James McGowan: 2021 candidate for Roselle Elementary District 12 board
Five candidates are vying for four, 4-year seats on the Roselle Elementary District 12 school board in the April 6, 2021 election. They are incumbents James J. McGowan, Kimberly Duris, Christopher B. Humbert, and Steven Zurek, and newcomer David Franzen.
They responded to a Daily Herald questionnaire seeking their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the district.
Below are McGowan's responses.
In-person early voting with paper ballots begins Feb. 25 at DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
No candidate is slated to run for the unexpired 2-year term.
Five candidates for four, 4-year terms
Occupation: Finance director at Ingredion
Civic involvement: Appointed to Roselle Elementary District 12 board in May 2019, and board vice president (2020 to present); youth volunteer, coach
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 seeking reelection to the District 12 school board to continue driving this district toward achievement of its stated mission and strategic objectives. It is imperative to continue to capitalize on the momentum created over the past few years as well as leverage continuity and experience of working through the challenges of a pandemic.
As a finance professional for more than 25 years, I have a keen interest in maintaining the financial health of District 12. My current roles of vice president and finance committee member at District 12 Board of Education provide an avenue to apply my financial expertise in decision-making processes regarding fiscal matters. This has been especially important in dealing with the pandemic impacts over this school year and will be moving forward, given the state of Illinois' budgetary issues.
In addition to financial stewardship of community funding, the district has an exciting agenda made up of curriculum expansion and facility upgrades in support of District 12's mission of keeping students and their academic pursuits at the center of all decisions.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: District 12 school board has had a favorable response to the pandemic. The student population was converted to a full remote learning program in less than two weeks last spring as the pandemic hit our community.
Next, a planning committee inclusive of our superintendent, both principals, social workers, nurses and teacher representatives was created to adequately plan a path to in-person learning in August 2020.
Guided by data, science and advisement of local health organizations rigorous safety and sanitization protocols were established to protect students, families, teachers and support staff.
Throughout the summer, in partnership with the district administration, teachers and families considered many learning models and ultimately a five-day dedicated in-person and a five-day dedicated remote instruction model were offered to keep student progression moving forward.
As the year began, teacher devices were upgraded to meet the higher demands of remote learning. District 12 continues to offer both learning models today and through these careful considerations and decisions, we feel the learning loss of students has been minimized.
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: The pandemic has clearly impacted district families, students and teachers in a variety of ways.
The board, as well as the district administration, provided opportunities for community engagement and feedback regarding the overall response to pandemic impacts. All have been focused on an attempt to establish flexibility with learning models keeping the student's safety and academic progress at the forefront. I view my specific role as listening to members of the community, understanding their perspectives and taking them into account when engaging with my fellow board members to stay true to the district's mission for students as well as the safety protocols in accordance with health experts guidance.
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 12 did continue to adequately serve students throughout the pandemic. This was accomplished via the in-person and remote learning models to address different family situations across both schools.
Further, as more students expressed interest in transitioning to in-person learning in second term, alternative spacing decisions were made along with staffing adjustments. Each family in the district was ultimately able to receive their first choice in learning model for both the fall 2020 and spring 2021 term.
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 12 will continue to offer an in-person model and remote model to address different family desires for student learning this spring. The success of the fall term has resulted in more students moving to in-person learning and the district has been able to accommodate through creative problem-solving regarding space.
I believe one of the most important learnings for our district is the benefit of increased engagement from District 12's families. Listening to their ideas, opinions and suggestions has assisted in setting a path to academic progress for students while keeping their health and safety prioritized.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: In accordance with health experts' recommendations, I am supportive of high school sports continuing during the pandemic.
Strict adherence to mask wearing, social distancing, and other safety protocols must be followed as laid out by health officials, but I have seen the health and wellness benefits for kids safely participating in athletics during this difficult time.