With eleven candidates running for four open seats on Barrington 220’s Board of Education (BOE), it’s a crowded race. Voter priorities include refining best practices after lessons learned during Covid-19, the future education and safety of our students and stewardship of the $147M voter-approved bond referendum for planned school improvements, district-wide.
Barry Altshuler, Leah Collister-Lazzari and Angela Wilcox will remain in their positions. Board President, Penny Kazmier and Gavin Newman are not seeing reelection. Incumbents, Sandra Ficke-Bradford and Mike Shackleton are among the twelve who will be on the April 6th, 2021 ballot.
To help inform our decisions on election day, we’ve reached out the list of candidates which, in addition to incumbents Sandra Ficke Bradford and Mike Shackleton, includes Thomas J. Mitoraj, Lauren Berkowitz Klauer, Jonathan Matta, Erin Chan Ding, Katie Karam, Malgorzata McGonigal, William Betz, Robert Windon and Steve Wang. The election is coming up on April 6, 2021.
Find all published profiles at 365Barrington.com/220BOE.
Today, we’re getting to know more about Jonathan Matta who says the focus of his professional experience has been finding creative solutions to complex problems. He also believes in putting student needs first with equal emphasis on both academic and social emotional learning.
Meet the Candidate: Jonathan Matta
365: Where is your original home and family? What brought you to Barrington? How long have you lived here and what do you love about our community?
I grew up in Arlington Heights, IL. My parents both passed away when I was in my 20’s; Father of alcoholism and Mother of cancer. My job, in an unconventional sense, brought us to Barrington. Due to my profession of using design to help re-imagine learning inside of school based systems, I had a wide purview of schools/Districts across the United States, and Barrington had key drivers that we wanted when thinking about raising our family. Specifically, the population of Barrington combined with it being a community unit K-12. We have long maintained that a community unit K-12 allows for community partnership, collaboration, and intentional user journey as it relates to the student. We have lived in Barrington since 2012, and we love the historic nature of the Village, ability to walk to town, and the friendships our family has made. There are special people here that we’ve met and for whom we are grateful for.
365: How would you describe your experience to-date with learning in Barrington 220?
We have 3 children; a 12 year old who is in 7th grade at Prairie Middle School, a 10 year old who is in 4th grade at Hough Street School, and a 4 year old, who is in preschool, and will attend Hough Street School in 2021/22.
Our lives, and those of our children, have been touched by the teacher’s in our District. Anecdotally, I often wear a Barrington ‘B’ hat when I travel, always wearing it on my flight home due to my pride for our small town. Mutually, when we think about success stories in the world, we often hear about how a teacher saw something in a student that the student him/herself didn’t even see. I feel our public education system in Barrington has historically done a great job at putting the student first; forming authentic relationships, caring for the individual user, and putting their needs first. We have seen an organic regard for relationship, which supports social and emotional forms of learning. We don’t need to look to far in the world to know that EQ translates into life long human success more than IQ, and while our District seeks to maintain a historical track record of academic excellence, we continue to advocate for, and see, social and emotional excellence playing out daily in how our kids have been supported by their teachers.
365: What is motivating you to run for school board now and why are you a good fit for the role?
I’m running to be a member of our school board to for 3 reasons:
- User Obsession: When we think about the question “What is School for?” – I believe, and my profession in designing human centered solutions for users, is that our focus needs to always be on the student user, their experience, and their journey.
- Creative Leadership: My design background is all about using creativity to solve complex problems. When we think about being a community district, I champion a regard for collaboration with our community, providing dynamic relationships that reward the student user, and organically foster openness and transparency.
- Strategy & Vision: The complexity of the current environment will create social changes in norms associated with school/education. Add to this an approved bond referendum, and I seek to help our community and the District maximize what we design, and why we design it, all with the goal, again, of rewarding our student users and the community. I believe we can be the most dynamic K-12 student destination in the U.S., and creating an aligned vision that we can execute upon is key to this.
365: What are your short-term goals for Barrington 220? What are your longer-term goals for our school district?
Short term, I believe we need to restore logic and reason, absent of emotion, affect, and politics, to the decisions we make. These should begin with the users’ interest at the core of the decisions we make. Again, user = students. A big part of the short term focus on user experience dovetails into what long term goals are; a strategic, and aligned, community vision for the learner’s journey, and how the current bond referendum supports user experience and outcomes.
