Christen Bollig: 2021 candidate for Addison Elementary District 4 board
Eight candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Addison Elementary District 4 board of trustees in the April 6 election.
They are incumbents Rudy Aranda, Zack Frangidakis and Jeremiah Lange, and challengers Taso Triantafillos, Eduardo Castillo Perez, Daniel Alexander Medina, Ellen M. Finizio and Christen Bollig. Finizio did not respond to the questionnaire.
The Daily Herald asked each candidate about issues facing the district and how they would contribute to its progress.
In-person early voting with paper ballots is now available at the DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
Occupation: Vice President, Shared Operations, Adtalem Global Education
Civic involvement: Board member, Changing Worlds, a Chicago-based nonprofit that fosters inclusive communities through oral history, writing and art programs that improve student learning, affirm identity and enhance cross-cultural understanding
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 am running as a first-time candidate for the District 4 school board because I believe my experience, passion, and platform would greatly benefit the district and community. As a board member, I would focus on three priorities: increase community engagement and transparency, provide equal access and opportunity for children across the district, and promote an environment of diversity and inclusion. It is worth noting that the current board, which consists solely of men, does not represent the diversity of the community that we serve.
As the most efficient teams are made up of people that have diverse experiences and perspectives, I feel it is critical that the board include at least one female representative. And as someone with experience as an executive, nonprofit board member, and District 4 parent, I am particularly well-suited to fill that role.
Additional information on my campaign, and qualifications for office, can be found at www.chrisbollig.com.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The pandemic has presented difficult, and sometimes impossible, decisions for many of us whether at home, school, or work. What becomes even more important in times like these is soliciting a significant amount of community input and providing transparency, something that the current board did not do. People deserve to have their perspectives heard, to have visibility into the decision-making process, and to be provided regular updates on how and when changes are being made.
A significant challenge this year has been the lack of notice that families, teachers, and staff have been provided for changes in approach. Sometimes short notice is unavoidable, as when a last-minute day off was announced to allow all teachers and staff to receive their vaccine, a clear priority. But in other instances, like when determining modality options at the start of the year, last-minute decisions could have been avoided by using a more rigorous and structured decision-making process.
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 don't think the three options you've provided are mutually exclusive and believe that each strategy must be used to be successful. Any person serving on the Board must be able to lead in challenging situations, working as a member of a team that is responsible for meeting the needs of the community.
The only way the needs of the community can be determined is by giving them a voice, something I think the current board has opportunity to improve upon. And certainly, the board needs to recognize that the state government has the authority to enact legislative, regulatory, and administrative structures, and those must be complied with.
Throughout my professional career, and during my service on a nonprofit board, I have repeatedly been part of teams tasked with navigating through difficult situations -- balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders with differing priorities, operating within federal and state requirements, and engaging in consensus building to achieve an optimal solution.
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 am impressed with how the district has adapted to serve students. This was less true in March 2020 when remote learning began, but I saw great improvement this academic year. Students have school-issued devices (including kindergartners, which is not typical), hard-copy packets and supplies are issued to supplement online materials, meals are available to students who need them, and extracurricular activities are being provided in a remote fashion.
My children are particularly fond of the STEM club offering and new virtual calming room. I cannot say enough about the teachers and staff behind this work. As I overhear the instruction in my learners' virtual classrooms and engage with their teachers regularly via the Seesaw app, I am amazed at the level of commitment to students. Having said that, my response is heavily based on my experience as an individual parent. I know that other families can identify ways in which the needs of their students are not being met. As a School board member, I will take seriously my responsibility to gather feedback from across our community, working to ensure that District 4 is meeting the needs of ALL students.
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: Requirements from our state government and recommendations from the CDC, both of which use scientific evidence, should guide our spring plan. I am optimistic about returning to in-person learning in spring, as we have now offered vaccines to teachers and staff, with the second dose scheduled in March.
I realize some families may not feel safe returning until children can be vaccinated. My kindergartner has asthma that is specifically triggered by respiratory illness -- she was hospitalized twice in 2019 for a total of 13 days as a result of catching seasonal colds. I would look to our teachers, the experts here, to help build a plan that gets the great majority of students back to full in-person learning, offers an option to those who cannot safely return, and minimizes the burden placed on teachers.
A learning from the fall semester was how disruptive schedule changes were when switching between the hybrid and full remote learning schedules. Those changes wreak havoc on students and families, who are attempting to navigate school, work, and child care for younger siblings, and more consideration must be taken to avoid or minimize schedule changes for the remainder of the year.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: The district does not include high schools, and so this question is not relevant to the position I am running for.