Anne Santucci: 2021 candidate for Cary District 26 School Board
Five candidates are running for four seats on the Cary District 26 School Board in the April 6, 2021, election.
Occupation: Teacher, CHSD 155
Civic Involvement: This would be my first time as a public officeholder.
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 have considered running for the school board in the past. As an educator, parent of three school age children and a long time resident of Cary, I feel my experience would benefit the school board and strengthen the ties between the board and the community. My pre-pandemic concerns have always been the budget coupled with maintaining a strong staff with little turnover. I have watched my children lose great teachers to neighboring districts in which I believe should not be competitive to what our community can offer. Post-pandemic I hope to help our district transition from these nontraditional learning schedules but analyze what we have learned from this experience. There are changes that have been made that can be valuable to education. Students have adapted to new technology and adjusted to new learning environments. Teachers have rewritten curriculum, it would not be practical to throw all of this away and ignore positive changes.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: This last year has been trial by fire for all school districts nationwide. I feel the communication from and between all parties could be improved. As a parent it felt that the delay in announcing new schedules or shifts in learning plans was a result of watching and waiting to see what other districts were implementing rather than being proactive to the needs of our immediate community. We will not know the immediate effects of asynchronous vs. synchronous work for students or if there will be delays to achievement. One of the most significant struggles has been the lack of consistency. If there is something that all students need, that is the key. Changing teachers in October was traumatic and unsettling for certain students and challenging for teachers as they were just getting to know their classes. As a parent and member of the community I have watched my own children struggle at times, but yet they have learned resiliency. I have been amazed at the ability of the teachers to adapt and provide the students with what they need to learn and grow.
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: My role in confronting the pandemic will be to listen to the needs of the community, follow the recommendations of the local health department and make tough decisions. Decisions that will likely disappoint a significant amount of people at times. My goal would be to promote as much transparency as possible. As parents, it is our job to promote the needs of our personal children as students. As members of a board of education it is our job to promote the needs of all students and staff, which means making decisions that will not appeal to all.
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: My children have the advantage of having educators as parents. I know this is not true in the majority of homes. We are trained to know when and where to advocate for children if needed. I have also been fortunate to not need special accommodations for my own children. There have been occasions where we have had to reach out to our teachers or the teachers have had to make contact with concerns and our experience has been positive. As an educator, I see where there are children falling through the cracks. I have watched students and parents struggle. As a member of the community, I have listened to frustrated neighbors who have students with learning deficiencies who have felt that their children have not received the same level of support in these circumstances. I do feel that my experience in education will and my willingness to listen and learn will benefit me here.
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: There are many questions that have not been answered yet in regard to the new variants and the anticipation of widespread vaccine distribution. As teachers are vaccinated, the conversation will emerge again about introducing more students to the classroom, but we all know that does not stop transmission. We need more guidance from the local, state and federal government. It would be worth reviewing changes to allow more students to transition in, but limiting teacher changes if necessary. A main concern of parents in our community is teacher contact time with the students, especially with the K-5 group. Maximizing teacher contact with as few changes as possible to teacher assignments would be the most ideal.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: My candidacy for D26 school board does not impact this decision. That is a decision made by the IHSA.