One of eleven candidates running for Barrington 220 Board of Education (BOE), incumbent Sandra Ficke-Bradford says her 12 years serving on the board will bring invaluable experience and continuity to our school district during a time of great transition.
Emotions are high with the community divided on how the district has handled learning during the pandemic. The new board will oversee new equity initiatives, teachers union contract negotiations and facilities improvements to be funded by $147 million in bonds approved by voters in the 2020 referendum. This as Barrington prepares to welcome the community’s new superintendent of schools in July.
Voters will choose four Barrington 220 board members on the April 6th ballot, early voting is underway now and we’re continuing our candidate profiles today by getting to know more about Sandra Ficke-Bradford.
Ficke-Bradford is one of two incumbents on the list of eleven BOE candidates including Lauren Berkowitz Klauer, William Betz, Erin Chan Ding, Katie Karam, Jonathan Matta, Malgorzata McGonigal, Thomas J. Mitoraj, Mike Shackleton, Robert Windon and Steve Wang.
Find all published profiles at 365Barrington.com/220BOE.
Here’s more about Sandra Ficke-Bradford’s background, her experience and why she says the community stands to benefit from her continued leadership.
Meet the Candidate: Sandra Ficke-Bradford
365: What brought you to Barrington? How long have you lived here and what made it feel like home to you?
Name: Neal and I moved to Barrington from out of state 20 years ago, choosing the Barrington area mainly for the schools. I was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and Neal grew up in Texas. We both come from families of educators and public servants. We understand not just the importance of public schools, but the service required by the community to ensure the schools’ excellence.
Right from the start we were committed to finding ways to contribute to the community. As a young couple starting a family, the Barrington United Methodist Church (BUMC) was among the first organizations to welcome us in the community. Over the years, I served BUMC on the Building Committee (following the fire of 1998), the Futures Committee, and the Human Sexuality Design Team. Neal served on the BUMC Missions Committee, was a Chief in Indian Guides and most recently he served as the freshman BHS football parent liaison.
365: How would you describe what your family’s experience has been with learning in Barrington 220?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: We have three children, two of whom have already graduated from high school and our youngest is currently a sophomore at Barrington High School. Our children attended A.C. Lines, Grove Avenue, BMS Station and BHS. With three children, each with very diverse interests, it has been extremely beneficial to grow up in a community and a school district whose breadth of offerings and across-the-board excellence has prepared them to pursue very different paths!
Our oldest, Emma, graduated from BHS in 2017. Thanks in large part to her academic experience in Barrington, she was extremely successful in her college pursuit. Not only did she receive merit offers from top universities, but we were shocked she had already earned more than 50 credit hours simply based on AP classes at BHS. Ultimately, she accepted a full academic scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, where she has been able to concentrate on a unique combination of anthropology and computer science engineering as a member of the Honors College. We often hear that BHS preparedness gives our graduates a sizable head start compared to other districts, and we certainly found that to be true in her case.
Our second child, Jackson, likewise benefited from Barrington schools on his journey to become a professional dancer. Jackson’s passion for dance began in Barrington at the Bataille Academie for Danse. While at BHS, he danced with BHS Orchesis and Dancewerks. When Jackson determined that his path to become a professional dancer required him to attend the Chicago Academy for the Arts (CAA), his mentors from BMS Station, BHS, local dance studios and the community provided the support he needed to achieve this goal. Moreover, his strong foundation in both academics and fine arts made his transition from public to private a smooth one. Jackson graduated with a dance degree from CAA in 2020 and he is currently pursuing a dance career as a professional dancer at Ballet West.
Our youngest, Maxwell, is a sophomore at Barrington High School. Maxwell is a dedicated athlete, competing in both BHS Baseball and Football. Like his brother, Maxwell found his love for sports in the Barrington community, growing up with Barrington Youth Football, Baseball and Wrestling. His coaches and mentors contributed to his athletic success by creating a fun and fair competitive atmosphere throughout his years of playing. Today, having a son in high school, we are keenly attuned to the challenges of pandemic learning as well as playing sports during a global pandemic. Not only do we have a deep empathy and understanding of the challenges faced by families in the district, but we have a real-time perspective on what has worked, what hasn’t and how best to move forward for the benefit of our kids and community during this evolving public health crisis.
