Jeremiah Lange: 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/.
Civic involvement: Prior to joining the board, I served for several years on the village of Addison's Citizens Advisory Council. I've volunteered in various capacities to my church for over 20 years and I am currently the president of the Kings Point Homeowners Association.
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: It's really out of love for this community and to make a lasting impact on young students. Four generations of my family have been a part of District 4, as well as my wife, and there was absolutely no question where we would start our own family. There isn't any one particular issue that I'm focused on, school governance can be quite complicated and multifaceted. A board member really needs to have a balanced approach and an understanding of a variety of issues and how they are interconnected.
We've had tremendous successes since I've been on board, like preschool for all, enhanced educational programs, a one-to-one technology rollout, a continued, massive modernization of our facilities, all while maintaining a responsible budget and eliminating debt, in fact, we are set to reduce taxes in the near future and there is so much more. Quality education hinges on quality leadership and I'm here to help provide that just as other community members did while I was a student here.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: A pandemic of this magnitude is something no one had experience with going into it. If you look at surveys, you have a wide range of opinions, from those who believe kids should be in class full time, to all kids should be remote and others want a hybrid. No matter what the decision, it will potentially make more than half of the community upset. Initially, we followed state mandates to move to remote learning and, over the summer, developed plans to create a safe environment for in-person learning, with contingencies for moving to remote learning as needed.
It was a flexible approach that has been continually refined. Success is often about learning from experiences, whether positive or negative and adapting moving forward. That said, the goal has always been to get kids in the classroom safely. The hybrid approach has shown us that it is possible and as new data continues to come out, the facts have proven that getting kids in school is safe with appropriate precautions like we have taken. So, all things considered, I'd say the response was very good.
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: It's a balance of all of these. Most importantly, providing leadership, but taking into consideration constituents desires and advisement of state authorities, among other insights. By nature, I am a person who takes the opinions of others into careful consideration, trying to understand the "whys" behind disagreeing points of view.
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 don't feel there is any replacement for in-person learning in grade school and junior high, but given the circumstances this district really went above the call of duty to provide the best services possible. Meals for our free and reduced lunch students continued to be served as take home meals, something that continued through the summer, and was a collaborative effort in the community, outside of just District 4.
Which I should point out, community collaboration and cooperation is something this board and other local government bodies work at and makes Addison a special place. Remote instruction was possible almost immediately, in part because we had rolled out one-to-one Chromebook computers in previous years and ahead of schedule. Something I personally championed and pushed for the resources to get done. Other districts less prepared were crippled by the rush to order laptops as supply shortages grew into monthslong waits. Also, importantly, we prioritized the return to in-person learning according to need. For example, special-needs students were prioritized first, followed by the youngest students and so forth.
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: Our hybrid learning plan is a model that has proven to be very effective in providing a safe learning environment for students and staff, taking a variety of precautions such as daily self-certification, physical distancing, mask usage, increased sanitation efforts, modifications to ventilation systems to provide more fresh, outside air, contact tracing, etc.
COVID-19 transmission inside our schools is nearly nonexistent, nearly every case of a student or staff member testing positive has been traced to exposure outside of school. In fact, the greatest obstacle we faced in keeping school buildings open was lack of staffing at times due to quarantine needs due to off campus exposure. The key to combating this is vaccination.
Through the tremendous cooperation of District 4 with other local districts and the Village of Addison, vaccination of all workers in and around our buildings in District 4 has begun with the second round set to be complete the second week of March.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: While District 4 does not have high school grades, I do believe that sports are part of students' physical and emotional health. I believe each sport needs to be considered individually and every effort should be made to restore those programs in a reasonably safe manner.