League of Women Voters of McHenry County Hosts Candidate Forum for D47 Board of Ed

I was honored to participate in a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of McHenry County.  The forum took place over zoom and recorded last night at 6pm.  The League of Women Voters were very professional and I learned a lot from participating.

The biggest takeaway I got was that I am very different from all the other candidates and they are very much the same.  I got the impression that some of the educators running feel like they are deserving of a position on the board because of their expertise in education.  Being on the Board of Education is the next step for their career; another thing to add to their resume.  Besides myself there is only one other non educator running.

Here are a few points I made.  I was the only candidate that opposed the Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards put forth by the Illinois State Board of Education. Based on the answers of my opponents, it appeared that they did not even read the standards.  They all sounded like they were reading talking points from a biased main stream media article.

I was the only candidate that discussed the statistics found on the Illinois Report Card for Academic Progress for the district.  I was the only one that found those statistics concerning.

I was the only candidate who felt that the district needs to address the mental health crisis that our students are experiencing due to the shut down of the schools.  Some candidates said that the district needs to meet the social emotional needs of our students, but no one admitted that this is indeed a crisis.

I was the only one that pointed out that the district needs to do a better job preparing our eighth graders for high-school.  According to the Illinois Report Card for Academic Progress for Lundahl Middle School, in 2019-20, only 38% of eighth graders passed Algebra 1.  As a parent and a taxpayer, I find this very concerning.

Here are my responses to their questions.

Opening Statement

I wasn’t given enough time to state my complete opening statement. This is what I would have said, “Thank you League of Women Voters for hosting us.  I am honored to be here with these remarkable and accomplished candidates. My name is Cascia Talbert.  I am a mother of five special needs children. Three of whom attend D47 schools. My husband and I moved our family out to Crystal Lake in 2014. We chose Crystal Lake because of the great schools. I am a professional writer and published my first book in 2018.”

“I am running for Board of Education to fill a need in our community.  When covid hit and the schools were shut down, my children were negatively impacted. (I was cut off here.) My children’s needs were not met. I reached out to other parents who had the same concerns.  Many of whom spoke up at board meetings, but felt that their voices were not heard, their concerns were not being met. I felt like I needed to do much more than just discuss these concerns with other parents.”

“The Board of Education needs a strong advocate for the students and families in D47.  I care about our community and the families and the children that attend our schools. I will listen to all those families looking for direction, be the voice for all those in need of one and be a community leader that makes a difference.”

What do you know about the Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards put forth by the Illinois State Board of Education and what is your viewpoint on them?

“I have read and understand them and I find the standards abhorrent. ISBE states, ‘The culturally responsible teacher will embrace and encourage progressive viewpoints and perspectives that leverage asset thinking toward traditionally marginalized populations.’ ”

“ISBE is forcing teachers to embrace only one viewpoint.  These standards impose a political litmus test on teachers to get or keep a job in the Illinois Educational system.  I don’t care what side of the political spectrum my child’s teachers are on.  They should teach our children to think, not how to think. Political views, morals and values should be taught in the home, not in the classroom.”

What is your position for vocational education for those students who are not college bound?

“Vocational education is important for all students. Like my colleague said you can start teaching vocational education as early as sixth grade. I also think that some vocational skills can be taught as early as elementary school. Vocational education not only prepares students who are not college bound for a rewarding and high paying job in a trade, it also teaches life skills that every student should learn in order to become responsible, self-sufficient adults.”

How can a board know if its goals are being accomplished and its policies carried out?

“I agree with my colleague that it is important to determine what the goals for the district are by looking at the strategic plan.  I also believe that schools must look at academic progress. For example, if you take a look at the Illinois Report Card for District 47 you will learn that in 2019-2020 only 36% of students met the target for their grade level in ELA; 6% exceeded. Now let’s take a look at math. Only 37% met the target for their grade level and 5% exceeded.  This is slightly better than the state average of 27% and 5%, but as a parent and a tax payer this is very concerning. My tax dollars fund the schools and they are providing me with a less than average service.”


What experience/skills have prepared you to serve as a school board member?

“As a mother of five special needs children I have exceptional organization skills.  I published a book in 2018, so I have writing skills. I have managed a household budget for a family of seven.  I have leadership skills. For twelve years I ran an online magazine where I managed 200 independent authors.  As a mother of children with special needs I have a thorough understanding of and first hand experience with the districts IEP program and special education services. I am also a professional flutist and have experience teaching music.”

If you were given three choices of what to do with a budget surplus, which would you choose and why?

a) Return it to the taxpayers

b) Return registration fees to parents

c) Provide teachers with hazard pay if they have been in the classroom with students this school year

d) Keep the money as a surplus in the district funds

“It would depend how much the surplus is. If it is a massive amount I would certainly return some of it to the tax payers. If it was a small amount it would be best to keep it in the district funds. The teachers were well taken care of this past school year, so they do not need hazard pay.”

What are the current challenges facing this school district? What is your vision for education in this community?

“There are several challenges facing D47. The first being getting the students caught up academically. Our children lost a year of education due to the closing of the schools. Another challenge is how the district is going to address the mental health crisis that our students are experiencing. Therapists are swamped and some have long waiting lists. Is the district going to provide a similar service for those students that can not afford outside therapy? The district also needs to better prepare our eighth graders for high-school. According to the Illinois Report Card, in 2019-2020, only 38% of eighth graders at Lundahl Middle School passed Algebra 1.  The district needs to improve on academics so that more than half of students meet the state standards in ELA and math.  As a parent and a tax payer the academic progress statistics found in the Illinois Report Card for D47 is very concerning. My vision for education is that teachers teach our students to think and how to become responsible adults.” My explanation in the forum was not as complete as the above paragraph. I wish I had more time to answer the questions.


The moderator threw in one more question that we did not get ahead of time.  She basically stated that health experts think that another health crisis is eminent. What has the district learned from this pandemic and what should they do if another one arises?

I didn’t have much time to plan for this one. I basically stated that the district didn’t have a plan for this pandemic. Some things worked and some things did not. It is important that they provide a plan that will benefit all the students in the district.

This is what I should have said and would have said if I had time to prepare for this question. “Shutting down the schools completely for as long as the district did was a mistake.  The shut down and remote learning should have been much shorter. We all know that children learn better in person in a classroom than over a computer. Other school districts were open for much of the year, some the whole school year. The district should have come up with a plan to keep as many kids as possible in the buildings. We need to take a look at what other districts did to stay open longer and implement those strategies into a plan just in case this happens again.”

Closing Statement

“The Board of Education should be an accurate representation of the community of Crystal Lake.  After all, the schools are funded by the tax payers.  It is also important to have a strong parent leader who will advocate for the best interests of all the students in the district. I will bring common sense to the board of education and put our students first when making decisions. I have the necessary skills and experiences to help improve the schools in District 47. You can contact me on Facebook at Open D47 and 155 Schools for in Person Learning.”

These candidate forums are meant to educate the public on the issues and where the candidates stand.  Local elections are more important than national elections because the people in the community are directly impacted by the decisions made by local leaders.  I enjoyed participating in this forum and am looking forward to the next one on Tuesday night.


Cascia Talbert is a Catholic mother of five special needs kids. In 2018 she published the book, "Taking Care of Your Family's Health and Well-Being, Saints to Turn to and the Catholic Faith," available anywhere books are sold. She is also a professional flutist and an Avon Independent Sales Representative. You can learn more about Cascia on the following websites, cjsfunandgames.com and avoncrystallake.com. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, children and Baby, the playful black kitty.

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