Gary Gorson: 2021 candidate for Stevenson High School District 125 board
Six candidates are vying for three four-year seats on the Stevenson High School District 125 board.
City: Hawthorn Woods
Occupation: Chief Technology Officer at Township High School District 211
Civic involvement: 10 years Village of Hawthorn Woods Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, Stevenson Board member since 1999
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 hope to leverage my life experiences to contribute to the Stevenson mission and vision of "Success for Every Student" and to maintain Stevenson as one of the best public high schools in the nation. Over the years, the success of Stevenson is the result of a culture of continuous improvement in all aspects of the organization -- academics, athletics, activities, school culture, community involvement, along with responsible fiscal policies that maximize the return on residents' tax investment. I have always enjoyed public service and supporting a cause as noble as educating students is a wonderful way to do so. I enjoy working with our highly-collaborative Stevenson teachers, administrators, and my fellow board members. They know exactly what makes high-performing teams tick and apply those principles every day to assist students in becoming the best they can be.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The Board and school administrators, along with the teachers and school staff did an outstanding job responding to the variety of issues caused by the pandemic. District leadership recognized that they are not epidemiologists or experts in the field of public health, but experts in education. Following the guidance of the experts when it comes to the science, and applying the educational expertise that Stevenson is so well-known for, the team continues to craft and implement effective learning models at each stage of the pandemic -- from full remote through hybrid learning on to having all students physically back in the building -- prioritizing the safety of students, school employees, and community members.
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: A Board member's role during a pandemic is not different than it is during any other time. We provide strategic leadership and guidance to the administration toward achieving the District's vision, guided by the District's stated values, in accordance with state law. Board members always act as a voice for constituents, and we will continue to insist that school administrators also carry on the practice of effective communication with any and all members of the community.
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: Students learn best when physically in the classroom. No one is disputing that. I am confident that our conversations with county health officials and other public health experts have led us to what will be remembered as a successful reopening of the school with our hybrid model. Prior and ongoing investment in a solid technology platform has provided a powerful, flexible, and stable environment in which the District's highly-talented and creative teachers have been able to quickly build remote learning models of their classrooms, which allowed effective learning to continue throughout the pandemic -- both remotely and under the current hybrid model.
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: Currently, the hybrid plan is still in place and students are being encouraged to come into the building on the days they have been assigned to. As conditions improve -- vaccine distribution and relaxing of social distancing requirements, etc., the plan is flexible enough to be modified to allow increasing numbers of students to come into the building more often without compromising the safety of students or employees.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: As is the case with in-person learning, students benefit greatly from participating in and attending school sporting events. And as with academics, the Board and school administration is anxious to get students again involved directly and participating in their sports of choice. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is the body that regulates competitive high school sports in Illinois. The guidance issued by the IHSA, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Lake County Health Department, and CDC concerning sports participation and attendance during the pandemic will be used to determine which sports are safe for students to participate in (both practice and competition guidelines) and how fans can safely be accommodated.