Kevin McGrane: 2023 candidate for Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 board, 4-year term
Town: Glen Ellyn
Age on Election Day: 45
Previous offices held: Palatine Township Trustee (2013-16)
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: I am running for a position on the District 89 board because I have two young daughters enrolled and I want to ensure they receive the best possible education. They are in their formative years, and they will only go through school once, so it's extremely important to my family that they receive a rigorous and challenging education that teaches them to think critically.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board is the final decision-maker based on formative vetting of a curriculum by the educators.
Based on best practices, programs piloted with integrity and fidelity, and the scientific research completed on potential curriculum programs, the board will approve one that is recommended by the district committee in charge of the aforementioned.
The board will ensure that the curriculum being recommended aligns with the state standards, and follows the philosophy of the district.
The board will use local MAP testing data to monitor student growth, and will rely on the IAR (Illinois Assessment of Readiness) assessment to evaluate propensity. Should the board be welcomed, it would be in their best interest to visit classrooms to witness curriculum rollouts and assess engagement.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: For the past few decades, literacy instruction has been based on a word memorization and picture cue philosophy. Using programs like Fountas and Pinnell to evaluate student fluency and comprehension, have proven to be ineffective.
Unfortunately, literacy programs being used across many districts still rely on this type of reading instruction. I believe the district needs to be implementing a program, and fluency benchmarking system, that is based on the Science of Reading.
The Science of Reading is rooted in phonemic awareness and phonics to build word recognition, understanding of word parts, and how sounds are blended together to make words. Currently, the district is not implementing the Science of Reading in any of their curriculum or fluency monitoring.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: It is extremely important to me to have all stakeholders partake in the conversation. We should never exclude those who disagree with our position. It is important to hear them out as they may help change my position or if I disagree with them, help strengthen my counter argument.
Part of the reason I am running for this position, after speaking with a number of teachers in the district, is because I feel classroom teachers concerns have been ignored by the current board and superintendent. We cannot expect teachers to provide a challenging learning environment when their concerns about the classroom are ignored.
Q: Concerns are growing regarding a new resurgence of the pandemic. If another massive outbreak of infectious disease occurs, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that will guide your decision making?
A: What we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is remote schooling does not work, especially for kids in K-8. The harm done to our kids, and the regression in their academic achievement, did not impact all kids the same, but they all suffered to some degree.
Not only was academic achievement stunted, but many were faced with social/emotional challenges that directly impacted their behavior and ability to learn, and it is our teachers who have been forced to bear the repercussions. In the face of another pandemic it is imperative that we weigh all decisions based on what is best for the children.
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.
A: In my career as well as my time in government I have been involved in setting policy.
It is important to remember who we are working for. In this case, it is the children of the district but in order to be successful, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and parents must be involved and their voices heard so we can prioritize policies that enable the best learning environment and produce the best results.
My style is to listen first, ask questions second, and then make decisions based on all the information available.
I am committed to meeting with any concerned party at any time to discuss relevant issues, and I will provide feedback to the community via a Facebook page that details my thought process on all votes I make.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am best suited for this job because I am an independent thinker. I am not beholden to any particular ideology or party, and I work well with people I agree and disagree with.
Often times in my previous position on the township board, I helped bridge the gap between two opposing viewpoints so we could get the business of the township done. I will do the same on the District 89 board as we advocate and pass policy that is in the best interest of our children's education.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: While serving on the Palatine Township Board, we opened our internal meetings (policy, budget, etc.) to the public.
Currently, these meetings within the district are being held behind closed doors. I will advocate to do that work in public so the community understands what we are doing and why. I also believe teachers' voices are not being adequately heard.
I will push to have them included in the decision making process for all relevant motions impacting their classrooms. I also feel that board members need to be included, and present, at milestone moments of the school year; such being opening day with the staff as well as other opportune times throughout the year.
Finally, I believe there needs to be a bridge of communication between the teachers and the board.
Teachers are integral in the decision making process, because they are implementing best practices, and should, therefore, be able to communicate with the board when they feel there needs to be changes to serve their students