Barbara Diepenbrock: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Unit District 303 board, 4-year term
Town: South Elgin
Age on Election Day: 46
Occupation: Promotional products production coordinator
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: This is my first time running for any office. I was moved to run for the school board because education is of the utmost importance to me. I am a parent to a fifth- and seventh-grader and have seen the importance of our academic "village" being partners in their lives as they have grown emotionally, psychologically and academically. It is a position that is nonpartisan and I simply love that.
It is a position that represents people and not parties. It is a position that represents a HUGE portion of citizens that cannot vote but NEED representation, the students. Those are reasons I was motivated. I think that it is unwise to enter into this campaign with anything in "particular" as an issue because once the position is attained, that motivation may usurp the current business at hand that you cannot be aware of as someone not on the current board.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The board is a conduit for our students, teachers, staff and D303 citizens as a whole. We are there to ask the questions, understand the data, follow the laws and consider all the experts and THEN discuss with each other and hold each other and ourselves accountable for our research and understanding of the materials presented to us by vetted admin and experts.
We then allow those vetted by us, by proxy or directly, to do what they have the degrees and expertise to do. If they do not produce results we then take steps to find better admin and experts that can produce the results and curriculum that sets up our students, teachers and staff up for the highest level of success.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: I would like to see more focus on trades. There is a disproportionate amount of focus placed on college as the next course of action for students and I see this as being narrow-minded. I would like to see our vision of what academic "success" is to be more outside of the proverbial box.
I see Fox Valley Career Center offering some amazing choices in fields that require additional education post-high school that I wish we had more accessible to our students in D303. We do have students that take advantage of the credits offered at FVCC and that is wonderful but it is an avenue we need to tap into more. These career choices are just as rigorous, intellectually challenging and valuable as a mainstream college degree path. However, D303 is still falling short of highlighting their value within this district.
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: My role as a board member is to follow state policy and the law. It is up to our constituents to vote in the state authorities that they believe will allow for local control. I am an advocate for local control but I am NOT an advocate for breaking laws. The board must follow mandates which, are laws.
I believe in confronting policy and controversies by following the steps necessary to make change happen in the appropriate manners. If the constituents of D303 appear to disapprove of any vote being put forth by our state law makers and the D303 board has an option to present their opinion on any given matter then, I am bound to stand by what the majority of this community wishes to express. I will not revolt against laws regardless of who is possibly pressuring me to do so.
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 am actually disappointed to see that not more has been learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am anxious to know WHY we have not maintained some of what was learned by the district. We need better systems in place to remind and encourage our academic community to mask up if there is illness in their home. Just as we encourage and push our schools to have hand washing be the norm.
We need to have better "at home" learning options for kids who are out sick. The amount of information missed out on as an elementary student is astounding from just three days out of school.
This can set a child up for anxiety from falling behind and even make a real academic dent in their progress. This information deficiency, from time missed, becomes more severe in middle school and high school.
I would like to see some things that were learned implemented and other things, such as masks, encouraged as a new social norm. If a mandate is instated, I will follow that law.
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: I had the honor of being on D303's Citizen's Advisory Committee for it's last year. The CAC discussed policy and feedback received from within the community. We had very civil and measured discussions surrounding district projects and policy. My style is an approach that is founded in trust.
I firmly believe that it is important to remember that even a process is innocent until proven guilty. We need to trust the process before jumping to a conclusion that something will fail or is pointless. If someone disagrees, they are not disagreeing with ME but rather one of my thoughts. Board members must not fear conflict.
It is this process that allows a group to determine good policy with a measured voice. When a decision is finally made, the community can then take comfort in knowing that the board vetted and discussed the decisions thoroughly.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am truly a candidate for ALL. I have a diverse community of people in D303 that I deeply care for. These citizens are from all sorts of backgrounds politically, culturally, generationally, professionally and many other ways. I have an insatiable desire to seek out those that have trepidations to speak up.
I find, what appears to be, the majority within our district want to trust the process and focus on the family and their livelihoods. They need strong board members they can trust that are committed to this unpaid elected position.
I want the community to know that I am committed to the school board remaining a place for nonpartisan decisions that have everything to do with safety, education, respect and equity and nothing to do with political talking points from any side. If elected, I look forward to working with and, learning from, fellow board members.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I would like to see D303 embrace and celebrate International Day of Acceptance on Jan 20. It encourages everyone to embrace those of all abilities. This day recognizes and supports those with disabilities. It encourages them to realize they are not living disabled but rather they are living. It reminds all of us that there are so many amazing things people of all abilities have to offer the world.
Stop focusing on I can't and start focusing on what you CAN. Everyone deserves a chance and a voice. The messaging is simple: Embrace diversity. Educate your community. Empower each other. Love life. 3ELove. It's a message that everyone needs reminding of but especially our peers with disabilities.