365: What are your biggest concerns for our students and our school district today?
My biggest concern is that our students are not well represented across the District. When I think about my own family, we have a view into elementary and middle. If I were to earn an elected role, my first full year would see a Kindergartener, a Middle Schooler, and a High Schooler; I personally have felt that as a District we tend to lop-side our focus on the High School experience. While this isn’t wrong, I do believe we don’t have full focus on early learners and middle learners at all times, particularly as it relates to decisions we make.
365: What do you think are the biggest opportunities we have for our students/school district today?
I believe the biggest opportunity we have is to design the learning experience in our Community for the student users. While we are a diverse community, we tend to have a laser focus on University placement and academic excellence. For me, as someone who personally struggled with University, and has found profession by way of passion and experience in unconventional ways, I believe we need to explore, and restore, programs that empower students to connect their passion to their learning, and develop agency and confidence to create and contribute. Think of things like INCubatoredu, and entrepreneurship in general. I’d like to see more programatic offerings that support the growth of the student by way of rewarding hard work, real creation, grit, and endurance. I also believe that we have an opportunity to be a community and District that applies, again, creative leadership to complex problems, absent of affect and personal emotion.
365: In your view, what should our priorities be as a community in choosing the new school board members?
I believe our community will benefit from those who seek to serve the District, the students, and the community, by way of holistic view, and a deep and authentic connection to the community and the schools. It’s hard enough to have direct empathy these days for what our kids go through day to day; now imagine having Board Members who have a singular view, or singular objective, in serving a 4 year term. That doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t believe our community and our schools benefit from that. I also believe that while this year has brought a lot of tension forth, we need people who seek to work together, creatively, despite differences. There was a time in our Country where we believed that what made us different was what made us strong, and rather than division and divide, we need board members that have the skill set, experience, and willingness to find commonalities amidst differences, all in support of the student user.
365: What’s at risk with the wrong leadership in place?
The risks are substantial should we not have the right leadership in place. The School is really the beacon of the community and Barrington, and for the same reasons that my family moved here, we see so many doing the same; perhaps even more now, than ever. Barrington is a great place to raise a family, with access to opportunity and a global City like Chicago. However, absent of user experience as the focus for our District; absent of creative leadership for our District; and absent of vision and strategy that optimizes the current bond spend, as to not have to request more from our tax payers – we lose much of what has made us so dynamic. I ultimately fear that dynamic families won’t seek Barrington in the way that many of us did as a great place to raise one’s family.
365: Any favorite words to live by? From whom and why?
My current favorite words to live by are “you learn to fight or you learn to die.” This is largely born from life experience. I also like the simplicity of, and often say, “the truth is all that matters.” I also value the quote “humility is knowing that rain falls equally on all things.” I feel grateful to have been molded and shaped by many, and genuinely count my blessings for my Wife and our Children; they fuel me to be better, to grow, and to serve.
365: What’s one of your favorite things to do or places to be in Barrington, with whom and why?
We live in the Village, near Hough Street School. Without question my personal favorite Barrington events are 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas, and the respective events the Village does surrounding each. To see the joy it brings my family and broadly all, and how it connects our Community; how could someone not love those experiences? I also love Friday night lights at the High School; even if I’m just sitting in my own backyard, I can hear the announcers and the crowd. Not having that this Fall served as a reminder of how quickly things can change, and how at best, we seek to have influence, yet falsely believe we have control.
Stay tuned for more Barrington 220 Board of Education candidate profiles in the weeks ahead. We’ve reached out to all twelve of them and are publishing profiles in the order in which we receive. (Click links to view profiles already published about Thomas Mitoraj & Lauren Berkowitz Klauer) Our schools are a big part of what gives Barrington its unique character and we appreciate all who are willing to help lead the way on behalf of Barrington families, children and young adults.
Formed in 1973, Barrington Community Unit School District 220 educates over 9,000 students at one high school, two middle schools (grades 6-8), eight elementary schools, and one early childhood center. District 220 encompasses 72 square miles in 4 counties and covers 12 villages: all of Barrington, Lake Barrington, Tower Lakes; and portions of Barrington Hills, Carpentersville, Deer Park, Fox River Grove, Port Barrington, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, North Barrington, and South Barrington. Learn more at Barrington220.org.