You may have seen signs or flyers referring “the caucus”, but you might wonder what exactly this “caucus” is and who are the members of the Caucus. The short answer is that the Caucus is a broad non-partisan cross-section of the D112 community that has equal representation from each D112 school and includes both caucus members who still have children in D112 schools as well as those who do not and can therefore represent the interests of the members of the D112 community who do not have children enrolled in District schools.
In addition, you should know that the Caucus is made up of approximately fifty of friends and neighbors who have agreed to give up five evenings to study the role of a school board member, develop a questionnaire, and to take the time to review and analyze these questionairres. The Caucus culminated in this same group of friends and neighbors giving up an entire November Saturday (this year from 7:00 a.m. to nearly 6:00 p.m.) to hear from the candidates and to work collaboratively toward a super majority slate of endorsed candidates. The Caucus members are not paid for their time.
The D112 Caucus was formed ___ years ago to do the hard work of candidate evaluation so that members of the community who (understandably) chose not to undertake such a deep dive could nonetheless receive the benefit of the views who have engaged in such a deep study and evaluation. The Caucus is formed every four years to evaluate the candidates who indicate their intention to run for one of the open seats on the D112 Board, either entirely new candidates or incumbents running for reelection.
The Caucus is designed to be diverse and representative of the community at large. It is not, we repeat not, a partisan entity. The Caucus does not take positions on any issue and merely exists to evaluate candidate qualifications and to make endorsements to the community based on these evaluations.
When the PTOs were contacted this election cycle with the request to select Caucus members, they were asked ton consider the following qualities which Caucus leadership has identified as ideal characteristics of an effective Caucus delegate:
● Remembering the ultimate stakeholder in this effort...our children: It’s important for delegates to remember that the caucus process is not about them … ultimately it is about the current and future students in the District.
● Approaching the experience in a spirit of open-mindedness: We can’t overstress how important it is for caucus delegates to enter the process with an open mind. Board members are likely to face any number of currently unanticipated challenges over the course of their four year terms. It is impossible to anticipate them all (besides reconfiguration, there are curriculum, personnel, discipline, programs and resources, the administration of IEPs and the like, emergencies, transportation, FOIA requests and so much more). Just because a potential candidate agrees with you on one issue today doesn’t mean that the same candidate is qualified to deal with the issues that will be before the Board in the future. We are not looking for delegates who will subject potential candidates to strict litmus tests; we are looking for delegates who are prepared to listen to what potential candidates have to say and to evaluate those candidates in light of the characteristics identified by the Caucus as integral to a functional Board.
● Being willing to compromise: It’s easy to forget that our District is actually pretty diverse, that there are many very different perspectives in the community and that students have widely varying educational, social, emotional and physical needs and backgrounds. Most voters don’t currently have children in the District. There will be delegates with widely different opinions. Unless delegates are prepared for some give and take, deadlock is a strong possibility. Similarly, no potential candidate is likely to be in complete agreement with any delegate. Delegates need to be willing to compromise (to look at the candidate’s qualities and capacity to serve the entire community and not just their current opinions) for the Caucus to work well.
● Being open to listening and learning: Delegates need to be committed to listening and learning. If delegates are only interested in hearing opinions with which they agree, the Caucus will find itself at loggerheads. Only if delegates are willing to actively listen in an effort to get a feel for the commitment and qualities of the candidates are we able to work together to find qualified candidates who also are committed to listening and learning.
● Being committed to the process: The Caucus functions effectively only if the people involved in it are committed to making it work. The questions we ask potential candidates don’t write themselves. The questioning of candidates is most effective when it comes from the Caucus as a whole and not just from one or two people. Being part of the Caucus means committing to the determinations of the Caucus, abiding by the result of the voting and supporting the endorsed candidates, even if they weren’t your first choice. This can be hard to do, but the Caucus works best if delegates are committed to standing with their Caucus’ decisions.
● Be willing to look at the big picture: This overlaps with some of the earlier points, but it’s important. We need delegates who reflect the many parts of the community and who can take the concerns and needs of the entire community into account. We need delegates who can get beyond what is on Board’s agenda for the next couple of months in order to look for candidates who have the qualities needed to serve effectively on the Board for the next four years.
● Approach the process in a spirit of civility: We want delegates who are willing to engage in debate and discussion, but they need to approach fellow delegates and the candidates with respect. Everyone -- the other delegates, current Board members and potential candidates -- is volunteering their time; we want to show that we appreciate the effort.
● Be able to keep confidential discussions confidential: The Caucus is only successful if delegates are comfortable expressing their views without fear of those discussions being broadcast across social media. No one’s interests are served when there is talk about who said what about whom during the Caucus’ deliberations. The bylaws require the confidentiality of the discussions during the endorsement session. The ability to keep a confidence needs to be taken into account when selecting delegates.
This list is far from complete. But we hope that it helps in identifying some of the qualities that make for effective Caucus delegates.