Deborah Tranter: 2021 candidate for District 25 school board
Eight candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board.
City: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Currently, Elementary School Teacher, fifth grade; previously, Director of Human Resources
Employer: Arlington Heights School District 25. Disclaimer: Yes, I went into this election acknowledging that if elected I will have to resign from my position as a SD25 teacher. I have been blessed serving an extraordinary 12 years in the district as a second career, and I am prepared to resign from my teaching role to serve ALL students in a volunteer position as a school board member to the best of my ability. I will not, however, abandon my current classroom until my students finish their last day of school in June. If elected, it has been decided that I will resign and remain in my classroom with my students as an unpaid, licensed teacher "volunteer."
Civic involvement: Launched the Service Learning Club at Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary School; member of the AHSD25 PTA for 25 years, leading countless committees prior to changing careers from the corporate world to teaching in 2008; Marquee Member, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre; Buddy Foundation; supporter of Anne and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Marklund Home and Team Mighty Meeks, helping raise awareness for Neurofibromatosis (NF); Neighbors Helping Neighbors; supporter of Gerry's Cafe in Arlington Heights
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. With my heart deeply motivated by civic involvement, I felt a strong calling that serving as a member on the school board is meant to be my next adventure in life. I was motivated by a quote from the late RBG that resonated with me, "If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself, something to repair tears in your community ... That's what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for one's self but for one's community." My goal in running is to expand my reach from one classroom of students to our entire district. I am running for a seat on the school board with strong beliefs that school boards are critical components of successful districts. By bringing together different voices and opinions from those who play unique roles within the school community, school leaders obtain the insights and perspectives needed to operate efficiently. I am running with ten years of human resource leadership experience and 12 years of education experience. Serving as the voice of children in our incredible school community would be a privilege that I would be honored to procure.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I feel strongly that we need to move away from this culture of criticism that is rampant in society. While I was admittedly displeased with the lack of decision making that I witnessed by our school board over the last year; it would be unfair to judge anyone in a leadership position attempting to navigate an unprecedented pandemic. I have watched board meetings in SD25 for over two decades; first as a parent, and then as an educator. Prior to 2020, I was able to watch with a sense of calm confidence; but over the last year that has not been the case. I witnessed our current school board become fractured and no longer continue to put the students, teachers and community first. I witnessed a clear division within the board and singular voices were heard where group governance should have led. Meetings over the last year lost productivity and gained tension; neither being useful. If forced to grade, I would suggest the school board earned a "Developing" for their response to the pandemic; arguing that if members would have worked collaboratively with all stakeholders that impactful decisions could have been made more timely and efficiently.
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?
Elected school board members sit in a trusted position of governance for their local communities. If elected, it would be my responsibility and my honor to set the direction for the district in confronting the pandemic, providing leadership even if unpopular. We have long been reminded by the CDC and IDPH that science should be setting our metrics and standards for establishing safe and responsible learning within our schools. I think it is irresponsible for board members to assume metrics can be modified to gain popularity with constituents. It is imperative that school board members serve as a voice for all students; the safety of all students and social and emotional well-being of all students. One of my goals is to ensure that the board works with transparency and inclusively with our community as a valued team approach.
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. Arlington Heights School District 25 worked rapidly to get a device into the hands of all students grades K-8 for remote learning, and the food services team had meals distributed to all families in need each and every week from the start of the pandemic to present. Technology and food distribution issues were hugely impactful for our students and their families ensuring that no student went hungry or isolated from their learning environment during the pandemic. I believe one item that could have been handled better to ease student stress and the isolation of remote learners is the development of a remote academy. The concept of a remote academy is strongly desired by many remote families, and is a preference of many teachers. Another area where our district demonstrated an inadequate response was in regards to meeting the needs of our most vulnerable students, our students with special needs who need the structure and uniformity that the school day provides, as well as the special education curriculum and individual attention that is necessary to help them bridge their learning gaps. As we know, the pandemic provided unique and unforeseen circumstances; however, I believe that in reflection these students deserved more.
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 would love to see district funding or grants utilized in the spring for outside classroom work spaces and outside lunchroom areas. CDC has recommended that the greatest reduction to the threat of COVID spread is gathering outside while socially distant. As an educator, I witnessed first hand the need for outdoor learning spaces in the fall, and I would be thrilled to see this concept come to fruition. Creating and utilizing several outside learning spaces would help to reduce the spread while effectively conducting classes. I was ecstatic when SD25 was afforded the opportunity to vaccinate teachers, which will also provide another layer of spring safety to the district. As an educator, an additional concept that I would be in favor of changing for the spring, would be the addition of a remote academy for those students who are members of families choosing to stay remote for their health and safety. As a current educator, my heart is broken for a lone child or two who remains on Zoom while 20 or more other students are learning in person in the room together. Having a platform where their peers are on Zoom collectively is less divisive and isolating.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. High school students are struggling in countless ways during this pandemic, and I believe that it is crucial that we work to ease their pain to the best of our ability. Teenagers are already impacted with hormonal changes, social and academic anxiety and college preparation stress. Sports have always been a way for students to ease stress, form friendships, ease anxiety and depression and earn college scholarships. I believe that if schools, coaches and athletes are able to follow COVID protocol, that high school sports should and could still take place with limited risk. Coaches can regulate teams to only play full contact when there is a game-time situation. Coaches can focus on outdoor practice time if possible, and minimize the amount of necessary touching of shared equipment. Players can be socially distant when not engaged in play with any down time being spent on individual skill building versus socializing with other players. I do believe that high school sports are important for countless reasons, social and emotional wellness of our teens being at the top of my list. I support resuming high school sports assuming it is done in a COVID responsible manner to keep all students safe.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. The Arlington Heights community has become divided and needs to come together to focus on what is best for the children, the teachers and the future of SD25. I believe that as a member of the school board, I can help mend that divide. One way to begin repairing the fractured relationships is to elect school board members with a wide variety of perspectives, and not vote in a way that supports "group think." I feel that my unique experiences as a SD25 parent, ATA member, educator, community member and human resource professional will bring valuable insight to the decision making process of our new school board. The school board will also need to work to address the social and emotional needs of all students and teachers in the district to address the impacts of COVID and the challenges of remote learning that have been deep and wide. Only after the social and emotional needs are addressed, can continued academic growth take place. I believe that my perspective as an educator will be an invaluable asset as we discuss these problems and potential solutions.