Born and raised in Barrington, Katie Karam is a mother-of-three who has devoted her time in recent years to volunteering for the Barrington 220 School District. Leadership roles on the PTO have given her valuable insight into what it takes to keep our district running at the schools level daily. With three children who will be attending three different Barrington schools this year, Katie has a vested interest in the future of our district. That’s why she has stepped up to become one on a crowded list of candidates running for four open seats on Barrington 220’s Board of Education (BOE).
The BOA has big decisions on the horizon with a brand new Superintendent of Schools, lessons to digest from the COVID-19 pandemic and management of the $147 Million voters approved to spend on 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 seeking reelection. Incumbents, Sandra Ficke-Bradford and Mike Shackleton are among those who will be on the April 6th, 2021 ballot.
To help inform our decisions on election day, we’ve reached out to all on the list candidates which, in addition to the incumbents, includes Thomas J. Mitoraj, Lauren Berkowitz Klauer, Jonathan Matta, Erin Chan Ding, Robert Windon, William Betz, Alex Michael Strobl, Steve Wang, Maggie McGonigal and Katie Karam. We’ll be sharing each profile between now and election day.
Katie says she’s running with serious concerns about learning loss and the state of our students’ mental health due to the Barrington 220’s approach to education during COVID-19. She also wants to ensure fiscal discipline and transparency about how district tax dollars are spent, among other goals. Here’s more about Katie’s background and her reasons for running.
Meet the Candidate: Katie Karam
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?
Katie Karam: I was born and raised in Barrington. My parents moved here with my 4 siblings in 1969 and set about raising their family in our wonderful community. I went to Countryside, Barrington Middle School (now Station) and graduated from Barrington High School – Class of ’95! My husband, Chris, and I were living in Chicago when we had our third child and decided it was time to make the move to the suburbs. We knew we would be lucky to settle in Barrington, close to my family, and in an historic Schoolhouse I had admired since I was a child. Barrington is such a special community, and while much has changed through the years, the best parts have stayed the same.
365: What grades are your children in today? How would you describe what your experience has been with learning in Barrington 220?
Katie Karam: I have three children, an 8th grader, 6th grader, and a 4th grader. Starting next year, I will have a child at Barrington High School, Prairie Middle School, and Roslyn Road Elementary School! It is very interesting to watch your children attend the very same schools and programs you also went through. Seeing it as a mom, I now realize how lucky I was to attend D220 schools. Roslyn Road has nurtured and treated my children like family and I honestly dread that next year will be our final year in this supportive and enriching environment. We are so lucky to have such amazing teachers and support staff that truly care about our children and want them to succeed. I have found the teachers and staff at Prairie MS also go above and beyond for our children. In particular, my son’s time on Cross Country and Track & Field helped him grow as an athlete and individual. I will admit though, it is an adjustment to go from elementary to middle school and I assume I will say the same next year when my son moves on to BHS. The importance of our schools and teachers in our children’s lives has never been more apparent as I watch my children longing to return to school. We made the difficult decision to move our 8th grader to Saint Anne’s after Thanksgiving as he was struggling both academically and mentally. I am thankful we were able to make this move as I know it is not an option for everyone. The change in him after one week was shocking to me and reinforced the importance of our schools in our children’s lives. It also motivated me to fight to give our children a voice and a choice to return to in-person learning.
365: What is motivating you to run for school board now and why are you a good fit for the role?
Katie Karam: When we moved to Barrington, I knew the best way to meet people was to get involved. To that end, I determined to get involved in organizations that have a positive impact throughout the Barrington community, including joining Barrington Junior Women’s Club, helping my family organize an annual event benefitting our nation’s veterans, Barrington Honor Ride and Run, and joining the Roslyn Road PTO. I have served on our PTO Board for several years and my time there has shown me how much work goes into supporting the children of D220. Whether raising money to build our new playground, funding a schoolwide assembly, organizing a variety show, volunteering in a classroom, there are so many details that go into the success of just one school. I will forever understand and appreciate the volunteer efforts that help keep our District running. I know this will obviously be amplified as a Board member and I look forward to the opportunity to serve our entire District as I believe our schools are the heart of our community.
365: What are your short-term goals for Barrington 220?
