Michael Weaver: 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.
Occupation: Project Manager and Human Resources Consultant, Alight Solutions LLC
Civic involvement: I have not previously held a public office or been on a public board. I do volunteer in several community organizations including Heartland Alliance (volunteer helping travelers at O'Hare Airport) and my church, Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights (serving as a confirmation instructor and a PADS volunteer).
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 have been looking for ways to give back to my community and thought that serving on the school board would be a good opportunity to do that. I am very proud of our school district and think that I can share my talents through being a board member to help continue our excellent education system. I don't have a particular agenda coming in. I realize there is a great deal of attention on the board right now due to the pandemic, but that would not be my only focus area as there are many others (e.g., budgets, class size, staff engagement, preparing for the future, etc.) to consider as well. I hope to promote an active dialogue within the board and with the community. I am a team player but am not afraid to speak up and share my ideas. My main goals are for the district to continue to provide an excellent education to our students, be a great employer for the staff and to be fiscally responsible for our tax payers.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The current board was thrown into a very challenging situation and I'm sure they never had any idea what they were getting into. They are due great thanks for the countless hours they put in trying to solve the many issues caused by the pandemic -- especially since they had little and/or ever-changing guidance from state and other government officials. They had to make decisions quickly with little information.
Overall, I think they have done a very good job addressing the pandemic. They've established very good and balanced remote and in-person learning options. They've listened to community feedback. And, they've implemented robust safety protocols.
As a project manager by profession, I always look to do a "Lessons Learned" session after a project to identify opportunities for improvement. Relating that approach to this situation, I think there were some areas that could potentially have been done differently (e.g., communicating the switch in the hybrid approach to five full days in the fall; potentially being less conservative in determining when to return to in-person learning as other districts did; making sure families of remote learners felt their voices were heard; etc.). I do see the board already taking in these learnings.
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, there are some areas where we must follow state guidelines/rules; however, in this pandemic situation, some of the 'guidelines' the state has provided are just that -- guidelines and not requirements. I am not afraid to review those 'guidelines' and propose alternatives that make sense for our students, staff and community. I've found some of the guidelines from the state to be vague, ever-changing, and not tailored to local situations. While I appreciate the intent and often the science behind the guidelines, I think the local community and the school board are in a better position to determine the practicality, risk and real-life implementation of the actions needed.
I do believe that the community needs to have a voice in the situation, but I also realize that there are very differing views and we/I won't be able to satisfy everyone. I am not afraid to make unpopular decisions that are ultimately best for our district. I am very collaborative and a team player, but recognize at some point, we all need to make decisions.
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 that the remote and in-person learning models the district developed for the fall semester were very good and very equitable, all things considered. I think they paid attention to students requiring special needs and made accommodations. I believe they are serving many of the students well, given this unique situation.
The model in the spring semester did not work as well. I realize the district had no time to prepare for the switch and didn't know how long it would last initially. However, I wish they could have pivoted more quickly and incorporated more 'synchronous' learning during that time. The model switch in the fall semester addressed that feedback well.
Many of the students have done and are doing well in the remote model, which I feel is very robust. However, there are students who have really struggled with the remote model and I wish the district could have done more to restart the in-person learning sooner to better support those students as other districts in the area and around the country did.
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: I feel the board and district have a solid plan in place now for the spring semester. They have established good safety protocols. They have also stated that they don't intend to stop in-person learning again unless there is an outbreak in our schools or a specific executive order from the governor to stop in-person learning. I think the board has learned that there are too many differing metrics out there to continue to monitor, so it is best to focus on what is happening in our schools.
I would encourage the board to continue to evaluate and revise, if appropriate, the remote model to make it even better. In particular, I'd like to see the board review the minutes of instruction in the remote model. I'd also like to see the district evaluate which 'extracurricular' activities we may be able to restart in a safe way.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Since our district is only pre-K through 8th grade, high school sports don't apply and I don't have a specific opinion on this topic.