Catherine O'Keefe: 2021 candidate for Lincolnshire-Prairie View Dist. 103 school board
Seven candidates are seeking the four Lincolnshire-Prairie View District 103 school board seats in the April 6, 2021 election.
Civic involvement: Previous Popcorn Kernel for Cub Scout Troop 78 (managing sales to raise funds), current board member Camp One In A Hundred (a local day camp that was created to help children who have challenges establishing and maintaining friendships develop social language skills within a positive summer day camp experience, combining executive functioning skill development and social thinking skills)
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I am running for member of the d103 Board of Education because I want to support the teachers and other vital staff who have given my children an excellent experience at all 3 schools of our district. I am particularly motivated to find ways to support programs for students with special needs and try to improve things for those students and their families.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The members of the current BOE could never have anticipated or planned for the situation they were faced with in the past year. They have had to balance the ongoing developments in science, the personal needs and fears of a variety of families in the district, and the unfortunate politicization of a health crisis. While there were some bumps in the road with coming up with a solution for our district, mainly in the areas of making parents feel heard and communication from the schools, I feel the board has, overall, done well under a great deal of pressure.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: As COVID-19 is a medical issue, none of the issues associated with it can be addressed without evidence-based science. As a medically trained professional, I see that as my priority for addressing COVID as a potential board member. I feel strongly qualified to aid others in understanding and utilizing the resources and direction provided by the Center for Disease Control and state and county health departments. Sometimes science fits with popular opinion, and sometimes it does not. While all opinions need to be heard and concerns addressed with compassion and respect, ultimately my perspective on handling the pandemic will follow the science.
It is critical to note that the ongoing handling of the pandemic is far from the only, and arguably not the most important, role of the BOE. Equity among students, diversity and the day-to-day needs of the staff and students are issues that are always present and should not be forgotten, as well as the less exciting day-to-day maintenance of district business.
Q: Did your district continue to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: Based on my experience as well as speaking with parents from d103 and other districts, I feel that our district was able to adequately serve students during the disruption caused by the pandemic. One particularly sensible choice was to establish a curriculum that would be consistent for all students in a grade, whether they were learning in-person or remotely. This supported equity between those groups and also made transitions from one mode to the other possible with as little disruption to learning as possible.
However, some students who require educational supports were not as well served in those areas as they should have been, a situation that needs to be fixed if we continue with a hybrid or remote model in the future.
Q: Do you have a plan on how to safely and effectively conduct classes in the spring? What have you learned from the fall semester that you would change in the spring?
A: While there were some missteps at the beginning especially concerning communication, the current approach to the challenges the pandemic gives our schools is solid and could be continued next fall. We may even be able to safely loosen up safety guidelines, as guided by the various health organizations, by that time. But the board needs to make sure that those students who need special services are not left behind.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: While there is no high school in d103, I agree with the CDC that caution must be exercised in deciding how to handle sports in the high school setting. Until the number of cases is significantly lower, sports with high levels of exertion and close contact, especially those played indoors, should be limited. Sports with greater distance between participants, less exertion or played outdoors can be continued with caution. As the situation currently stands, I also think travel to different communities for sports competitions is an unnecessary risk. Hopefully, if we all remain careful and conscientious, these competitions can resume with precautions soon.