Kate Harper: 2021 candidate for Lincolnshire-Prairie View Dist. 103 school board
Seven candidates are seeking the four Lincolnshire-Prairie View Dist. 103 school board seats in the April 6, 2021, election. Janene Harris declined to respond to the questionnaire.
Occupation: CPA/Consultant; Former partner KPMG LLP
Civic involvement: Vice president, District 103 Board of Education; vice president, Exceptional Learners Collaborative Board of Education; treasurer, St. Patrick's Women's Group; former board member, District 103 PTO; former board member, District 103 Learning Fund Foundation; former board member, Saint Mary's College Alumnae Association Board of Directors
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 for many of the reasons I ran originally -- give back to the community, believe in the value of public education, act as a conduit for the concerns and interests of teachers and parents and preserve the high quality of our school system. I have enjoyed serving on the board and value the partnership I have developed with fellow board members, the administration, teachers and staff, parents, and the community. The four board members with terms expiring represent the four most experienced members on the board and I believe it would be beneficial to maintain some continuity as the district completes its strategic plan and continues to navigate the challenges presented by COVID. Additionally, I am familiar with the time commitment required to be an effective board member and believe my professional experience is valuable as we continue to be a fiscally responsible district. With children in both D103 and D125, I am aware of what is important for our students to know as they leave our district and continue their educational journey. I have never been motivated by a particular issue -- just passionate about education and the individual success (as defined by each student) of the children in our district.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: This year has been challenging and we have learned along the way. Developing two robust learning models -- five days a week of in-person instruction or five days a week of remote synchronous instruction -- and being creative with the learning spaces in our buildings were two successes. In hindsight, however, we should have pushed back on guidance regarding bringing students back into buildings last fall. Based on that guidance, we did not bring students back until October and then, due to the Lake County Health Department recommendation, closed again three weeks later. We should have brought students back in September. In addition, when families were asked to select a learning model for the fall semester, our in-person option was oversubscribed which required us to make some difficult adjustments. We learned from that experience and developed new ways to accommodate all requests for a five day a week in-person learning experience in the spring. Creating solutions to meet the educational needs of 1,800 students, while balancing the health and safety concerns of parents, teachers, administrators, and public health officials was difficult. What we learned in the fall, we applied to the spring, and I believe we are providing our students with a high-quality education during this challenging time.
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 a board member, I believe it is my responsibility to evaluate and balance all three of these considerations in order to reach the best outcome for our students. No one of these roles outweighs another. Every parent, teacher or administrator may not agree with every decision we make, but it does not mean that voices and opinions are not heard. In the end, what is best for the children in the district is the question I revisit often when determining the best course of action in each situation. As a district, we have sent surveys to parents soliciting feedback. As a board, we have spent hours listening to community members speak at our meetings or reading comments that were sent via email. As a board member, I have invested a considerable amount of time speaking to, or emailing with, parents who contacted me to criticize or applaud board decisions or to offer suggestions or different perspectives. I value all of it. Deferring to state and local authorities has proven to be one of the greatest challenges during this pandemic as their guidance has been evolving, changing and, at times, misleading.
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: The pandemic took everyone by surprise. However, because our students use iPads as one of their learning tools, the district was able to pivot quickly and implement a fully remote learning plan which provided for daily synchronous instruction to all students from March through May. While remote learning is not the ideal learning model for all children, it was the best option available at the time given the strict restrictions imposed by the state. So, it was not perfect, but I feel comfortable stating that we "continued to adequately serve students during the disruption." During the summer, we replaced our traditional (in person) summer school program with a remote experience. For our most vulnerable students, we offered in person summer school, and last fall, brought them back into our buildings as soon as allowed. New curriculum, which is used for both in person and remote learners, was purchased to provide a consistent academic platform, which provides flexibility to rotate between in-person and remote learning (if necessary). Lastly, academic assessments have been given to students to identify areas where intervention is needed. As we plan for next school year, we are evaluating the need for additional staff to provide support to those students who have not reached their learning growth targets this year.
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: Yes, since Jan. 19, we have been safely and effectively offering both our in-person and remote learning models. Our in-person students stay with their "pod" all day and attend school five days a week, while our remote students have five days of synchronous instruction each week. Children and families have been very appreciative of the efforts taken to bring students back to school in a safe manner. The principals in each of our schools have done a terrific job of utilizing their buildings more effectively, which has allowed us to increase the number of in-person students. In addition to following CDC spacing guidance, we have improved the ventilation systems in our buildings and our facilities team has been diligent with cleaning protocols. With COVID numbers/metrics improving daily, we do not foresee a change to this model during the spring. While our in-person students were not in school for as long as we would have liked in the fall, we have learned that the risk of transmission in a school setting is extremely low when mitigation strategies are implemented and, to date, our school buildings remain safe.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Lincolnshire-Prairie View School District 103 is a pre-K through 8 district; therefore, this question is not applicable.