Adam Collins: 2021 candidate for Glen Ellyn District 41 school board
Eight candidates are vying for four seats (four-year term) in the 2021 Glen Ellyn District 41 school board race.
City: Glen Ellyn
Occupation: None listed
Civic involvement: None listed
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'm running to represent the community that feels as though their opinion has not been solicited, sought after or valued. I'm running as a candidate that is intent on creating a transparent board, one that makes community driven, and data-driven decisions instead of a board that limits the involvement of teachers, parents and community members. I saw an opportunity, as an involved parent and community member, to stand for change, enact new policies, be a voice for the community. I then made the decision to run for one of the four positions on the board. It's a chance to work with existing Board Members, as well as the newly elected candidates to help reverse the downward trend of the district, close the achievement gap, and offer support to those hardest hit this year. There is one particular issue that is of particular importance-Special Education. I'm a building representative for children and families that require special education services, and I hear stories about services being reduced, and kids not being able to attend school. The deficit that already exists is going to continue growing unless specific steps and actions are put into place that address these learning losses.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. The initial response was adequate and pragmatic, based on the information known at the time. But a year into the pandemic, we are still behind on planning a return to school in the fall of '21. Despite the community raising concerns in the summer of '20 regarding space issues, mental health issues and educational deficits that would continue to grow, the current D41 Board just started discussing plans for the fall at the Feb. 8 Board meeting.
While I appreciate the hard work that has gone into creating the hybrid and remote models, we are behind neighboring districts, both academically and in terms of plans for a safe return. Other schools and districts are finding ways to provide more than 2.5 hours of core instruction per day. People have noticed this -- enrollment is up record levels at private schools, they are moving out of the district, or finding alternate plans that provide more instruction than is currently being offered. We need to change the way that we are approaching these problems and design an equitable way to return all kids to school, safely, so we can continue the D41's mission of enabling all children to thrive in a changing and increasingly global society.
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. It's the job of the School Board to be a representative voice for the community, and all voices are valid voices. I am not going to stifle public comment or disregard someone's opinion if it is contrary to what I believe, or other board members believe is true. There will always be unpopular decisions, but our goal is to learn from them, and we need to continue soliciting input and working with all parties toward our common goals.
If there are issues that counter the guidance that these state and local authorities have given, it's our duty to discuss these openly and honestly. I'm not a health expert, and I will never claim that I am one. I respect the expert opinions of those who are, and invite them to collaborate with the District. I also respect the authority of local and state authorities, but as I mentioned above, it's my role as a Board Member to represent the community. While we have autonomy to a certain degree, if state and local authorities issue lawful orders, we are duty bound to adhere to these. But, we must know the difference between guidance, laws and executive orders, and we must act to protect and foster the community for which we were elected to serve.
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. Firstly, I think that the teachers and staff have done an absolutely amazing job at bringing their passion for teaching and helping into a new "virtual" environment. It's clear to those involved that a lot of teachers are truly invested in providing the education and outreach that our children need.
But I think the answer to this question varies wildly depending on who you ask. When it comes to special education services, the District's reduction in services (interventions, pull-in/push-out minutes, speech, OT, etc ...) has had a truly negative impact on the children and families that rely on these services to continue learning and thrive. But due to the cohorts and split schedule in D41, a lot of these students are having to forego part of their 2.5 hours of core instruction to receive a scaled-down version of what they need. There are families in the district that are very happy with the current offering, feeling that it completely covers the needs of their children, but for others in the district, there are concerns regarding curriculum and virtual class sizes. It's important that people realize that everyone is having a unique experience, and treats their opinions accordingly.
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 election is April 6, and the swearing in of newly elected officials would not take place until May. It is unlikely that any plans current candidates have would be implemented in for the last 2-3 weeks of the 2020/21 school year, so I have chosen to focus on plans for a safe return in the fall of 2021.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. Not applicable for a K-8 School Board.