Steven Zurek: 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 Steven Zurek, Kimberly Duris, Christopher B. Humbert, and James J. McGowan, 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 Zurek'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: Management consulting, OakLeaf Consulting LLC
Civic involvement: Roselle Elementary District 12 board (2017 to present) and board president (2020 to present); and Roosevelt University Heller School of Business advisory board member
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 am currently the board president and am completing my first term. I was instrumental in getting a referendum passed in 2016, overseeing the remodeling of both of our campuses and restoring financial health to the district. I want to continue my service and focus on advancing our curriculum offerings, our elective offerings and expand on the great progress we've made in the last four years.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: A+. We are one of only a handful of districts in the Chicagoland area that is offering 5-day a week dedicated instruction to our remote and in-person learners. Through my leadership along with our superintendent, we have adhered to a rigorous safety protocol in our schools and as a result have had no remarkable COVID-19 issues. We have kept our families informed and both myself, our board and the administration have been extremely visible in our district during this difficult time.
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: I saw my role as both a leader and a parent. I knew I needed to be visible to the community and wrote several letters that were emailed to our families and translated into Spanish and Polish which were well received. We knew that dedicated instruction was key to minimizing learning loss with our students and while we were getting pressure to get all children back in person, we were constrained with our physical space. We offered families a choice of in-person or remote and also asked for their preferred learning model. Thankfully, we were able to accommodate each family's first choice on both counts.
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: Yes, absolutely. All of our students have Chromebooks, so we were able to move to a remote learning model very quickly. Our district was up and running within 14 days of the mandated shutdown in March 2020. Our kids were learning while other surrounding districts were struggling with their technology. That showed us we needed to be proactive about our response for returning to school in August 2020. Our superintendent installed a 20 person planning team focused on bringing our kids back to school. We opened on time and have 65% of our students attending school in-person.
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: Yes. Our children returned to the same five-day dedicated instruction model we implemented in the fall of 2020. It was important for us to maintain the bonds our kids had made with their instructors and again, we were able to expand our in-person learning to a few more families and every family got their first choice when they recertified for the spring term. Our teachers have been amazing. They have adopted the new ways of learning and have made many improvements that have really helped our students thrive.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I think some sports can continue, but each activity has to be evaluated through the lens of safety first. Until we begin to see broad immunity, close contact sports are not something I would endorse at this stage.