Lisa Warren: 2021 candidate for Lake Zurich Community Unit District 95 school board
Occupation: Community volunteer
Civic involvement: Board Member and Treasurer of School District 95 Educational Foundation; Cantor, Lector and Prayer Shawl Ministry Chair at St. Francis de Sales Parish; Chair of Ela Coalition Against Youth Substance Abuse; Vincentian member of St. Vincent de Paul Society
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 running for reelection because I see that I can continue enhancing the district's ability to serve our community. I was a member of the strategic planning committee and am eager to see the final years of our initial strategic plan come to fruition and assist with the creation and prioritization of the initiatives added to the strategic plan as it continues beyond the initial five year term. I am also excited to see the fulfillment of the building plan created as part of the referendum passed in 2018. The completion of the new May Whitney building will occur this summer and the creation of the STEAM learning labs in the high school is underway with the middle school spaces to follow.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I believe our current school board has earned an "A" for its response to the pandemic and has demonstrated our ability to balance the needs of the community we serve. The board supported Dr. Gallt, superintendent, by giving her the resources and time to assemble a committee of 90+ staff members, administrators and two board members which worked together to create three plans for the district: all students remain learning remotely, all students attend school and a hybrid plan of remote and in-person learning. The plans adhere to the CDC and IDPH guidelines therefore, the all students in-person plan was not feasible. The all remote and hybrid plans were presented to the board in July and a lengthy discussion ensued regarding the pros and cons of each plan. The board was able to make an informed choice to support the administration's recommendation. This summer, the board also approved a change to the custodial contract to increase the number of employees to ensure increased cleaning protocols can be met at every school. This fall, the board approved funding for COVID testing to occur at the district and to participate in the pod facilitating vaccinations for district staff.
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 part of the 90+ member Superintendent's committee that was gathered this summer to create the three learning plans, I believe I played both the role of providing leadership while also providing a voice for my constituents. As a board member, my subcommittee assignment dealt with policy and governance changes that needed to be made as a result of the changes in operations of the schools. As a parent and member of the community, I also provided voice to my constituents to this group regarding their concerns and desires for the learning environments we were discussing. During this process, the committee did follow the recommendations and mandates given by ISBE, IDPH and LCPH as the district's operations continue to do so. I look at the success of District 95's approach as a validation of our plan and am proud the district has been a resource for others.
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: I believe District 95 was able to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Remote learning was put into place immediately in March 2020 when the "stay at home" order was issued by the governor. All students in grades 6 through 12 already had an iPad to facilitate remote learning. On March 20, iPads were issued to every fourth and fifth grader to facilitate their at home learning. Devices were provided to kindergarten through third graders that needed one to participate in remote learning. The District's strategic plan was already addressing the plan to facilitate one-to-one devices for elementary students and was implemented at the beginning of this school year. Providing the choice for each student to participate remotely or in hybrid learning also helps to serve each student's learning needs. Interventions have been put in place, additional in person learning opportunities have been provided and the ability for the district to effectively pivot between hybrid learning and all remote learning has allowed learning to continue as the conditions of the pandemic shift.
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: District 95 has been in a hybrid learning plan through the fall semester and will continue through the spring semester. Teachers and administrators have identified students who struggle with remote learning and the team has determined how to provide five days a week in person learning for them. The Student Services team continues to create new ways to reach students to provide the support services they need in an effective manner. This includes not only academic supports but also emotional supports. The administration recognizes that the staff also needs to be supported and has provided not only professional development and resources to assist them in teaching hybrid classrooms and remote learners but also emotional and self-care resources. The district continues to follow the protocols established to determine if a change from hybrid learning to remote learning is needed while also providing increase rapid testing opportunities as well as vaccination opportunities for all staff.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I am in favor of continuing high school sports during the pandemic as long as the necessary safety protocols are also followed. I believe high school sports provide not only physical benefits for students but also mental health benefits. For many students, extracurricular activities are a large part of their high school experience and identity. Removing all extracurricular activities adversely affects the mental health of our youth. Many extracurricular activities such as student council, French club and fine art performances are controlled at the school level and able to continue in a modified manner. Since high school sports are governed by IHSA this was a statewide mandate. I commend the IHSA for working hard to provide a framework for high school sports to continue in a modified manner to keep everyone safe while providing the high school sport team experience. I also share their frustration with the statewide agencies that did not move with as much urgency to determine how to enable high school sports to occur in this constantly changing pandemic environment.