The benefit of a Barrington education can be illustrated in a personal story. When my daughter, Emma was a junior we attended a college recruiting event out of state and were among the last in line to shake hands with an Ivy League recruiter. It was getting late and we could see that the recruiter wanted to wrap things up. When Emma finally had the opportunity to introduce herself, and mentioned she was a student at Barrington High School, the recruiter suddenly stopped and took more time to talk with Emma. He said he knew about Barrington, and he gave her his business card. He did that for no other student at the late hour. Witnessing first hand that Barrington’s reputation for excellence was well known to this Ivy League recruiter, I couldn’t help but feel proud as both a parent and a school board member.
365: Why are you running to be a member of the school board? What kind of impact do you hope to make? How has your experience prepared you for this role at this time?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: The past several months have prompted me to make a frank and honest assessment of where we are as a school district, where I think we could be headed, and what I can personally contribute to the unfolding future and success of the district. A number of factors, beyond the encouragement of my son and my family, motivated me to run.
Perhaps the greatest reason for my decision is that this year will bring a fresh board with more new faces than we have seen in previous years. While I look forward to the new energy and enthusiasm this new board will bring, I believe that it is important for me to provide invaluable insight, historical grounding, continuity, and extensive operational experience, which will be necessary in navigating some of the issues this board will confront – in some cases for the first time ever – in an informed and effective manner.
For example, a 10-year strategic plan, which expired at the end of 2020 and needs to be swiftly revisited, finalized, and executed. The community-approved bond $147 million referendum needs to be implemented to bring our facilities to the desired safety and educational expectations. The teachers union contract as well as a complex, 72-square-mile transportation contract will need to be completed. I look forward to developing an organic camaraderie working with these new board members toward a common goal of excellence in our district and in the spirit of open communication, compromise, cooperation and unity.
As a longstanding Board member, I have been part of the 2010-2020 strategic plan (still in place, until a new plan is formalized) since its inception. Witnessing this plan come to fruition was not just rewarding but eerily prescient because that plan prepared us for a pandemic no one saw coming. Ahead of our time, we had implemented technology solutions giving students remote access to technology and empowering staff to adapt the curriculum accordingly. We had implemented a calendar change enabling a break between semesters for students. We were among few school districts in the nation who were able to meet a lockdown on Friday and be ready to educate on Monday. Globally, we were entering uncharted territory, with pass-fail lessons for all of us unfolding on a day-by-day basis. While we realize it wasn’t perfect, our foresight and technology investment enabled us to put some of the most critical worries aside, prioritizing content delivery, effectiveness, and the well-being and safety of district families and staff, without needing to develop an emergency technology infrastructure on a parallel and extremely rushed timeframe.
It feels strange to say that I have more school board experience than all the continuing school board members combined. Unfortunately, this means that I alone know what 10 years actually looks like, as we are tasked with building a new strategic plan to meet the next 10 years. My 12+ years of experience serving the district-wide community will bring invaluable perspective and continuity as a board member. I am well positioned to efficiently and effectively serve without a steep learning curve on complicated periodic business items such as teacher and transportation contracts. I have in-depth understanding of what a full contract or plan cycle looks like and I can provide important context about what has and has not worked in the past. I am extraordinarily qualified to meet the urgent needs of the moment and am fully committed to upholding a high standard of excellence in the district. If elected, I will continue to be accessible to our community and to act in both a proactive and fiscally responsible manner for the benefit of our children.
Another key reason I decided to seek reelection is the chance to work with a new and highly anticipated superintendent. This summer, the Barrington family welcomes Dr. Hunt as the new Superintendent of 220 schools. I am confident that my experience will be invaluable in helping Dr. Hunt accelerate his acclimation to Barrington. Together, we will engage and work with the community to establish the next 10 years of strategic goals and priorities, with particular focus on addressing and overcoming the pandemic education gap.
I am proud that I was involved in the hiring of our first Director of Equity, Race and Cultural Diversity Initiatives, Nate Rouse, as well as the adoption of the related Equity Statement. Within a few short months, we have already witnessed the positive impact he has had in the district and the community in terms of establishing important partnerships with Be The Change Barrington (BTCB), B-Strong Together, the Barrington Area Library, and Courageous Conversations for No Name Calling Week 2021. I look forward to working with Director Rouse in order to continue leading the initiative for racial equity in our district.
