Melisa Andrews: 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.
Town: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Stay at home mom
Civic involvement: Patton Elementary School PTA, 3rd VP of Programs Co-Chair
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. The biggest issue that faces our school boards today is the response to COVID-19. I believe that the current school board for District 25 has not adequately taken into account the needs of students and staff. I am running for office to restore integrity to the school board which has been lost during the pandemic.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I believe that the school board failed at their response to the pandemic by failing to follow science. The board prioritized getting kids back into the classroom at the cost of the safety of students and staff. Recommendations from the CDC and metrics established by the District's Transition Advisory Committee were ignored. I support the Superintendent's right to make pandemic related decisions as a matter of good governance. The current Board's actions have led to outbreaks now in both South and Thomas middle schools.
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 authorities at the CDC and the Cook County Department of Public Health are more qualified than a school board to issue guidance in regards to this pandemic. As a result, I would lead by listening to these authorities to provide the safest learning environment for our kids. There is no doubt in my mind that children should be in the classroom. It is important that the school board does not ignore the advice of professionals when considering the interests of the 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. In the beginning of the school year, there was new information coming out all the time as experts learned more about the virus. The most vulnerable students were allowed to come back as they needed services. Once that was established they instituted a hybrid model which allowed for proper metrics to be used. When there was an outbreak twice at Thomas Middle School they went back to remote as it was a recommendation from the CCDPH.
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 current state of the pandemic can change everything when it comes to what methods of school can be offered. If the metrics rise this spring, schools may need to return to a learning model that supports the safety of students and staff. Our current board has not demonstrated the ability to adjust properly to a constantly adjusting pandemic. Specifically, the board should have taken an adaptive pause during the Fall 2020 semester when cases in our region were at their worst.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. Again, just like schools if it can be done with proper mitigations and science is followed I don't see why not. For some students sports is their outlet mentally.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. As the parent of children requiring special education services, I will look forward to supporting efforts to maintain high quality services in an inclusive environment. The Board's job, even during the pandemic, is to balance the interests of students, teachers, parents and the community to provide the quality education for which Arlington Heights is famous. In the coming years, doing so will require giving consideration to the changing demographics of the community. We will need to adjust to serving a more inclusive and diverse population. The change will require review of the curriculum, staffing, while maintaining a balanced budget supporting such changes. As the community changes, proper utilization of the new state funding formula will be one revenue source that may be able to help such a transition.