachers feel supported? If not, why? The board needs to have real conversations with teachers past and present to assess this. And when they do, they need to be prepared to act on the things that teachers want and need.
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?
Yes, I support dropping the dress code. Dress codes themselves often disproportionately punish female students and students of color. The fact that the board insists on keeping the dress code in D201 is nonsensical at best and sexist and punitive at worse.
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.
I support a building for this purpose. The district does need a better way to serve food and nutrition should be a priority. At COD we have one of the best culinary programs in the state, so I do see first-hand culinary arts as a growing field and the benefits of students being exposed at a younger age to this very viable career path.
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 oppose the extension of the Roosevelt Road TIF district. I am fundamentally opposed to TIF districts and am heavily influenced by the work of Tom Tresser and Civic Lab. There are plenty of ways to incentivize business without stealing money from schools. The need for jobs usually dominates this conversation, but what kinds of jobs are we creating on Roosevelt Road with this money? Are Berwyn residents benefitting? Are Berwyn students prepared for these jobs? Weren’t two of the questions about learning loss and teacher retention? These issues are not separate. The more we divest in our schools the less we can expect from them.