Jessica Shannon: 2021 candidate for Itasca Elementary District 10 board
Five candidates are vying for four, 4-year terms in the Itasca Elementary District 10 school board in the April 6, 2021, consolidated election. They are newcomers Jessica Shannon and Gerrie Aulisa, and incumbents Casey Amayun, Marty Lundeen and Tina O'Neill.
They responded to a Daily Herald questionnaire seeking their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the district.
Below are Shannon's responses.
In-person early voting with paper ballots began 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/.
Occupation: Regional manager of Oncology and Reproductive Health at Invitae
Civic involvement: Chairman of the Steering Committee, District 10 referendum
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 grew up in Itasca and now my children attend Itasca schools. I love living in Itasca and want to give back to this wonderful community that helped raise me. Last fall I acted as the chairman of the Steering Committee to help get the District 10 referendum passed. Our committee worked tirelessly to educate the community on the $27 million referendum for Itasca schools. The projects earmarked by the referendum (addition at Benson, updated security systems at all 3 schools, updated science and media labs, outdoor learning spaces, new HVAC/ plumbing, etc.) will help modernize our schools. I was thrilled when the community voted YES to the referendum, despite the financial hardships experienced due to COVID. I am excited to help plan and execute these projects in a timely manner for the people of Itasca.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. A+, The school board, the administration, the teacher's union and the community have acted in unison during this challenging time. A full day in-person option, along with a remote option, has been offered to all Itasca District 10 students for the entire 2020-2021 school year. The fiscal responsibility of the board prior to COVID made it possible for the district to hire more teachers, have appropriate PPE, have extra desks, buy the appropriate cleaning supplies (electrostatic sprayer, hand sanitizer, etc.), in order for the kids and staff to attend school safely. There has been less than 1% COVID positivity rate and no spread within the school. In addition to this, a new social studies curriculum and an updated talent development program have been created. I have been so impressed and proud of the current board.
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. As a board member, I would help implement the state standards. I believe that everyone should have a voice, so I would be inclusive and impartial in providing view points.
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 district has done so much to serve and support students and teachers during the pandemic. Early on, the district provided a meals program where the buses would drive and drop off morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack to those families that opted in. The district provided financial help to families that had difficulty accessing the internet for remote learning. When the weather was warmer, the district collaborated with the fire department to provide outside tents and learning zones, so children could enjoy physical activity in a socially distanced manner. The district helped secure discounted day care rates at the Itasca Park District for Itasca teachers whose own children are not back in school.
The district has also used technology to continue to provide normal curriculum activities virtually like honor roll assemblies, music performances, and career day. An upcoming summer school program is also being discussed for those students that need a "catch up" over the summer. I think the district has done a great job supporting students, both in-person and remotely.
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 fall semester was very smooth and productive. The smaller classes, requirement of having desks 6 feet apart, required masks, limited physical movement of students (staying in their own classrooms for lunch and specials), use of electrostatic sprayers, hand sanitizer use, required 7-day quarantine for traveling students, etc. have all proven to be very effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. The COVID positivity rate has been less than 1%, and there has been no spread within the school. I would not change anything about the way that the Fall semester was planned and executed.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. As we are a K-8 district, I don't have a strong opinion on this. I generally would allow sports to continue with mask wearing, social distancing and limited spectators.