Endorsement: Patel, Olejniczak, Scapillato, Faso for Arlington Heights District 25 school board
In school board races across the suburbs, we're witnessing reflections of the division sewn by the COVID-19. Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 is a microcosm of that, with eight candidates running for four seats, the central focus being the district's response in the past year to the pandemic.
In many respects, these high emotions are natural. The pandemic has delivered a gut-wrenching dilemma that is deeply personal to all concerned.
On the one hand, the public health needs to be protected, not just that of students and staff, but also from a wider spread that an outbreak in the schools could bring to extended families and to the community at large -- and the danger increased infections bring of coronavirus mutations that could extend the pandemic in even more horrific ways.
On the other hand, the evidence is indisputable that students learn better in the classroom and that setting among their peers also is vital for their social and emotional growth and well-being.
Both of these issues are real, troubling, personal, and inevitably compete with each other.
To some extent, the unprecedented crisis has placed school officials in a no-win situation. Part of the community prioritizes health, part prioritizes the classroom.
It's worth noting that one of the big criticisms raised in the District 25 race is that the school board has meddled too much in decision-making that ought to rest with the superintendent. Nearby, in Palatine-Schaumburg Townships High School District 211 where there is another feverish school board race, the criticism is just the opposite, that the school board abdicated too much pandemic decision-making to the superintendent.
Yes, to some extent, school officials have been in a no-win situation.
Seemingly lost in the dissonance in District 25 is that it is a strong school system with a good superintendent, devoted teachers and high academic expectations and achievement, not to mention involved parents. Voters would be well served to remember that when they go to the polls.
As we said at the top, in District 25, eight candidates are running for four seats on the school board. Taken individually, each seems to be a good candidate with heartfelt intentions. Each would serve capably if elected.
That being the case, here are the four who impress us most:
-- Anisha Patel, an incumbent with obvious devotion to the school system and all its constituents. She possesses clear leadership skills and is committed to addressing performance gaps and expanding educational opportunity.
-- Rich Olejniczak, also an incumbent. He is a problem solver with a strong analytical mindset. We especially like his emphasis on questioning past practices and planning for future challenges that may be different from the current ones.
-- Greg Scapillato, a teacher in Northbrook committed to "guaranteeing equity for all students, rebuilding our community's trust, addressing aging facilities, maintaining high-quality staff, ensuring fiscal discipline."
-- Gina Faso, appointed to the board in November. In addition to her collaborative skills, she offers representation for the Mount Prospect slice of the district and advocates for "more opportunities for accommodation for our students with diverse learning capacities."
We endorse Patel, Olejniczak, Scapillato and Faso, but recognize there are good arguments to be made as well for Melissa Andrews, Katie Rausch, Deborah Tranter and Todd Witherow.
We wish all of them well, and hope that those who do not win election will find other ways to serve.