Scott McConnell: 2021 candidate for Lake Zurich Community Unit District 95 school board
Occupation: Information Technology executive, PMA Financial Network
Civic involvement: None listed
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: 1) To ensure ALL District 95 students achieve quality educational outcomes. The district must continue to invest in improving offerings as well as in recovering pandemic related learning loss and can do this by continuing to evolve and execute the Forward95 Strategic Plan.
2) To ensure the district continues to offer families choice for both in-person and remote instruction during the pandemic, while returning all students who desire it to full-time in-person learning as soon as safely possible.
3) To maintain the district's outstanding financial discipline and competitive tax rate.
4) As the facilities work promised to the community with the recent referendum is currently on schedule and projected to deliver more than promised at a lower cost, I will advocate that the district abate a portion of future bond payments in order to insure the commitment to spend down $19 million of the district's fund balance is met.
5) To foster continued positive relationships between the board, administration, staff, students, and community. A healthy board that understands and performs it role is vital for retaining administrative talent and enhancing educational outcomes and property values.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The current board has done an excellent job responding to the pandemic. The board and district administration have consistently been ahead of the curve in responding to the pandemic. The board recognized the potential risks of COVID early and directed district administration to develop a plan for remote learning in February of 2020, which allowed the district to respond quickly last spring. The board has listened closely to the concerns and desire of the community and thoughtfully evaluated the plans prepared by the administration for the 2020-2021 academic year, voting in July to open the school year offering both hybrid and remote plans for our learners. Students have been attending school in person since September and the board continues to push for ways to safely get children back in the classroom. The board has also worked hard to make sure additional resources are being devoted to help students recover from the learning loss/learning growth delay caused by the pandemic. Our board found a way to get our students in the classroom safely.
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: The board's role in this situation is to make hard decisions and lead. While the board needs to be aware of, and responsive to, federal and state guidance, the board is best positioned to understand the needs of the community and capabilities of the district. The board's role is to listen to the voices of all local stakeholders and work with the administration to find ways to best meet the needs of our students as voiced by those stakeholders. Where local desires are not compatible with state and federal guidelines or local voices are inconsistent, it is the responsibility of the board to help identify positive compromises and to explain why those compromises must be made.
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: Yes. I can name countless examples -- but below are three meaningful ones:
1) The district rolled out devices for all K-5 students who did not have a dedicated 1:1 device, increased Zoom licenses, and trained teachers on eLearning the week of March 9 allowing the district to pivot to synchronous eLearning immediately after the governor closed schools on March 13.
2) The district developed a summer recovery program and built individualized learning plans for high school students who were failing or had incomplete class work due to the pandemic
3) The district identified students who were struggling academically or socially emotionally and has offered those students the opportunity to attend school full time 5 days a week in person.
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: Yes -- district students who wish have been able to spend a minimum of 50% of their time at school in person (½ day, 5 days per week at K-5 and 2 or 3 full days per week in grades 6-12) since September. High school seniors and freshman have recently been able to return 5 days a week and K-1 or 1-2 will return full time in April. We are now working on a plan to safely return as many students as possible before the end of the year and to insure all students who wish can return full time in 21-22. We learned in the fall that we can return students safely and that we need to continue to be creative to find ways to get more students back in the classroom.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Sports are vital for our student's mental and emotional health and other states (and Illinois for some medium and low risk sports) have shown that sports can be safely conducted. The risk to our youth of not allowing sports is in my opinion much higher than the risk of allowing them. Sports should continue during the pandemic -- but they should be conducted in a safe manner consistent with CDC guidelines that minimizes risk.