Casey Amayun: 2021 candidate for Itasca Elementary District 10 school board
Five candidates are vying for four, 4-year terms in the Itasca Elementary District 10 school board in the April 6, 2021, consolidated election. They are incumbents Casey Amayun, Marty Lundeen and Tina O'Neill, and newcomers Gerrie Aulisa and Jessica Shannon.
They responded to a Daily Herald questionnaire seeking their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the district.
Below are Amayun's responses.
In-person early voting with paper ballots began Feb. 25 at DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
Occupation: Office manager at Smile Creations Dental
Civic involvement: Board secretary, Itasca District 10 school board; Elder at First Presbyterian Church of Itasca
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 on the board for almost five years. Originally, I wanted to run to become more familiar to the school district and advocate for full-day kindergarten. Over the past four years, the district has had a large emphasis on updating curriculum and technology. Most recently, we were able to pass a referendum for our schools. I am running for reelection to continue the momentum that we have been building over the past few years and to support the district in any way that I can.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. Although the beginning of the pandemic started a bit rough, I would give our district an overall grade of an A. Last spring, the district focused on the needs of the family first. They started meal delivery service biweekly utilizing support staff and bus drives to deliver meals to any family in need. The social workers sent out extra materials and were available via email or phone if any family needed support. The teaching staff had a week to adapt to different learning methods and quickly picked up the ability to have individual and group calls with the children. Over the summer, our district worked nonstop to provide two options for families: a remote learning academy and 100% in person option.
There has been zero spread of coronavirus within the buildings and our numbers look similar to districts that have been 100% remote. The schools have strict safety guidelines for masks and social distancing, deep clean the school every night, and have made assemblies/programs virtual so all can participate. A strong partnership between the school board, administration and teachers union has allowed all of this to take place.
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 is to ask questions and listen to the data. Throughout the summer, we had several board meetings addressing back to school options. Leading up to each meeting, I was trying to talk to as many people in our community as possible to see what types of questions they had about the upcoming school year. If I didn't know the answer, I would address it with the district.
I assumed that if one person had that question, there were probably several others. There will always be differing opinions on most topics that the school board faces. Listening to all points of view, gives me an opportunity to expand my thinking and can make an educated vote when needed. If there is a state mandate, we need to follow what the state says and support the administration as they work toward meeting the standards/mandates.
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. Our district has provided a full day, in person option for children from the first day of school this year. Due to sound fiscal management from the Board over the past few years, we allowed the administration to hire extra teachers and purchase whatever was needed to provide a safe, in person option for our families. The administration, teachers union, teachers and support staff worked together to create social distancing and mask protocols and reworked lunch/recess to make it safe for children to attend.
In addition, the administration asked all teachers, staff and families to self certify each day prior to attendance, be mindful of traveling/exposures and quarantine when needed. This has allowed our school to maintain in person learning with zero spread within the district.
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. Our district will continue with the plan it has been following and making adjustments as needed when new information has come out. At this time, we have been proud of our two separate options of learning for children and will continue on with both options for the remainder of the school year.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. Our district is a pre-K to 8th grade district and my children are in elementary so I have not looked into high school sports. I would assume the state authorities would make decisions on what is in the best interest of the children. Many sports can safely practice/perform with COVID protocols but anytime you have a larger number of people coming together, there is a potential higher risk to spreading the virus.