Glenview School District 34 board candidates address full-time return to school
On March 12, the four candidates vying for three open slots on the Glenview School District 34 Board of Education sat down for a virtual forum with the Daily Herald.
Incumbents Jim Baumstark, Katie Jones and Diane Stefani were joined by Dr. James Dolan. In December, the Glenview District 34 Caucus endorsed Baumstark, Dolan and Stefani. Each of the incumbents is seeking a second term.
District 34 represents the Glenview Online Academy for Learning, Attea and Springman middle schools, and Glen Grove, Henking, Hoffman, Lyon, Pleasant Ridge and Westbrook elementary schools, plus Westbrook's early childhood program.
Baumstark, the current board vice president and a former chair of the Glenview Education Foundation, teaches and serves as director of business and finance operations at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield.
Dolan, who holds a doctorate in microbiology and immunology from Northwestern University, is senior director at EY-Parthenon, a global strategy consulting firm.
Jones, who taught 11 years at Glenbrook North High School, is a volunteer consultant with the nonprofit Credit Awareness Resistance Education program.
Stefani, who has been a member of the board's Policy Committee, is a civil defense attorney with the Montage Legal Group.
The candidates fielded several questions during the forum. One pertained to any educational gap that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, and steps District 34 needs to take with a goal of returning to school full time in the fall.
"Honestly, the first step is to create a framework of thoroughly assessing where we're actually at," Baumstark said. "We don't want to just rely on anecdotes and people feeling certain ways. We need to have assessments, both academically and even social-emotional assessments, so that we have good data about just what has been the impact of pandemic learning."
He compared going through the pandemic to persevering through a hurricane, from managing it during the event to assessing the damage before repairs can be made.
"Once the storm clears, you need to go out and survey what happened, and I just don't think we have a great read on exactly where we're at," he said.
"We've got a few assessments here and there. So, to me, that's priority number one at the beginning of the year, is to figure out where we're at. Then we can thoughtfully make plans. For me, it's hard to speculate what we might exactly need to do until we know, really, what the problem and scope is."
Dolan agreed with Baumstark in that he'd suspect students "probably are not where they would be, but we don't necessarily know that," Dolan said.
"It's going to be one of those things that's probably going to be on a student-by-student basis, that we're going to have to take a data-driven approach to and say, for each student -- because everybody learns differently -- sometimes (students) probably learned differentially using technology in different ways from their classrooms," he said.
"Looking forward, there'd be opportunities, actually, to maintain that type of learning because it's now been exposed in a way that they haven't had access to before. For the future, it's a question of are we accelerated in our learning and are we elevating the ceiling? I don't know that it's necessarily that we're going to be catching up."
Jones agreed with the points about data collection, and also introduced the topic of economic inequity within the district. She said going into the pandemic, 25% of the district was "low income."
"We have always had an achievement gap, like many districts around the country," Jones said. "I'm not a betting person, but I would bet that (gap) is going to be significantly larger and we are going to have to be working on a way to figure out how to bridge that gap.
"That being said, some of my ideas as a teacher would be to offer classes for kids before school, after school, maybe on weekends. And when it comes to the low income, figuring out how to do it at low cost or no cost to those students in particular. I would just hate to see different sectors of students fall even further behind simply because of financial issues.
"My other big component that I would like to add -- all age levels were affected by this in terms of social-emotional anxiety, depression, but I think middle school-age students were really affected in that way, and I would like to see some professional development," she said.
Following Baumstark and Jones in providing thoughts about returning to school full-time, Stefani agreed with both of them in terms of collecting data and also the mental health aspects.
"I agree that social-emotional, that's what we've been hearing from so many families, we've seen it at home, too ... There's been a range of worries all parents have had, and hopefully we can address some of that," Stefani said.
She had the fortunate timing on March 12 to have spoken to District 34 Superintendent Dr. Dane Delli about steps to return.
"What I learned from our superintendent today is that the team is working on this, to come up with a plan both in the summer and in the fall as to what types of enrichments we might be able to offer. Because it's going to become crucial that we both provide social-emotional enrichment and provide learning enrichment, because these students have not had a normal school year," Stefani said.
"Hopefully heading into fall they'll be vaccinated, too, so hopefully some of this will be in the rearview mirror, but I think that we need to get started with some of this in the summer. It sounds like there's already plans starting. I think what we can do in the meantime, those of us that are on the board, is make sure we keep asking about that, make sure that stays a priority."