Scott Waldbusser: 2023 candidate for Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 board, 4-year term
Town: Glen Ellyn
Age on Election Day: 45
Occupation: Client executive
Previous offices held: Trustee, First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn
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: From the moment my daughters began elementary school, I have constantly volunteered within District 89 wherever and whenever possible. With their move to middle school, I was looking for another way to serve, and running for school board felt like the next natural step. Between my interactions over the years with teachers, parents, & students, I'm motivated to ensure that input from all of these groups is taken into account when making districtwide decisions, and that teachers are given the resources to ensure all students are provided a path to success.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: While the school board is charged with approving and monitoring curriculum, any decision should be based on extensive research and feedback provided by district teachers and staff.
These are the people who have the deepest knowledge and firsthand experience with the student population, and with the most vested interest in such a decision.
As far as monitoring, we should follow the same principles of critical thinking we are hopefully teaching our students. Consistent observation, evaluation, and follow up should occur, and lead to any possible actions of updating or replacement as necessary.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: A committee of District 89 teachers has recently proposed an updated reading curriculum, which appears to be a more science-based program designed to improve reading and overall ELA performance from K-5.
An issue indirectly related to curriculum that should be addressed is the hard-lined "period" structures currently embedded in the K-5 space. The rigidness of this design allows little-to-no flexibility for teachers the freedom to adjust total instruction time on a particular subject as needed.
Our teachers are highly qualified and have greater knowledge around where learning time would be best allocated, and should be provided the responsibility to handle as such.
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: A voice should ALWAYS be given to all constituents when discussing policy and/or curriculum. Disagreement shouldn't be shunned -- rather it should be welcomed as critical thinking requires the ability to ingest knowledge and feedback that any one individual may not have considered.
Too often we view debate in a negative light, when rational, even passionate discourse should be an example we provide to our children. Disagreement of another's stance does, or should not, equal hatred for that person. Parents and teachers are both passionate about their children/student's education, and the willingness to work with all of them, even on controversial topics, is vital.
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: The core item we've all learned from the pandemic response is that information can change quite rapidly regarding what is effective, what level of response is indeed required. A measured, analytical approach should be taken regarding any health crisis. I've mentioned "critical thinking" multiple times in this questionnaire, and it deserves its place here as well.
Learning should be continual, as much that was believed to be accurate in the Spring 2020 is now understood to be inaccurate. Instead of being blinded and divided by tribal politics, my hope would be for the decisions to be crafted based on all available data.
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: Having handled negotiations with some of the largest financial institutions in the U.S., the two core tenants that should always be observed are a clear understanding of what each side (or position) in the matter wants/needs, and a clear understanding of expectations on how such a decision will be arrived upon.
Regarding school board specific policy, these negotiations shouldn't be viewed through a "win/lose" lens, but rather the view of "what is best for the students, teachers, and D89 as a whole."
While the two sides will have different course of action, a clear, concise and objective outcome should be agreed upon (i.e. "We don't know which curriculum we want, but we both know we need a new curriculum").
Gathering input from all stakeholders (especially the teaching staff), setting timelines, disseminating available data, and presenting multiple options allows for the most thorough process to play out, and more often than not this process will lead to the most desirable outcome.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: In both my career and in life, I strive to make well thought out, analytical-driven decisions along with an understanding of how these decisions affect others as well. My professional experience has afforded me the experience of building bridges despite disagreements, an understanding of the need for data-driven analytics when facing difficult issues, and the ability to embrace conflict head on instead of avoidance.
I've also had the good fortune to be a head coach for Glen Ellyn Girls Softball for 7-plus years, which has given me a small window into the experiences our teachers have when working to provide both instruction & compassion to kids from various backgrounds.
With my wife being a classroom teacher from 20 years, my sister being a teacher, and my aunt being part of a high school staff for over 30 years, I have a deep appreciation and respect for the work our D89 teachers do every day, and understand the need for the board to consistently and actively listen to their feedback.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: While there are some forums for the community and teachers to provide their feedback, the current processes in place don't provide enough space for true discussion and for input to be transparently reviewed.
While understanding Illinois statutes are to be observed, crafting more open opportunities for all vested parties to interact with the board is well overdue. For the community, having more available options beyond a 3-minute podium lecture or one-off town halls when issues may arise should be provided.
For teachers, they ALL should be provided with additional forums to confidently voice concerns or suggestions (either openly or anonymously) on ANY topic, and expect that the school board and administration staff will both act on them and take them seriously. This input is what will drive the meaningful, impactful change necessary to put ALL of our students in the position to better learn, grow, and find success.