Gary Louis Dollinger: 2021 candidate for Big Hollow School District 38 board
Five candidates are competing for four 4-year terms.
City: Round Lake
Occupation: Senior Mergers & Acquisitions Adviser, Technology at West Monroe Partners
Civic involvement: Secretary, Big Hollow PTO
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've been involved with the school for many years (2 kids in the district -- 6th and 7th grade) and want to use my background and experience to help further improve the schools. My biggest issue is around ensuring schools work with all students to ensure no one, from the challenged learner to the gifted kid, are ignored and are given an opportunity to grow.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: B -- While I think they could do more to improve our environment, they are working in very challenging times. School districts had to completely revolutionize the way we teach on the fly with no safety net. Could we have done better? Yes, especially in the areas of technology (something I have a background in), but they did the best they could.
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: While I am a firm believer in listening to the state's authority, I also feel each locality is unique and needs to make judgments that are best for all their constituents. Illinois is a diverse state with school districts varying from quite small to larger than many US cities. It is near impossible for one overarching entity to create a policy that will work across the board. I believe in making decisions that listen to expert opinions from all sides and choosing the path that gives the students the best chance of success while allowing our educators and administrators the environment they need to be productive and safe.
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: While the school did the best they could, I do not feel the students were adequately served. Watching my two kids, who were typically straight A students struggle, I saw first hand all the areas we could do better. Remote learning lacked the real "bond" that in person learning brought between the teacher and student, giving both parties that vested interest in seeing the student succeed. It's challenging for a teacher to focus on students when they are just another box on the screen (often only a black box with a name). We need to look for more creative ways to build that 1:1 relationship back between the student and teacher, whether it be through technology or other in person methods.
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 so many unknowns at this point that it is almost impossible to create a true plan. I do believe the keys to getting back to full in person learning will require 100% vaccinations for teachers and administrators, continued vaccine roll out to our more high risk families, and trust in science about the low risk activities. School rooms were pretty crowded pre-covid, making it challenging to create the required 6 feet of separation. Throw in other limitations, like creating traffic flows for middle schools or lunch time for elementary/primary students. I don't want to pretend I have this "expert" plan that I can throw out and magically we are all back to school, but my goal to improve education would be to find a way to return to in person learning, safely, as soon as possible.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: As an IHSA licensed, I am highly involved in youth sports. There are some sports where I have no doubt we can return to safely with minimal changes to the program. For higher risk sports, like wrestling, I do believe we can come up with safety precautions to allow students to participate with limited risk. Obviously, it will be up to parents what risk level they can tolerate, but completely banning some sports can also greatly hinder someone's growth -- especially if they have years of practice and a desire to continue it into the future.