Mary Beth Hulting : 2023 Candidate for for Antioch District 34 School Board (4-year term)
Age on Election Day: 51
Employer: West Northfield School District #31
Previous offices held: School Board Member -- President
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 because I have a vested interest in the well-being and education of our community of learners. I see education as the gateway to a fulfilling and productive life and know that having the right people on a Board of Education can have a positive effect on not only the students, but everyone living within the school district. Public schools remain at the heart of every community, and there is no greater honor or purpose than to be selected by your community to lead with vision, determination, and courage. Due to more recent partisan scrutiny surrounding public schools -- the health and welfare of our state's public educational systems need championing and support to ensure a free and high quality education for all. The right members sitting on a school board will do just that. I believe I am one of those candidates.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The role of a school board member is to ensure that the Illinois Learning Standards as well as the mandated state curriculum is being carried out by the school district they are serving. Those standards are set by the Illinois State Board of Education. As students learn their grade-level standards through course work, monitoring procedures are put in place to ensure that there is growth and progress towards those standards. The school board monitors data from NWEA and Illinois Assessment of Readiness to ascertain whether or not the curriculum, programming, and interventions in place are working. It is our place to ask questions. Are there gap areas in the students' learning, and if so, what can we do to close those gaps? How can we put in additional programming to enrich student learning? It is important to note that the board monitors curriculum to ensure accountability and understands that the management of the data is left to administration and staff for operational execution.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: During my tenure, there was a very thorough and robust curriculum cycle put in place to monitor D34's curriculum for each of the core/arts/social emotional areas of study. Those cycles ensure that each curricular area is looked at and monitored on a rotating basis to address successes/areas of need regarding the current curriculum/programming. Is it working for our learners? Do we need to change course? An area that I would like to see strengthened is our number of English Language Arts minutes, especially at the Middle School level (6-8th). Due to the high number of standard skills that need to be taught, (50 standards compared to other subjects at 30) I believe additional minutes are needed to ensure that every student graduating our district is highly proficient in the areas of reading, writing, vocabulary, speaking and listening. The current time allotment is 50 minutes per day. An additional 30 minutes would be optimal to allow for additional time spent on critical focus standards.
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 wonderful thing about public education is that it allows each student the opportunity to learn what the state has set forth regarding its learning standards, while still allowing for parental choice. Parents know their child best, and at times there is curriculum that a parent may feel their child is not "ready for" due to maturity issues, exposure issues, or simply based on personal family choice. Whether its health curriculum or reading content, parents have the right to "opt out" of the related topic of study. D34 is always happy to comply. It has been noted that sometimes curriculum controversies can stem from varying outside sources like social media or news sources that lack credibility. I encourage parents to come in and talk with the curriculum director/superintendent to discuss your concerns while getting your questions answered. Many times, going straight to the source can help families in determining the best course of action while getting the most accurate information.
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: When the pandemic hit, there were far too many questions than answers to help allay our fears. Having never been through one before, there was little basis to help determine what the best decisions were regarding student safety, online learning, and reentry back into school. For the greater good, we had to rely on national/state guidance recommendations to get us through one of the most difficult times of our era. Over the course of two years, medical research/advancement would allow us to better determine what the best course of action would be to move forward, getting students back in classroom seats. Even when faced with community push-back, we complied with state mandates. As a board, it was understood that while you could never please everyone, we were collective in our belief that we were doing what was in the best interest of our students. If given a new resurgence, I feel we are far better equipped on the measures to keep everyone safe while still learning in an in-person setting.
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: As a board, we have always worked very collaboratively in determining not only policy, but other decision making measures for our district. Having most recently been awarded the Illinois Association of School Boards Governance Award in both 2018, and this school year in 2022 -- we work in such a way that we listen to each other with respect, putting all ideas and concerns on the table. Through a collective effort and based on thoughtful and meaningful discussion, we are able to come to sound decisions based upon the best interests of the district as a whole. We are of the mind that a great school system can only be developed when teamwork and cooperation are in play.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I feel that I am the best candidate for the job based on my school experience, leadership skills, and ability to get things done for the betterment of our school community. During my tenure, and through committee work, I negotiated through three successful teacher/ASP contracts, navigated the district through two beautiful additions to Petty and Oakland schools, and initiated Community School Redistricting -- to achieve neighborhood schools as well as opening a dedicated Early Learning Center for our Pre-K Programs -- The Mary Kay McNeill ELC. In addition, my most recent focus was on addressing School Safety/Training and securing a working partnership with both the Lake Villa and Antioch police departments. I am currently working with district stakeholders on the development of a new Strategic Plan. I will lead with honesty, strive for positive working relationships, and promise to keep the board focused on district goals, performance, and educational issues at the local and state level.
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 the implementation of a Service Learning Program throughout both the elementary/middle school. A program such as this differs from community service in that it not only focuses on volunteering, but connecting the learning standards with a service project. Research has proven that students that work together towards a common cause learn to problem solve and think beyond themselves to better their school and community. Students who typically would not work together, find themselves working toward a goal that can only be executed through a positive, collaborative working relationship. A tiered program at the MS might have 6th graders working on service to self/school, 7th graders working on service to the community, and 8th graders working on more national/global issues. Service could include: recycling for your school, teaching seniors computer skills, designing a Veterans Day Assembly, educating younger peers on hunger issues while collecting for the local food bank.