Gerrie Aulisa: 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 Gerrie Aulisa and Jessica Shannon, 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 Aulisa'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: Middle school principal in Salt Creek District 48
Civic involvement: Almost Home Foundation, Dog Foster; DCFS, child foster applicant
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 a passion for education and this is my 15th year in the field. I was a high school and middle school teacher for seven years prior to becoming a school administrator. I have spent the last 10 years working for the same district and it is very similar in size and structure to District 10. Small districts have very unique benefits, situations and struggles, for which I understand fully. I spent three years as the principal of the primary and elementary schools before becoming the middle school principal.
Just this year, I was awarded as DuPage County's Middle School Principal of the Year. My direct experience with pre-K through high school education is what greatly qualifies me for this position, while my desire to serve the schools for which my nephews and niece attend is the reason I am running for the Itasca District 10 school board.
I am very interested in supporting District 10 through their referendum projects as I just went through the same process in my district. I am also very interested in the curricular improvements that are being made and the growth mindset District 10 encompasses.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. District 10 absolutely receives an A+ in their response to the pandemic. School reopening guidance was provided late in the game and schools were left to figure this out on their own. I watched many districts crumble, as they could not get their stakeholders to share a common goal. At the same time, I watched Itasca District 10's parents, teacher's union, administration and school board collectively work together to get students back in, while offering a strong Remote Academy option. This was unheard of and districts are now, eight months later, starting to figure this out for themselves. District 10 pioneered, while most other districts were unable to start the year with students in their buildings.
District 10 has had less in-school COVID positivity than most of their neighbors who have been in-person less. Their commitment to safety and cleaning has been a staple to their success. As they continue to develop their curriculum and pass referendums, most districts are still deciding how to get their students back in person fully. This commitment to student growth is like none other and to have such a growth mindset during this pandemic is what earns them an A+.
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 school principal in a neighboring district, I have been working directly with my administrative team, teachers, parents and school board members to develop our own learning plans in response to the pandemic. We have been able to offer a hybrid program and an eLearning program similar to Itasca's Remote Academy. This year has been a challenging one for all school leaders, but luckily our parents and school board members have been very supportive of our work. It is important to realize that getting 100% approval is unlikely, but having people feel 100% heard and valued is possible. Taking the time to listen is the best way to reflect and grow as a school leader of any kind.
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. Just as many schools struggled in the beginning of this pandemic, so did District 10. We were all trying to build an airplane while we were flying it and I believe we all did the best we could at that time. As we grew to understand more about the virus, schools quickly moved from being in shock to getting it done. District 10 quickly surpassed most schools as they committed to keeping school life as normal as possible, while following local guidance. They proceeded to refine their Remote Academy, which is another area of strength. It is much easier to have students remote into an in-person classroom, but once again District 10 did not settle for the easy option. Creating and implementing a Remote Academy is no easy task, but it is what is best for students learning from home. The focus on school improvement continues well beyond most districts during this pandemic. District 10 continues to not just adequately serve our students, but serve them with care, safety and passion as if they were their own children.
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. I feel District 10 should continue conducting classes as they have been. They are offering two very solid programs to meet the needs of their students and families. They are refining as they go, which is exactly what should be done.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. High school sports are a staple of most communities and are a powerful avenue to college for some students. However, while transmission rates are high, we all must limit the areas of our lives that cannot allow for social distancing. Unfortunately, this does include many high school sports.
As we continue to regain control of this virus, school can absolutely start to reopen sports, but only while following strict procedures. We must limit our team sizes, coaching staff and audiences to avoid unnecessarily large groups of people. We need to follow all distance and safety protocols, especially when not in actual play. Schools should space out their games with other teams in order to allow for proper contact tracing. If high school athletes can take the seriousness of these safety measures the way students of District 10 have, they should be able to return to play safely this spring.