Kimberly Duris: 2021 candidate for Roselle Elementary District 12 board
Five candidates are vying for four, 4-year seats on the Roselle Elementary District 12 school board in the April 6, 2021 election. They are incumbents Kimberly Duris, James J. McGowan, Christopher B. Humbert, and Steven Zurek, and newcomer David Franzen.
They responded to a Daily Herald questionnaire seeking their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the district.
Below are Duris's responses.
In-person early voting with paper ballots begins Feb. 25 at DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
No candidate is slated to run for the unexpired 2-year term.
Five candidates for four, 4-year terms
Occupation: Licensed clinical mental health counselor; and associate professor of counseling at Lewis University
Civic involvement: Appointed to the Roselle District 12 board in May 2019; District 12 PTO member; co-editor of the Illinois Counseling Associations' CONTACT newsletter; editorial board member of Journal of Counseling in Illinois; and board member for Illinois Counselor Education and Supervisors division
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I have been on the Roselle District 12 school board since May 2019 and am interested in re-election at this time. My interest in running for reelection is to continue my current work with the board and administration. My short time on the board has shown me the hard work that the teachers and administration do daily.
I view the work of the board as a supplemental resource to the district to monitor the district's overall functioning and ensure that the needs of the community are addressed. I have thoroughly enjoyed working together with the administration and fellow board members on academic improvements, financial stewardship, building improvements, and policy updates, among other topics.
One area of passion for me is the social-emotional learning needs of children. My professional career includes being a licensed mental health counselor and a professor of counseling at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. I can bring a level of expertise in children's mental health needs to help the school district redevelop its social-emotional learning curriculum. This is an area that the school district has noted as one of its current goals.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would grade the district response to the pandemic as an "A." My grading is based on the following facts: a focus on high-quality academic experiences and a high level of regard for community safety. Parent choice on their child's type of learning environment during the pandemic was an essential part of community involvement in District 12's plan.
Due to the parent's choice during the first and second half of the school year, all students were placed in their preferred learning model- in-person or remote instruction. Safety protocols for students and teachers followed all CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines.
Another equally important concern was how to provide a high-quality academic experience during the pandemic. Providing a consistent learning experience for all students required a commitment from teachers and parents. Teachers were assigned to remote classes to offer a consistent classroom experience for remote students. Regardless of learning choice, all students received the same academic experience and a dedicated teacher. The grade of an A goes to all parties involved, families, teachers, and administration.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: Being a part of the leadership team during an unprecedented pandemic provided its share of stress for all parties involved. The protocols developed resulted in differing opinions by community members, particularly families of District 12. My view on the role of leadership during this time focused on a level of transparency with the public, balancing the needs of all students, and approving a plan that met all students' safety and academic needs.
I imagine that some individuals view the district's decision-making as wrong or as taking sides with certain parts of the community over others. There were times when some families felt as though remote students were left out. Additionally, viewpoints that remote instruction was inferior to in-person instruction heightened the stress for families. The board worked closely with the administration to ensure that communication to all families was occurring, addressed specific concerns from families, and confirmed that all students were receiving the same curriculum instruction.
Q: Did your district continue to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: The 2020-2021 school year proved to be a challenging year for school districts. The decision to engage in full remote instruction or a mixture of in-person and remote instruction was a district-by-district decision. Many factors played into the decision, such as community spread of COVID, size of the district, and facility capabilities. District 12 provided full-day, five days a week instruction to all students during the pandemic.
This decision was possible due to the number of in-person and remote students the district had, the amount of space for in-person learning, and the ability to provide additional supports to make it possible for teachers to be in-person. While education looked different, whether due to mask-wearing and social distancing in school or seeing your teacher and friends through a computer screen, students learned at the end of the school week. Specific teachers were devoted to remote classrooms to provide a smoother daily experience for kids and teachers. There are many areas where lessons can be learned from this past school year. However, given the number of unknowns during this time, District 12 proved to adequately serve students during the pandemic.
Q: Do you have a plan on how to safely and effectively conduct classes in the spring? What have you learned from the fall semester that you would change in the spring?
A: The administration conducted a parent survey regarding the programming for its spring term in November 2020. The primary consideration of this plan was feasibility for the number of in-person and remote students. The ability to plan for the second half of the school year presented different dilemmas than the schedule for the start of the school year in August. Namely, the ability to continue to provide full-day, five days per week instruction to all students.
What District 12 did learn during the first half of the school year was that a full five days per week learning model provided the most benefit to its students. The major obstacle to programming for the spring term was effectively maintaining the full five days a week instruction if the number of in-person or the number of remote students increased beyond capacity. The school board was closely involved with the administration and teachers regarding the best options to put forth to the community and its pros and cons. In the end, the district was able to honor all parent requests for student learning models by optimizing its use of school space.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Roselle District 12 serves school-aged students, kindergarten through eighth grade. These grade levels do not offer sports opportunities as do the high schools. The involvement in intramural sports offered at the high school level presents varying issues, such as scholarships to college, engagement with peer groups, and solidifying interests that the high school student may continue to pursue as a young adult. The issue of safety is also paramount during this pandemic.
The pros and cons to both sides of the decision regarding intramural sports are valid. A school district has the responsibility to uphold a level of safety to the community and a responsibility to adhere to state regulations. However, the social-emotional needs met by school sports should not be ignored, either. Sports provide a safe outlet for many students, aiding in their social skills development and adding to how they effectively spend their time outside of school. For many students, their involvement in a team means much more than just playing a sport. A main determining factor in bringing back intramural sports is the ability to maintain the safety of all students involved.