Gina Faso: 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: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Vice President Global IT Governance
Employer: ACCO Brands
Civic involvement: District 25 School board, District 25 Foundation Board of Directors, WINGS volunteer, City of Hope -- ACCO fundraising efforts
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. Serving on the School Board is an opportunity to give back to my school and community. My priorities will be to continue strong programming in the areas of academics, arts and activities. I believe there is important work to be delivered: supporting the social emotional well-being of students, supporting our students and teachers with the best in-class curriculum methods and models, preparing students for a wider variety of educational options, and working to secure a financial future for our district.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. Grading is generally against a measure of evaluation, and as this pandemic was unprecedented, the basis for measurement does not exist. To measure against surrounding districts, I would say our response has been "Developing +". My first premise is to assume positive intent. The school board made every effort to respond to the situation trying to make the best decision possible with the information that was available at the time. They supported efforts to allow the administration, staff and teachers to pivot quickly in response to rapidly changing conditions.
I do not feel that the board's response grade is as important as the overall district, inclusive of kids, families, teachers and community. Which is a more important measure of performance since the ultimate vision of the board is high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction.
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. "My role" as a board member is first and foremost to represent the voice of the community for which I serve, independent of my personal opinion or the level of controversy that surrounds the topic. Diversity of thought, delivered and accepted respectfully is the foundation to success and advancement of our community. Diverse teams have different life experiences, which generate different problem solving approaches, empathize with broader reach, and deliver superior outcomes. My role is to process the information and ideas such diversity can bring to the table in order to provide solutions that are inclusive and reflective of our entire community.
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. During the initial shutdown, the responsiveness and reliability of our communications from the district with parents, students, teachers and staff was timely to information available, clear, open that things were continuously developing. The district was able to pivot quickly and effectively to providing remote learning tools and accessibility to our students. Teachers and staff worked relentlessly despite Illinois standards continually being revised. The district has offered choices to our families for in person and remote learning. Teachers and staff work to maintain healthy environments, across both mediums to deliver our curriculum.
Opportunities for improvement always exist. The impact of the initial shut down did not afford that all students' needs could be met -- including the most vulnerable -- to learn and grow at home. Parts of the technology, internet performance and training implementation had challenges and there was a lack of consistency in the delivery of the educational services across the schools in our district. Example being, the teacher's zoom time with students was different across the schools. Planning for return to school could have been more robust and proactive.
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. The plan should be delivered by the superintendent, administration, teachers in collaboration with the community. They are ones best suited to develop and deliver on actions to achieve our goals and mobilizing the resources needed to take action for spring. Choice will continue to be available to our families -- remote or in person. Revisiting how we support our families that choose remote learning and the impact of having one teacher continue to split her teaching methods should be evaluated. There may be an increase in both effectiveness and efficiency of having a separate teacher for remote learners. This could increase educational benefit to those students with a dedicated teacher that did not have to split their focus across two teaching mediums. Teachers, likewise could benefit with only having to plan, teach and engage with students in one format. This would also then open the opportunity to return in person learning five days a week. The board's role is to ensure the plan aligns to our goals in student achievement and quality instruction, support the plan with what is needed (technology, training, supplies) to deliver the plan and measure the performance.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. We now have sufficient access to testing that should better allow athletes to safely participate in sports. Individual sports -- track and field, singles tennis, cross country may need to test weekly or before meets/matches. Team sports with high contact could consider more frequent screening to ensure the safety of our athletes.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. What other opportunities exist: Moving forward we have to understand and drive to deliver our commitment to our vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction. A primary goal I would like to see attained in our school district is the implementation of programs and initiatives in a fiscally responsible way. I would like to see more opportunities for accommodation for our students with diverse learning capacities. For example, when I first moved to the district, the Odyssey program provided offerings for our advanced learners that was unfortunately canceled. As I understand it a contributing factor was lack of funding. I would like to be an advocate of creative problem solving to support these learners without excessive spending, such as increased subject-level testing so students may participate in already existing classes that will accommodate their needs. I would like to see us find a path to "yes" and build our creative and innovative solutions to both our challenges and our opportunities.