Felicia N. Gills: 2021 candidate for West Chicago District 33 School Board
Five candidates are running for four seats on the West Chicago District 33 School Board in the April 6, 2021, election.
City: West Chicago
Occupation: Customer service, ComED/Exelon
Civic Involvement: District 33 school board member, Volunteer at Grace Outreach Ministries in Aurora
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 election for the first time. However, I have been a temporary member of the board to complete this current term since 05/2020. I am running to retain my seat and remain a part of the team which I believe is doing a strong work to bring more equity and quality education into our district and build strong relationships in our community. I believe we have a good administration and much progress has been made since I first moved to West Chicago in 2006 and put my 2 adult children through public school here and now with my 8-year-old son currently.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would grade D33 a 9/10 respectfully. There is always room for improvement in anything we do. The Board decisions I don't believe are ever going to get 100% approval. This Pandemic was something the world had never experienced before as whole. So I believe in April 2020 our school district like everyone else's got blindsided by circumstances and we were at a 6/10 in some areas. D33 responded as best it could. Our teachers were resilient in how they had to teach and communicate completely different online as opposed to in person. Our children and us as parents were looking for guidance. As an administration we looked for guidance from the state of Illinois and the CDC.
• Teachers hand delivered material to students homes.
• Helped with making sure not only did every child receive a chromebook or tablet but that the had adequate internet to access classrooms
• Parents were walked through how to help their kids get online that were not tech savvy
• We took in consideration that many parents in our community were essential workers and we stepped up to see how we could help make the connection in the community with those that needed childcare.
• We worked with churches and social service agencies to help families still feed their families and get needed resources to help pay bills with lost income. Many in district pulled up their sleeves and were there for food distribution drives at Leman Middle school weekly.
Returning after summer break I believe the hard work of people like Gloria Trejo and Director of Teaching and Learning worked with our staff and since September we have a more cohesive strategy to use e-learning as a tool of excellence on days students cant physically be in the building. Our teachers are more confident and our parents are a little more comfortable with this new platform of learning for young children when necessary.
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: I believe I can represent all. It's not about me or my opinion but the needs of all. We all have our own truths and there is that thing which is True (scientifically and statistically). As a leader on the Board I have to use Dual duty as a Parent and member of the community while weighing concerns against that which is true. I agree in this position to take every concern before the Team and make the best decisions for those I represent. Confronting the pandemic there is no precedent I can review. Therefore, I have to stand as the voice of those I represent and make an informed vote/decision as leader.
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: Yes, I believe in most areas our teachers, support staff and administration did a great job. I do however want to be a strong advocate in the future for our special education students who are placed outside the district because I believe during the pandemic our district along with SASED were at some disadvantages to keep a reasonable plan of instruction in place.
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: My son and nephews have personally been back to school with the hybrid model and love being back in the classroom with their peers. The first day they took my son on playground for recess for snowstorm I saw the biggest glow on his face when telling me about it. I believe that for those parents that want their kids back in school and understand the social and emotional component in class interactions bring -hybrid is way to go. Then for those parents who have their reasons or just are not as comfortable with their child being in class until COVID-19 passes we continue e-learning. Our district has been tracking numbers weekly from day one and put in every precaution possible to safe guard and educate students and staff so we can stay in school. In class.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I think its important and necessary. Our kids may not be getting paid like pro athletes nor are school districts losing money from ticket sales like NBA/NFL or Colleges. Our kids are in contrast losing the character-building traits affiliated with being apart of team, putting the interest of self aside for the greater, and being accountable to one another. High school sports help build friendships and sense of community pride. I just don't believe that sports should be a higher priority than a child logging on to science or math. Actually, I think we can use high school sports to encourage a higher expectation of in-class participation. We will need to hire staff to make sure coaches and students alike are following CDC and Board of Health safety recommendations when not on the field. Steep penalties such as multiple game suspensions and research papers/reports with citations will be required before a student would be allowed to resume play time.