Scott Pope: 2023 candidate for Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 board, 4-year term
Town: Glen Ellyn
Age on Election Day: 44
Occupation: Building Maintenance manager
Employer: Argonne National Laboratory
Previous offices held: Glen Ellyn District 89 board member since 2015
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 re-election so that I can continue to serve our students and community. There is not one issue that motivates me. I believe that a school board member must look at each individual issue and decision with an open mind. My philosophy is that to be a successful board our first question needs to be "how does this help all of our students?"
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board should be taking a higher-level approach to curriculum. As a board we employ a highly skilled superintendent, who is in turn hires a highly skilled staff.
District and school staff are the experts in the field, and I believe that the board should look to them to use their expertise. When it comes to curriculum, the staff provides a recommendation and the board reviews.
If we believe that the work they did is thorough and acceptable, we can approve curriculum changes. If more work needs to be done, it is our job to ask for more information or alternatives.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: I do not believe that there are any specific curriculum issues that need attention currently. A well-designed curriculum will provide a learning environment that is consistent with state and federal standards and provides relevant learning opportunities for all of our students and families.
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: Once again, the school board needs to look at each issue independently ask ourselves "how does this benefit the students?"
Once we have answered that question, we can begin to weigh the voice of the constituents and, because we are a public school, with our state requirements.
Our district has diverse views and it is the job of the board to listen to any concerns that arise. After hearing from the community we must then decide what we feel is best for our students and community.
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: We learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic. When we look back and ask ourselves did we always make the best decision, that answer is no. When we look back and ask ourselves did we make the right decisions based on the knowledge we had at the time, I believe that answer is yes.
When there are so many unknowns we must rely on the data we have at the time and the advice of experts in the field.
Specifically, I think that the decision to close schools for an extended period of time turned out to be our biggest mistake. If another massive outbreak occurs, the school board's goal should be to keep students in the classroom in anyway possible.
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: Working in a group setting is about achieving consensus. With any issue, be it policy or anything else, the group must have open conversations on topic. It should be conversations and discussions, not arguments. Arguments do not lead to effective decision making, disagreements can, however.
Having open discussions around disagreements allows everyone to state their positions or ideas and provide relevant background information.
With a school board, there are seven members. Most board members do not usually come into a discussion with their decision predetermined. The discussions around a topic or policy are what shapes our decisions.
Once the discussion has progressed to the point that no new information is being presented, it is then up to each individual board member to decide on whether we should approve, reject, or seek further information on the issue or policy.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I look at each issue independently. I do not look to political positions or messaging to determine or guide my decisions. The job of a school board member is to lead the district in a way that it can provide the best possible education for all of our students. This has to be done in a way that is fiscally responsible and balances the views of the community.
My approach has always been and will continue to be to ask the question "how does this benefit the students?" first. To me that is the most important question.
In addition, as a sitting board member, I have seen many important topics before.
For instance, in my time on the board we have hired a superintendent, realigned school boundaries, and successfully passed two referendums. These were important topics and we were able to successfully manage them.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I don't really think that there is some hidden idea out there just waiting to be brought up. I think the key to improving our district is communication.
Communication with our community, our school families, our students, our staff, and within the board itself. By openly communicating with each other, new good ideas will rise to the top where can then discuss them in our meetings and see how they could benefit our district.