James Weidman: 2021 candidate for Community Consolidated School District 46 board
Five candidates are competing for four 4-year terms
Occupation: Battalion Chief, Grayslake Fire Protection District
Civic involvement: School Board member, former coach and assistant coach for AYSO
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 a current member of the Board of Education and my biggest motivation to remain on the board is to continue to do the good work that we have been doing for the last 8 years. I believe we have made progress on sustainability for the district, both in terms of financial and environmental.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I think we have taken a cautious but measured approach when dealing with the pandemic. No decision was easy to make, from continuing remote learning at the beginning of the 20-21 school year, to extending remote learning in October till after the 1st of the year. Each decision has been based in safety for the students, teachers/staff and their families. I am proud that we were able to provide as much support as possible to families who needed to use safe centers in our district so parents could go to work. Another important support we were able to provide were meals to all kids under 18 within the district through our Meals on The Bus program. This allowed us to provide the nutritional support to those who needed it.
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 believe our role as a school board is to protect the health and well-being of our students and staff. This has led to some difficult conversations as board members as to ultimately what we each feel is the right direction to go. This switch to remote learning, the switch to hybrid learning and ultimately the decision to work toward 5 day a week classes, have all been with as much information as we could garner. The use of ISBE guidance, the Lake County Public Health and IDPH have all been helpful. There is also a Superintendents working group that helped everyone guide the decision along the way. There have been disagreements between board members, as well as some parents advocating for what they feel is best for the children. All have valid points and all points of view deserve to be listened to regardless if they align with my views. I feel I have done that to the greatest extent I could during this difficult and unprecedented time.
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 we were lucky. About a year before the pandemic hit our board made the decision to use EBF funds on 1:1 technology for students in grade 3-8. This allowed us to pivot quickly to the rapidly changing school conditions where schools were shut down in March of 2020. Our teachers and staff did a great job of switching with very little notice. Then our IT division was able to obtain 1:1 technology for K-2 students shortly after the beginning of the school year allowing all students to continue with school. There have been hiccups along the way for connectivity issues, and our staff have worked to over come them. Without the technology in place a year before the pandemic, I think the remote learning would have suffered greatly and we would have struggled to get technology up and running to try and overcome the challenge. I think Dr. Glickman's idea of providing safe centers for children that had no other option was another success. We were able to provide a safe place for some children to go so that their parents who had no other choice, could go to work. This was some out of the box thinking that worked well.
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: With the change in guidance from ISBE and the CDC regarding social distancing we are adjusting plans for return to school this spring. With teachers being able to get vaccinated, enhanced cleaning measures, the use of outdoor spaces and the new guidance from ISBE, we are poised to make a return. The decision was made by the board in January to allow time for the infection rates to drop and for our staff to get vaccinated before starting hybrid learning, we felt that was the best course of action for students and staff based on the current data and trends we had. It was not a popular decision with some, but ultimately we were trying to be as safe as possible for everyone.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: As a father of a child who is in high school, I wish it was able to return sooner. I am glad to see the sports programs starting up again as many students need this extra level of engagement for their social emotional well-being. Unfortunately for both High School districts and Grade School district these decisions were taken out of their hands.