Laurie Parman: 2023 candidate for Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 board
Town: Sleepy Hollow
Age on Election Day: 68
Occupation: Retired from teaching in 2021 after 30 years
Employer: Community Unit District 300
Previous offices held: none
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: As a District 300 teacher for 22 years, I never accepted mediocrity or failure from my students. I always found a way to help them succeed.
The district website shows that only about 50% of students were proficient in math and reading before COVID, but now are in the 30s. Why would anyone accept those numbers?
I know that the district has been trying to work on these things, but the statistics don't change, yet the graduation rate is high, and the teacher proficiency rate is high. These three statistics should be mutually exclusive.
This district needs someone on the school board who can sift through statistics, and be able to interpret statistics in a simple enough way to explain that if students are failing, the statistics should not show the graduation rate high. When the students are failing the teachers shouldn't be highly rated.
As an experienced teacher with a doctorate in Educational Leadership, I believe that I am the person.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board has financial oversight for the purchase of textbooks and reading series, but they do not necessarily oversee what books may appear in the teachers' classroom library and in the school library.
District 300 school board on Aug. 6, when I was in the audience, rejected the teaching of World War 2 and replaced it with 4-5 electives that did not seem suited to serious study, but more rather to "let's sit and chat about Sports Resistance," which was the name of one of the 4-5 elective replacement subjects.
As a teacher, I consistently read the administrative briefs. I was aware through reading them that World War 2 was on the chopping block as well the teaching of the Civil War. I am not sure if the Civil War is still in place.
These examples show that the school administration has a great deal of input on curriculum selection, but it is the school board that makes the final choice.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: Attention needed for two areas:
No. 1. Teacher strain, and financial waste due to replacing elementary reading series too often, impacts reading scores. I believe teachers face undue strain because the district has changed something major every couple of years. It might be a reading series, or the state testing instrument, or the information storage platform for example: Schoology. The teachers must quickly become competent in these new changes, which produces stress for teachers. It makes them like "first year teachers" every couple of teachers. I believe that this stress is one reason students are failing.
No. 2. Valuable teaching time is wasted teaching social emotional learning, and coming soon, schools will be spending time teaching sex education from kindergarten to grade 12. I don't think any parent who carefully puts their elementary child on the bus thinks, "I hope my child will be shown an erect penis today."
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: I am open to the public, I am open to those with whom I differ. I have always been the person who listens more than I talk. In listening I often see answers others don't see because they are too busy talking to find what everyone is looking for. I am committed to reading the documents before voting so I can offer insights to others before they vote, or to say have you considered this? I view my role on the board as a servant leadership role.
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: I don't believe anyone on the school board in District 300 aggregated the CDC data on child deaths, due to COVID as I did back then. If they had they would have not closed the schools nor even masked the children. The CDC website in October 2020 showed how many US children had died from COVID age zero to 5. I added that number to those who had died ages five to 17 and I got a total of 157 children in the entire United States.
In 2020 there were 74.2 million US children. These data show that children were not affected by COVID, and that we should never have employed these remedies to the situation. As a teacher, I saw these remedies were harmful in the following ways.
Second language learners, hearing-impaired students, autistic students, and really pretty much every student could not hear their teacher through the mask, and could not read interpersonal facial clues important to human communication and learning. Our scores have dropped to dangerous lows because it.
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: Through working on two District 300 boundary committees I learned teamwork and personal hard work can lead to good outcomes. Also that from the multitude of hard working team members can come great new "out of the box" ideas, and that flexibility to new ideas can lead to great academic outcomes.
One such out come was the creation of an intermediate school in the district. This model never seemed to fit easily into the pattern of the district. I personally taught at that school I felt the awkwardness of the district toward that school. As I look back at the Illinois School Report Card data, I see that the only spike in our below average performance in District 300 was during the era where that school was open as a fifth-sixth grade school. Our data showed great school growth across all categories of students in reading.
We improved reading scores into the 70% range.
Being flexible and open to the new ideas of others, listening, and collaboration brings success.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am the best candidate for School District 300 because I faithfully taught there with personal success and excellence for 22 plus years. I have served as a substitute, as an elementary teacher, as an intermediate teacher and as a high school teacher, as an interim administrator, as literacy team lead over 15 5th grade literacy teachers, and as director of three summer school programs.
I hold 3 teaching certificates, a master's degree in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.
I am a person who researches answers, I'm not a person who gobbles up the information of others without seeing things for myself.
When someone tells me something can't be done, I don't accept that. I find a way. I love working with others in committee, because I believe the answers lie in a multitude of counselors. I love to work with others who don't agree with me. I have the disposition and demeanor for this
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I noticed a problem no one seems to be talking about with regards to staffing. The teacher absentee rate usually gets little notice by most, but I was hearing a disturbing trend People are saying, "My child's teacher is good, but they are never there..."
After hearing this a time or two about teachers I know to be outstanding people, I took a look at that statistic in the Illinois School Report Card. 30% teacher absenteeism before COVID has risen to 50%. The school report card describes this marker as reporting the percentage of teachers who have been absent 10 or more days in the past year.
In my conversations with colleagues and parents, it would seem that the best teachers are using their unused sick days because there is great frustration in the workplace.
The danger is that so many great teachers would quit and be replaced by someone who qualifies simply because they have a pulse. A catastrophe for District 300! We must listen to and support our best teachers.