As of this year’s election I will have served on the Board for nearly 12 years. During my tenure, I have held the positions of Secretary and Vice President and served six years on the Policy Committee and six years on the Finance Committee. I have also served on the Labor Management, Insurance and Resource Allocation Committees. As a member of the Board I have been involved in hiring two Superintendents and negotiating several Barrington Education Association (BEA) and Barrington School Employees Organization (BSEO) contracts, including those which will come due during the tenure of the newly seated board. During my tenure on the Finance Committee, we contributed to the now-22 consecutive years’ balanced budget and began DSEB borrowing from ourselves and engaged in an energy savings program, saving thousands of dollars annually. When I served on the Policy Committee, I had the opportunity to review each and every board policy. This was a necessary step when we migrated to an enhanced software platform, which we initiated specifically to enhance transparency and be more user-friendly for members of our community. If re-elected, I would be able to utilize my in-depth knowledge of board policy to ensure the smooth operations of the board.
At the end of the day I would like to continue to serve on the Board because I love Barrington schools and I truly believe that I have made and will continue to make a positive impact on our district. I am driven every day to make our schools the best they can be, and I feel an important sense of responsibility to continue doing so. I am committed to making decisions that are in the best interest of the students, staff and the community, while taking seriously the input of our families and the measurable impact the board’s decisions have on our children and our community. As a result, I would welcome the opportunity to prepare and mentor this new board so that we can consistently and seamlessly continue to lead the district towards a brighter future.
365: What are your biggest concerns for our students and our school district today?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: In my opinion, the most immediate concern is addressing the pandemic education gap. While this work has already begun, I believe it should remain a primary focus for the foreseeable future. As a district, we must work toward ensuring that our students are not only prepared to return to full-time in-class instruction, but also that they are prepared for the next stage in their academic career whether that be high school or college. This pandemic has impacted our children and our community in a myriad of ways. The challenges of the pandemic have affected us all, and the solutions must be a combined effort. We have witnessed so much division over the last year, and I am hopeful that we can come together as a board and as a community to recognize that we are all working towards the same goal: the academic success and social and emotional wellbeing of our children. We all understand that there are downsides to distance learning, just as there are downsides to in-person learning under current health guidelines and restrictions. There are also great positives to be found in both, and great opportunities for innovation and creativity. We should not fight with our neighbors. Instead we should find new and constructive ways to reach a solution through open communication and compromise. I think we, as a school board, with new initiatives, fresh faces, and a new superintendent can accomplish this—but only with the support of our community, our teachers, and our children.
I am proud of how the teachers and certified staff have strived to serve student needs during the pandemic. When all is said and done, our teachers and staff—whether old faces or new, whether current or future—are the greatest asset we have in Barrington. They have a tremendous ability to impact our students and families. While the end of the 2020 school year was not ideal and the first half of the 2020-21 school year was difficult, I have seen firsthand the lessons learned and enormous growth by both teachers and administrators. They have tirelessly developed creative solutions to make the best of a horrible situation and implemented consistent improvements along the way. Education is fluid, not static, and today we are challenged like never before. I believe there are silver linings yet to be found and applied, just as I know there are challenges yet to be discovered and conquered. I look forward to the opportunity to think outside the box to meet the educational needs of the students and families in the Barrington school community.
365: What do you think are the biggest opportunities we have for our students/school district today?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: Communication can be improved so that students and families are aware of the many, many opportunities and programs already in existence. Did you know, for example, that the Barrington Transition Program educates students until the age of 22? How about the Business Incubator course believed to be the first of its kind in the nation? I plan to continue working on transparency with the staff and community. I am especially encouraged to work more on this issue with a new board and superintendent. We are fortunate to live in an outstanding district with an engaged community, excellent teachers and motivated students; I am dedicated to expanding the dialogue between community and staff.
In addition to opportunities already mentioned, we have considerable opportunities in new academics and trade programs, recently funded facilities improvements, and even in delivering on existing opportunities that have been under-communicated and are ripe for buildout.
I would like to look for ways to expand and/or enhance our student program offerings with an eye to introducing students to new areas of academics and trades. It is critical to consider how the industry and workforce needs have changed as a result of the pandemic, and to explore what these changes mean for the future study/work landscape for our children. From there, we should work backwards to ensure that we prepare our children to meet and thrive in a new post-pandemic economy the moment they exit our premises.
