Dana Dalton Wiley: 2021 candidate for Huntley District 158 school board

  • Dana Dalton Wiley

    Dana Dalton Wiley

 
Updated 3/3/2021 10:23 AM

10 candidates are running for four, 4-year seats on the Huntley School District 158 board. Tara Masino did not complete a questionnaire.

Bio

 

Village: Huntley

Occupation: Senior Proposal Project Manager

Employer: Duck Creek Technologies, Inc.

Civic involvement: Lake in the Hills Youth Athletic Association secretary 2009-2010; Chesak Martin PTA Vice President 2008, President 2009-2017; Huntley Youth Football Fundraiser Chair 2017-2019, Team Mom 2011-2017; D158 Strategic Planning Committee 2011; Girls on the Run Coach for Martin Elementary 2017-2019; Huntley High School Parent Power Team 2018; Huntley High School Athletic Boosters Concessions Chair 2018-2019, Vice President 2020; Huntley High School Football Team Mom 2018-2021; St. Mary Catholic Church Religious Education Volunteer 2012-2016

Q&A

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. This is the first office for which I am running in a public election. I have contemplated running for the Board for many years. I have a long time passion for volunteer work. I have worked in the community for the last 13 years in some volunteer capacity.

I enjoy working with others to think of new ideas, implement different concepts, and enact positive changes. Because I have been visible in our community people feel comfortable approaching me to talk about their concerns, and hear their suggestions. People know I follow through on my commitments.

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The past year has shown me that our Board needs to look deeper to best set policies for our district that are in the best interest of the entire school community. We need to open the lines of communication to listen and engage the constituents- our taxpayers. I hear the frustrations that are dividing our community. We need to work together to allow families the choice they want and deserve, and give our staff the tools needed to be back in school. This is my turn to give back to the community and the district that we have called home and raised our family in for the last 17 years. I want to give back in what I consider to be one of the most important roles in local government- our Board of Education.

Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?

A. When schools were forced to go remote last March 2020, I think our district was far more well prepared for remote learning than many others. I was proud of the work that had been done that allowed us to go remote so quickly. I felt we used our innovation to lead the county in our approach very well given the circumstances and time to prepare.

I have been less than impressed with the planning and implementation of learning our district has done since the end of the 2020 school year, and into 2021. Much of what we have been provided are "guidelines," not mandates or rules. The ownership of how to implement those guidelines were placed into each district. Our district had surveyed what families wanted, and it was clear the majority wanted to be back in the classrooms. Many staff also wanted to be back. Our district instead went fully remote. The voices of the majority went unheard, and that has been heartbreaking to hear and witness.

Other districts, as large as D158, have been able to go back into classrooms for weeks, even months with very little issues. They acknowledge that it takes a huge collective effort by everyone to get back into the classrooms and keep them open and safe. D158 could have done it as well- we opted not to. Our district has not reflected the needs of their community, and has not provided a venue for them to even be acknowledged, nor have they provided clearer guidance on next steps, or a vision for what the next year will look like.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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. Our district needs to be great for this community. We must listen to what experts say, respect that information and data, use best judgment to administer the protocols and develop policy. The unknown guided many last year and rightfully so, we know much more now. Enough to prove that there is no excuse on why we cannot have students back in schools full time (for those that wish to return).

When our district is provided "guidelines," for example in this pandemic, we need to see them as a road map. It is up to our district to make it work, and see how to be fluid and flexible when applying those guidelines. If our Board needs to make decisions, then voting needs to occur. Voting allows better transparency to the community to better understand all sides of the situations and the decisions being made. We all learn from decisions, even those that are not popular. And this would provide robust engagements with the community to allow for us to all be partners within the district.

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. In the spring of 2020, given what we knew and how we had prepared, our district did a stellar job serving the students of our district. However, since then I do not feel our district has used all the tools in their box to prepare, serve, and implement policies in the best interest of all students. I have learned of many shortcomings, in addition to my own observations. To cite one of the many examples: The district had mentioned several times they would allow small groups back into the schools when appropriate. That was done successfully when state-mandated testing (e.g., SAT) was required. However small groups (such as the self-contained Vanguard program at the high school), or hands-on classes in the middle school and high school (such as culinary arts, word working, automotive, and science classes) were not allowed back. Instead we have all classes being taught in a block schedule, which means students are in a class for 90 minutes, remote or in person. At times they are only being "instructed" for 10-20 minutes of that 90 minute block. When this is brought to the attention of school administrators, parents are told it will be addressed, or they get no response at all, and the substandard behavior continues, and our students become more disinterested.

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. I have looked into how other districts in our area, as well as others in the country, have successfully returned as I prefer to learn from the success stories. The job of the Board needs to be to direct our Superintendent to plan to open all D158 schools full time for the students that wish to return for the remainder of this school year, in a safe and effective manner, and continue that into Fall 2021.

1. Vaccinations for staff: Now that many staff have been vaccinated at least once, with the second dose there is little reason why staff should be fearful to return for their own health protections.

2. Funding: Our district has received close to $1M in government CARES assistance to reopen the schools with needed PPE and precautions taken. The hybrid return that has occurred in the past month has shown that infection rates are not enough to warrant closures of schools. Students as well as staff are adhering to distance guidelines, mask wearing, and basic hygiene.

3. Distancing: CDC guidelines have been developed to set up classrooms for six feet distance when possible. But if that is not possible, again those are just guidelines and they have said three feet is acceptable, in addition to assigned seating to better support contact tracing to minimize exposure.

4. Health Screening: Continue to support the health screening forms for students that return to school, and require temperature checks, and continue additional cleaning efforts to minimize infection rates.

Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.

A. As a proud parent to three student athletes, I fully support allowing school sports and activities to resume. There has never been a time when a population of students have been more vulnerable than those vested in activities such as sports and clubs. We have to teach them that we are willing to do the hard things for them so they can perform their crafts.

I have witnessed what these students have suffered in the past year. Sports being canceled for them is huge. It's not just an opportunity to play and compete but the connection they miss. Sports for student athletes motivates them to do well in school, on the field, and in other areas of their lives. They have lost so much motivation being away from their teams and coaches. These are students that are goal-oriented. When goals are not just moved, but eliminated, part of their soul disappears. They lose the connection to their peers and the relationships and respect they crave from their coaches.

It has become clear seeing other states allowing sports to be played, as well as private club and travel sports, that high school sports can be done safely with little to no risk of infection for the athletes, coaches, officials and even spectators.

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