Janice Krinsky: 2021 candidate for Elk Grove District 59 school board
Five Candidates -- Four 4-year terms
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Retired. Formerly a Senior Director of User Interface Design and Development
Employer: Most recent employer was SPSS Inc., which is now owned by IBM
Civic involvement: The majority of my civic involvement revolves around spending time in schools, speaking with parents, and engaging with staff and administrators. President of the District 59 Board of Education; President of the Governing Board of NSSEO, the special ed cooperative that serves eight member districts; mentor with College Bound Opportunities (CBO), providing guidance and emotional support to promising students from low-income backgrounds; member of the League of Women Voters and am a longtime supporter of environmental protection initiatives
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I was naturally drawn to board work because I believe a free public education can level the playing field so that children, regardless of their circumstances, can be successful. Public education, at its best, teaches critical thinking skills, helps children understand, appreciate, and get along with people from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures, and promotes civic engagement. I serve because I feel a deep social responsibility to use my skills and experience to make this world a better place for children and families. While the district has made great strides in improving equity, diversity, and inclusion in District 59, there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure all children feel seen, included, and know that they belong. When this condition is met for all children, then they can reach their full potential. Work still needs to be done in curriculum and instruction, especially in the area of math. The district must also take on the area of assessment to improve evaluation of curricular materials, resources, and initiatives. Communication is another area that needs work. The new superintendent hired by the board has demonstrated her ability to address all these concerns.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. All the decisions the board has made were based on local infection rate data and the recommendations of the CDC, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Cook County Department of Public Health. School districts statewide and across the nation have been placed in the unenviable position of making their own decisions, without clear guidelines, about the relative risks to their students, families, and staff. The District 59 Board took a cautious approach to reopening when it wasn't clear if mounting community infection rates would lead to increased transmission rates in schools. It turns out, with proper mitigation strategies, the in-school transmission rate falls to near zero. With this data in hand, the board chose to proceed with a gradual reopening of schools to in-person learning. The district is in the process of expanding the amount of time children can be in schools. In hindsight, we could have opened the doors to students sooner, but we just didn't have the data at the time to show that it was safe. Once all our staff have been vaccinated, the plan is to open schools for full days of instruction
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 worked hard to learn the science, policies, and recommendations so I could develop a clear understanding of the virus and how the evolving guidelines work to inform relative risk. I spent a lot of time listening to feedback and input from constituents and staff representing all points of view. I worked to help the board develop an understanding and agreement on how to interpret the relative risk of the pandemic based on data and the sometimes contradictory and often-changing recommendations from the various health agencies. As board president, it is my responsibility to speak for the board when emails are sent to us. I responded to dozens of emails with compassion and understanding that having schools closed for an extended time can be a source of great stress to families. I responded honestly and truthfully about why schools were still closed and under what conditions they might be reopened. Even when the emails were rude, I took the high road, understanding that people are scared and frustrated and are not at their best during these times.
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 think our district did an admirable job of responding to the needs of children and families during this very difficult time. Because the district already had electronic devices for nearly all students, the district was able to make a quick transition to remote learning. The district was also quick to purchase and pay for hot spots so that all children have access to the internet. Children living in areas where the internet capacity is so limited that they cannot get and stay online were invited to spend the time in school where they could access their classes remotely. With that said, remote schooling is not ideal for most children, but the district and our teachers have worked hard to keep our kids engaged and learning.
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 think children need to be in school. With the falling infection rates in our community and robust mitigation strategies, once the staff have received their vaccines, we expect to reopen for full days. Mitigation strategies will be critical because children will not have been vaccinated before summer, at the earliest. The district will, of course, continue to serve children who for various reasons remain in remote learning.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. Brain imaging studies show differences, by the age of 18 months, in the brains of children living in poverty versus children from any other socio-economic group. The brains of children in poverty weigh less and are less well-developed in the areas of the brain that control executive functioning (the skills that children need to be successful in school such as sitting and waiting your turn, following instructions, self control, and managing emotions). We need to find creative ways through partnerships to reach parents of newborns to improve their parenting skills and make sure they have access to health care and better nutrition. I also feel a personal responsibility to stay on for another four years to help the board members develop the leadership skills and knowledge they need. There are currently five board members with less than two years of experience. I have promised them, should I be reelected, that I will make sure they get the training and experience they need to take over and lead the district into the future. With a new superintendent joining the district on July 1, 2021, I have also promised administrators and staff that the transition will be a smooth one.