David Scarpino: 2021 candidate for Community Unit District 300 board
Incumbent David Scarpino is one of seven candidates vying for three, 4-year seats on the Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 board in the April 6, 2021 election. The other candidates are incumbent Emmanuel Thomas, and newcomers Christine Birkett, Daniel P. Dale Jr., Holly Jarovsky, Kristina M. Paul and Kim Withycombe.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates several questions on some of the most pressing issues facing the district. Kristina Paul did not respond to the questionnaire.
Below are Scarpino's responses.
In-person early voting begins March 10 only at the Kane County Clerk's Office, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Bldg. B, in Geneva and the Aurora satellite office, 5 E. Downer Place, Suite F. In-person early voting at locations throughout the county begins March 22. Learn more at www.kanecountyclerk.org/Elections.
Occupation: Retired educational administrator
Civic involvement: Secretary on the Community Unit District 300 board; Hampshire Fire Protection District Trustee; secretary, Hampshire Police Pension Board; participant in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine study through the Jessie Brown Veterans Hospital in Chicago.
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 am running for reelection because I am committed to excellence in education. I want to continue to champion our District, students and employees. I also want to continue to work with our superintendent and fellow board members to deliver high quality educational opportunities for all children so they can be college or career ready upon graduation. I believe my practice of visiting all schools every year allows me to listen to students, employees and community members. When you combine my involvement with my 40+ years in the education field and passion about education, it makes me the ideal candidate.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: Every school board is doing the best they can under the current set of circumstances. Unfortunately, there wasn't a playbook for what to do when COVID-19 struck. It is easy to be critical of the decision-makers when you are not in the role of board member.
However, when you are on the board, you are directly responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the 20,000-plus students and over 3,000 employees in our district. At no time did all constituents, either on social media, phone call or via in-person conversations, agree or all disagree, with the information provided or decisions made.
We made the best decisions at the time given the conflicting guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) pertaining to student safety and meal service. Also the conflicting guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control pertaining to daily student screening and the manner in which the district must make decisions regarding when to exclude a student who has COVID-19 symptoms. Overall I would give the school board a grade of B+.
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: I view my role as a board member as one of providing leadership and making a decision even if unpopular after listening to the administration, stakeholders, local and state agencies. When we began the 2020-21 school year, I visited several schools to see how instruction was being delivered and to speak with and listen to teachers and various employees regarding COVID-19 and how each felt about remote instruction.
At no time did all constituents, either on social media, or via in-person conversations, agree or all disagree, with the information provided or decisions made. My decisions were based upon conversations with parents, students and teachers, various employees and data provided by local, district, state and federal agencies. This is why I am a participant in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine study through the V.A. Hospital in Chicago. I want this to end and will do my part in accomplishing this task.
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: While we have served all students throughout the year in one form of instruction or another, it isn't a substitute for full-time in-person instruction. However, during this pandemic different methods of instruction were necessary throughout the country and world. Our in-person and remote decisions were based upon data obtained from county health departments and state and federal agencies. For transparency we have created the D300 COVID Data Dashboard located on the D300 website, so people can see the COVID-19 numbers in our district.
Utilizing this data, we have moved from fully remote to a combination of remote and in-person alternating the days of in-person and remote. We have also increased the number of in-person days utilizing an alternating schedule. As of this writing we are looking at further increasing the number of students who can return to in-person instruction while maintaining appropriate social distancing according to local, Illinois Department of Public Health, and Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 protocol and recommendations. This increase in in-person instruction will be voted upon at our February 23 meeting.
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 board is scheduled to vote on the following Feb. 23:
• Effective March 22: Eliminate the A/B schedule and synchronous Fridays for preschool and self-contained special ed. classes and increase in-person class size.
• Effective March 22: Eliminate the synchronous day each week in all elementary schools and replace it with an additional hybrid (in-person attendance day or remote learner day). Increase in-person class size up to 24 students.
• Effective March 1: Eliminate synchronous Fridays in all middle and high schools and implement a new A/B day rotation.
If approved, we will continue to maintain appropriate social distancing and continue to follow local, Illinois Department of Public Health, and federal COVID-19 protocol and recommendations. The district learned that with proper COVID-19 protocols and practices that schools could safely return to in-person learning.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Since we are a member of the Illinois High School Association, I will support the policies and procedures that are enacted by the IHSA board of directors.