Katie Benning: 2021 candidate for Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 board
Six candidates are vying for four, 4-year seats on the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 school board in the April 6, 2021, election.
Town: Glen Ellyn
Occupation: Banking/finance leadership at BMO Harris
Civic involvement: Foster parent
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. After this past year, I have realized how divided our community is. Many people are frustrated and believe that they need transparency in the decision made by the board. People have voiced concerns on social media and parents have continued to criticize the decisions made. I want to be the voice that brings unity and healing to my community. We can't redo the decisions made but how do we move forward and be ready for our children when they come back both academically but most importantly focused on their mental health.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I don't think you can grade the school board with a letter. I think we are progressing. What decisions made in July vs. September vs. December were the best we could make at the time. This pandemic continues to evolve every month. I think that if someone is running for the school board and they are just about getting kids back in school they don't see the picture from 10,000 above. The kids will go back and what is that plan?
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. I have over 15 years in leadership/management experience in banking. My industry is essential workers, where we have had to make tough complicated decisions during the pandemic. Many times we have to start with state and local officials and work down to our personal thoughts. At times we will disagree, but at the end if we are putting our employees and customers first, we always make the right decision. As far as CCSD 89 community, you need to listen to the needs of the students, parents, and educators.
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. I truly believe the teachers and the administration have done many things right. They have had an increased communication with the parents, created listening groups, and provided strong guidance to the teachers. The district is providing meals to families in need and extra help for student struggling. I think the decision to pull kids from school and start remote in the fall with less than one week warning was an error of both administration and board. We spend 2 months saying kids were starting and they decided last minute to change it. This put many family in a panic for child care and well as created some distrust. That decision was in poor judgment and timing.
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. By the time the election happened, it's May before I am on the board. The school year is over. It's time to look forward to fall and make a plan happen for full in-person learning in 2021-2022.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. My district is for elementary and middle school. I don't have an opinion.