Michelle Katz 2019

Candidate Questionnaire

 

Michelle Parker-Katz

Why do you want to serve on the Board of Directors for the RPFC?

In what I heard and saw at the first RFPC event I attended and in subsequent times with RFPC members, community seems key. I like the inclusive nature of the RFPC mission and how the wide array of activities fits with that. Becoming a part of helping support growth for RFPC, which I perceive as part of the Board participation, touches upon a personal life goal for me at this point in my life. For a while, I have sought ways to participate in community engagement in my personal life, outside my work spaces in which community engagement is also pivotal.  “Engagement” is key to me because I truly believe that by working together in communities, we can make changes that can promote equity and justice for all persons. Through a cooperative venture that is non-profit and focused on health, I truly see possibilities for community organization and changes in resource allocation.  Moreover, in the Rodgers Park area we see wide diversity in terms of social class, race, language and ethnicity. That could invite robust opportunities for diverse viewpoints, foods and greater community connection. I would like to be a part of supporting that.

What is your passion? How could we see that passion in action in your day-to-day life?

I am passionate about being “aware” of myself in relation to others, and being part of a collective. I have become more and more passionate about the ways those ideas fit together; that is, a state of mindfulness while being a part of a joint mission. In my daily life, I aim to practice awareness through regularly exercising, doing yoga at home and eat with intention (even when I cheat! I aim to stay calm and problem-solve in challenging situations by gathering information, weighing it all together and checking with other people who can advise and make suggestions. The give and take, so to speak, of self-awareness and being part of a group is exhilarating in the sense that individuals can care for themselves - but also mindful about how that might affect others. “It takes a village” to create and sustain caring. I am passionate about ways we can better our world through that focus.

List some of the organizations, causes, initiatives, and groups of which you have been a part. How do you believe you involvement with these groups have prepared you to serve on the RPFC Board of Directors?

In my professional work as an educator committed to urban public schooling, I am in spaces where I can work with others to interrupt and disrupt the disparity of resources that too often plague Chicago communities. As part of that, I engage with many Chicago public school (CPS) educators in elementary and high schools to support individual students, teachers and families.  That work is focused on students with disabilities gaining specialized services, and preparing educators to provide leadership in enabling change. I work with CPS to craft and support new teachers to grow and sustain commitment to Chicago students. I also am part of research projects and community engagement related to that. I have been active at the state of IL level by serving on the Executive Board of the IL Teacher Education Division of the Council of Exceptional Children. I also provide workshops to After School Matters in Chicago.  Aside from the professional and service commitments, I am a member of Indivisible Evanston and participated in postcard writing and canvassing for the 2018 national elections.

Describe an experience in which you worked on a team.

I truly enjoy working collaboratively through work and in my personal life. Through work, I engage with persons across many different organizations to form partnerships (several described in #3). I like to design and conduct research in teams, and that also includes collaboratively writing grants, presentations and professional publications.  

Most recently, I found the election work with Indivisible Evanston to be very rewarding.  In addition to postcard writing, I canvassed from door to door. I went out with a group to our particular region, did the training, and then asked one experienced person to go with me for the first 20 minutes. I watched; I rehearsed with his guidance; I went on my own. I appreciated gaining from my “guide”, gaining a lot from his critique, too.

Briefly describe two or three possible ways you could handle the following situation. How you would ultimately act?

You've recently been elected to the RPFC Board. A close friend and local food producer privately asks you to help her business by having the Board publicly denounce the alleged unethical business practices of her closest competitor, whose products are already sold at RPFC. The business owner says she will deeply discount RPFC orders for her product for a year if you help her.

I would see any connection with that person related to anything that is part of RPFC work as a conflict of interest and also ethically quite wrong. I would talk with my friend and likely tell her I am uncomfortable with her suggestion because I see it as a conflict of my interests and as a kind of revenge using parties and entities that are not to be used in that way. I would say I will talk with my Board colleagues. Ultimately, I would ask my Board colleagues about best next steps to explain the situation to my friend and exit the conflict. At this point, I see absolutely no circumstances in which such a deal could be made.

Could you share with us some ideas you may have for owner recruitment to the co-op?

I have been thinking about ways we might recruit from the university communities nearby. A lower rate for students might make joining more appealing and possible.  They could also add innovative ideas that could help us grow. I could imagine that the lower rate might help more join, and thus make up the difference.

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