This board will also have direct influence on how the 2020 referendum dollars are spent. The crowded facilities in District 220 were one of my primary motivations to get involved at the district level more than a decade ago. For example, the mobile classrooms are not a good long-term solution and will need to be replaced. Other buildings are showing their age and have not seen significant renovations in 20 years. The High School was built over 70 years ago. Facilities planning is important to ensure we are best utilizing the space available and can plan for the needs of the future.
365: What do you love about our community?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: I love the kindness, involvement, and traditions of the Barrington community. The 4th of July parade, Art in the Barn, Cruise Night and the Farmer’s Market are some of my favorite “small-town” events that really bring us all closer as a community. I have also witnessed Barringon’s ability to come together, support one another, and form initiatives through organizations like B-Strong Together and Be The Change Barrington (BTCB).
Last November I partnered with BTCB to host a Virtual Vigil: Barrington Is Kind: A Vigil for Barrington’s LGBTQ Youth. The vigil was organized in response to a deeply hurtful and shocking event, which personally impacted my family. While driving home from Utah in October we were notified by a neighbor that our house and garage had been vandalized by spraypaint and defaced with offensive graffiti and slurs. It was horrifying to think that someone in our community would do this. Out of this sadness, however, came great love as friends, neighbors and others in the community rallied around us to show their support. Neighbors lent us a tarp to cover the graffiti; friends decorated our yard with signs of love and acceptance; and many people reached out to us to express empathy and solidarity. The culmination of this support was found in the intimate and impactful virtual vigil, which included several community speakers, a guided discussion, some time for reflection, and an at-home candle lighting. Following the event, an elementary teacher told me she was inspired to change her reading curriculum to incorporate the story of Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for her work in the Civil War; she shared with me that Mary also liked to wear pants. I know that this great love and support prevails in the Barrington community and this was just one example of that.
I also love the fact that I have enjoyed both a bird’s-eye administrator view, from my seat on the school board, and an on-the-ground family view, from my role as a mother in the district. Sometimes one is brighter than the other, and sometimes it feels the other way around. But more often than not, the perspective of both is invaluable.
365: What’s one of your favorite things to do or places to be in Barrington, with whom and why?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: We enjoy watching students and community members doing what they love by attending fine arts and athletic events. Even when our children were not yet enrolled in school, we attended parades and events as early as 2001. When traveling, we have had the great joy to watch BHS graduates perform in Broadway productions in New York City & Detroit, as well as train for the Olympics in Park City.
While in Barrington, I like to bring guests to dine at the Canteen for breakfast or lunch. I have met colleagues there from as far as Singapore and as near as Schaumburg, who have come to visit and enjoy our community.
365: Do you have any favorite role models who made a lasting impact on you & why? Any favorite words to live by? From whom and why?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: The words and wisdom of my mother, Marion Ficke, influence me daily. She taught me to be kind, treat everyone with respect, be enthusiastic and serve my community. I rarely saw my mother without a smile. Marion approached life with kindness and love whether recruiting someone for the need of the day or listening to a problem that needed to be solved.
My mother also valued public education and service. Both of my parents served on booster boards together while my siblings and I were in school; my father serves on the Foundation Board to this day. In this vein, I like to quote something my husband Neal said as we discussed filling out questionnaires for this election: “Public education is the cornerstone of the American democracy.” My family and I believe that to be true. A country is only as strong as its education, and its education is only as strong as that available to everyone, without regard to ability to pay. And that education—the public education—is only as strong as the families and communities that support it.
365: Where may we find more information about you and your campaign?
Sandra Ficke-Bradford: SandraFor220.com.
Voter priorities in this election 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. There have been two candidate forums in March. Barrington 220’s PTO President’s Council hosted the first forum on March 3rd.
The second candidates forum was hosted on March 13th by the League of Women Voters, Palatine Area.
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 eleven who will be on the April 6th, 2021 ballot.
Stay tuned for more Barrington 220 Board of Education candidate profiles in the days ahead. With the April 6th election fast approaching and early voting underway now, we’ll be sharing our final profiles this week.
Find all published profiles at 365Barrington.com/220BOE.
Barrington’s 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.