Dolores Van Hiel: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Unit District 303 board, 4-year term
Town: St. Charles
Age on Election Day: 60
Occupation: Healthcare Advisor
Employer: United Healthcare
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: I am running for school board to bring new perspectives and ideas forward to help ensure all our students are provided a high-quality education while maintaining fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the district.
As a former educator, I have knowledge and experience that may be useful when the board is tasked with approving curriculum and programs. As a parent and grandmother, I value and understand the importance of providing students with a safe and equitable learning environment that allows for all children to grow and thrive.
Academic performance concerns have motivated me to run for the board as a vested community member and taxpayer in the district.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board is expected to monitor and evaluate the school district's academic performance and programming utilizing board established performance markers and ensure that the academic outcomes align with the mission and goals determined by the board.
The school board is responsible to approve curriculum that meets the education standards set by the state. The board's role in approving and monitoring curriculum also includes allocating taxpayer funding responsibly.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: The current curriculum needs to be reviewed, evaluated, and overhauled. Based on the district administration's most recent academic report, the most pressing issue our district is currently facing is our declining academic performance in all our school buildings.
I would help address these issues by approving a curriculum that is data proven and proven to improve academic performance for all students. I would also hold the superintendent accountable to meet the goals established by the board.
I would actively contribute to establishing goals and expectations of the superintendent so that our district can start to address the issues negatively impacting our academic performance while celebrating district achievements.
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: The school board has an established policy committee that develops, reviews, and updates all policies that then the whole board approves. Ensuring that clear and concise policies are in place helps to address issues and concerns that may arise. There is a specific policy and procedures in place to address grievances.
The board can also seek legal guidance through the board attorney to address controversial issues and potential legal concerns. School board members should work to maintain a trusting working relationship and partnership with all stakeholders to reduce controversy and promote transparency.
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 COVID virus remains a health concern like many other viruses that our society must address and deal with. Thankfully there are now COVID virus treatment options and vaccines that people can take should they choose. The negative academic, emotional, and mental impacts on students from the COVID-19 pandemic are still not fully understood.
As a school board, we should seek input from all key stakeholders along with taking into consideration any guidance and recommendations from our local and state health care agencies prior to making decisions that impact our students and community should we face a resurgence.
It is important to make decisions based on the most up-to-date facts and data. Effective communication with all stakeholders is key in any decision-making process and should be a priority should the district face future issues related to COVID concerns in our district and community.
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 have a Master of Arts in Teaching and have worked as a teacher in five of the surrounding districts. My employment history and volunteer work has provided me multiple opportunities to review and help develop new policies.
My past experience as secretary of my homeowner's association provided me the opportunity to participate in board and policy work that I can use as a school board member. I value and understand the need for policies especially in a school setting. Policy development is important for any organization because it provides a framework to work and function effectively. Implementing and evaluating district policies is an important task of the board that requires collaboration and partnership.
Effective communication about policy changes and easy access to the district policy manual will help with understanding the district policies and improve policy compliance. I will be respectful to all key stakeholders and actively listen as others express their views.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: The reason I feel I would be the best candidate for the position as school board member is as a former teacher, and community member I've had the wonderful opportunity of not only teaching and engaging with teaching staff of District 303 but have raised 3 thriving children here as well. I have had the experience of working on various committees such as the PTO and the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
My committee involvement has allowed me to form many ongoing relationships with families and community members. I have also had the opportunity to work with youth from across Kane County through my volunteer work with organizations such as Young Life. I have had the opportunity to be a Discipleship Mentor working with and guiding high school students from both St. Charles North and East high schools.
I have had the privilege of working with a collaborative group of school board members through The Leadership Institute which helped me understand how important this role is.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: There are several factors that can and have impacted parent and community involvement in our schools. I would like to see more done by the board and the superintendent to improve our relationship and collaboration with all our stakeholders.
I feel parents play a key role in their children's education and in our district's success. I would like to grow our partnership with parents and community partners so they may have more active participation and involvement in our district.