Courtney Simek: 2021 candidate for Lombard Elementary District 44 board
Five candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Lombard Elementary District 44 board of trustees in the April 6 election. They are incumbents James Edward Robinette and, and challengers Sarah Novey, Daniel Tiltges and Cary Benjamin Weisgram.
Daniel Tiltges 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: Executive director, Anthology of Wheaton
Civic involvements: Current school board president, Lombard Elementary District 44; volunteer for nonprofit organizations; parent volunteer for the Glenbard East Boosters Club
Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
A: In 2018-19, I was fortunate enough to help spearhead the district's strategic planning process and was an integral part of developing and facilitating the plan. By coming together with multiple stakeholder groups, we were able to launch the district's "We're All In This Together" messaging and philosophy. This theme has supported not only top leadership, administrators, teachers, parents and most importantly our students during this pandemic. I'm committed to consistency in leadership, collaborative conversations and action plans, and keeping all of our learners at the forefront of our decisions. We always remember the children!
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic?
A: District 44 has done an excellent job in following not only the necessary protocols of our CDC, local health department, and Lombard specific guidelines, but we have innovatively listened to parents and teachers alike. By creating committees and seeking input, our teams have developed well thought out plans for remote learning, returning the kids to the classroom safely, all while maintaining high standards and expectations of our educators and respecting their opinions and concerns.
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 view my role in confronting the pandemic as one that encompasses all of the above. We have guidelines and regulations for all the necessary reasons, but we also have certain levels of control and autonomy locally as well. Our schools, our classrooms and our learners deserve an education that builds on the strengths of the district, while supports the unprecedented times we are faced with. District 44 has always been a leader among other local districts and has paved the way for many community partnerships, hiring practices, strategic plans and much more. I'm proud that we listen to everyone. We respect opinions, we celebrate diversity in those opinions and we work together with fellow experts to develop and launch learning plans that meet all needs.
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, District 44 launched parent surveys, focus groups, and offered collaborative times for feedback and support. As soon as we could safely return our students we began to do so. Based on research and data, we welcomed back our special education students, reopened our early childhood programming and kindergartners, and will soon offer the same to first and second grades. We hear parents and we understand that these circumstances are not always ideal, but we are confident with the foundation of learning and support that has been created in District 44 and we know that our students will thrive and succeed. They have already proven that they can!
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, our district leadership continues to revisit necessary protocols for social distancing, increased cleaning mechanisms and other virtual and in-person curriculums to support each and every student.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I believe that being nearly 12 months into the pandemic, we have learned and grown as a society. The majority of people are cautious and have mastered the art of safe distancing, wearing masks, and removing themselves from situations when they are ill. The vaccine is available and being distributed. I want to see high school sports continue for the sake of the teenagers, who depend on not only the physical aspect but the socialization aspect of their selected sport(s).