Casie Pezzarossi: 2023 candidate for Roselle Elementary Dist. 12 board


Town: Roselle

Age on Election Day: 44

Occupation: Project-based consulting

Employer: Self-employed

Previous offices held: N/A


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: We need public education to be a sustainable model for both teachers and students. Teachers have been leaving in record numbers and student achievement is dropping while state-based requirements keep increasing.

My parents were both teachers. I remember my dad giving up all his planning periods and half of his lunch to help the school meet state requirements, and my mother bringing home a LOT of curriculum development and assessment, which she did late into the evenings.

I saw how complicated parental disputes were, especially in a small, poor town, and how important it was to have administrators who could simultaneously support both parents and teachers.

When I was younger, our teachers had monthly potlucks, welcome lunches, retirement parties, and exchanged holiday gifts. All my friends were children of other teachers. That sense of community was fundamental for teachers throughout the profession's difficulties, but that's less common now. We need to work toward a solution.

Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?

A: The role of school boards is defined by the Illinois Constitution, which gives school boards the responsibility and authority to determine curriculum. There are some state and federal programs that school boards can choose to adopt, which narrow the scope of their curriculum.

Good school board members will ensure that they are getting adequate information about curriculum so that they are well-informed when they vote. That includes reading the board packets that are provided, asking clarifying questions, and having meaningful conversations with their constituents.

Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?

A: I've been mostly happy with the curriculum at District 12 thus far, and I think that the current Social Emotional Learning committee is a good way to handle controversial curriculum issues within our district.

I would like to see more information flow between the school and parents about the material coming out of the committee, and more opportunities for new people to rotate in.

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: Those choices are not mutually exclusive. State authorities are not equipped to solve all local policy and curriculum controversies.

A school board member's role is to give a voice to their constituents, even ones with whom they disagree, and help solve these issues at the local level in conjunction with their peers.

Leadership is bringing all these things together and achieving effective outcomes.

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: With many COVID-19 policies, the devil is in the details. We can't generalize all infectious disease into one category. We have to look at the details of each situation to develop good strategies. Looking back, closing public schools had a devastating effect on our children.

They regressed academically and socially, and many will never recover from their learning losses.

This is also true of remote learning for many children. Parents, especially single parents, were systemically overlooked in terms of the burden that they were asked to carry while schools were closed. They needed more support from local and state governments.

School boards can bridge a gap between local and state solutions. Traditionally, policy has moved from top (state) to bottom (schools), but to create good policy, there also needs to be a way for effective solutions to move from the bottom up.

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've worked in group settings to determine policy as a leader in many corporations. I've also served on the admissions committee of my alma mater, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, since 2013.

I would call my style: Intelligent, restrained, and effective. I always go into a group setting with a wealth of good information. It's impossible to reach consensus without it. This is probably the biggest challenge I see in most group settings.

If people are using different information, it's impossible to find a consensus. There are some decisions that just aren't that consequential, and in those cases, if someone else feels strongly or has more knowledge than me, I defer to them. I actively listen to other members' point of view. Then, I ask the right questions. This helps to facilitate solutions in a positive way.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: I have deep knowledge of the public education system in Illinois. I suppose education is in my blood because from the time that I was born, I've been surrounded by educators.

My parents were both public school teachers, and their friends were all my teachers. My hometown is fairly impoverished, so I understand the effects of poverty on students in the classroom and how funding can limit education (and the circumstances when it doesn't have to).

I went to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, which is a public boarding school for the best and brightest students in Illinois. They offer diverse educational models, which challenged many of my personal assumptions about education. I have a bachelor's degree in K-12 education, a master's degree, and I'm a member of Mensa, the high-IQ society.

I'm invested in District 12 because my daughter is in second grade, and I want her to have a high-quality educational background and positive school experience.

Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?

A: I'd like to take a closer look at District 12 and other districts our size to see what can be done to improve gifted education at the elementary school level. In my opinion, gifted students fall into the category of exceptional children, but they are often under-resourced. It's usually the last special education program to get anyone's time or attention.

I'm also very focused on getting the community more involved at District 12. All great things and ideas come from people working together, so I'd like to see some structural changes to the way we relate to one another.

School board meetings could be a lot more welcoming, and parents could have a lot more involvement in the classrooms.

I know that teachers are swamped, oftentimes with busy work. Many parents would like to help.

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