Katie Karam: ”I will start with the obvious one, I believe our children deserve the choice to return to fulltime in-person school. A superior education nurtures their development academically, socially, and emotionally, and that means, getting them back into the classroom and keeping them there, while, of course, prioritizing their safety and the safety of their teachers. This also means having a plan in place so we do not find ourselves in this position again. We cannot have another situation where we spend months “kicking the can” down the road and never accomplishing anything more than providing false hope and frustration. I also believe we must focus on the mental health crisis a generation of children now find themselves in. We need a plan in place to address the needs of our children as they return to school after an unprecedented year. We also need a plan in place to deal with the learning loss associated with distance learning. As we stayed remote, many districts returned to in-person learning. We need to reassure our children, especially at the high school level, that we will do whatever it takes to address learning loss and keep D220 a top Illinois school district. The “middle of the road” children are especially vulnerable at this time as it has been very easy for them to get lost in the Zoom shuffle.”
365: What are your longer-term goals for our school district?
Katie Karam: “Long term, I would like to focus on fiscal discipline in our District by increasing transparency and being fiscally responsible with our taxpayer’s money. Clearly articulating how our tax dollars are being spent and making sure they are allocated to the activities that produce the highest educational returns for our children is paramount. We just passed a $147 million-dollar referendum and I know the community would like complete transparency on how that money is being allocated, how projects benefit our children and our community, and the timeline of project priorities. Lastly, a personal goal, setting term limits for the BOE and safeguarding the voice of our community. Our world is evolving, and as such, the representation of our community needs to evolve. Our Board needs to represent the diversity of our District to ensure we are meeting the needs of all our children, while balancing the legitimate concerns of all taxpayers who fund our District.”
365: What are your biggest concerns for our students and our school district today?
Katie Karam: “I am very concerned about our world’s dependency on technology and social media. Especially after a year spent at home learning through Zoom, we need to focus our children’s mental health and the importance of personal interaction, activities, sports. My worry from this year is that while technology may have allowed our children to continue their education, it has also increased their dependency. I am also worried about the divide this year has brought to our community. I truly believe that in the end we all want what is best for our children and our District.”
365: What do you think are the biggest opportunities we have for our students/school district today?
Katie Karam: ”D220 is at a turning point as we have just hired a new Superintendent. The Board will have the important task of ushering in our new Superintendent, and it is their responsibility to ensure the success of that transition. We are blessed with so many resources in D220, amazing teachers, a wonderful support staff, strong coaches, motivated parents, hardworking students, and a great community that will rally behind our District. We all want our children to succeed and I know we can all work together to keep D220 a thriving district and one we are all proud to support.”
365: In your view, what should our priorities be as a community in choosing the new school board members?
Katie Karam: “I believe our community should prioritize choosing school board members who have skin in the game and have firsthand knowledge of how decisions the Board makes affects our children. Wanting to give our children a choice to return to in-person learning may have been my final push to run for the BOE, but I also understand that is only one issue in a much larger picture. I have followed BOE meetings for years, filled out every survey sent out, read up on the Board’s priorities, and I have grown increasingly concerned that the Board’s decisions do not always reflect the voice of the community. The Board must represent parents, students, and taxpayers.”
365: What’s at risk with the wrong leadership in place?
Katie Karam: ”I fear the wrong leadership could lead to a further divide within our community. That is why I will make a pledge to only running for two terms if elected. It is vital the BOE stays current and has a continuous influx of fresh ideas and leadership.”
365: Do you have any favorite role models who made a lasting impression on you?
Katie Karam: “My parents, Marimarie and Frank Konicek, are the best role models I could ask for. They taught by example and raised us with a love of family, community, running, and philanthropy. One of my Dad’s favorite mottos is, “No pain, no gain” and I have applied this to so many aspects of my life. You need to put in your all so you know you did everything you could to affect a positive outcome. It is no use complaining about something if you aren’t willing to put in the effort to try and change it. Since I grew up here, I constantly run into people who tell me how wonderful my parents are, I was lucky to be raised by the best.”
365: What’s one of your favorite things to do or places to be in Barrington, with whom and why?
Katie Karam: “Wow, I’m not sure how to sum up a town I have lived in most of my life. I think I will start with the people; I love having friends from all stages of my life here. I think it says a lot about a town when so many of us chose to return and raise our own children here. My family is crazy about our love of exercise and there are so many wonderful running trails around our area.”
Katie: “Also, so many local shops and restaurants new and old. I love the support our community has shown to our local establishments during this year. They are all such an important part of our community and every single one has supported our schools and PTOs over the years, I am glad to do the same when they need the support.”
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 Jonathan Matta, Thomas Mitoraj, Lauren Berkowitz Klauer & Erin Chan Ding.) 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.