Adam Russo: 2021 candidate for Naperville Unit District 203
Challenger Adam Russo, one of nine candidates running for four, 4-year terms in Naperville Unit District 203, responds to the Daily Herald candidate questionnaire for the April 6, 2021, local elections.
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Occupation: Clinical social worker, Lifestance Health
Civic involvement: No previously held elected positions. Naperville Chamber of Commerce board member, 2012-19; chair of the board, 2017-19.
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've always thought about running for school board, but after watching the academic, social, and emotional impact of the past 10 months on students, I'm running to ensure school starts in the fall at five days per week. And then, running to address an expected achievement gap and SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) issues that will arise with students. Anxiety was already a major issue and remote learning has only exacerbated this issue for students.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would give them an A for March-June 2020. After that, I would give them an F, primarily because they punted their decision-making authority to the superintendent. Further, the optics don't look great: hybrid in August, then canceled. Then delay in hybrid, blaming metrics. Then teachers receive raise. Then hybrid in January despite metrics. Seems like something is missing and the board has not been fully transparent.
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 it as looking at the realities through a common-sense lens. There have been more than enough studies that conclude that school can open safely with precautions. Many local private schools have been doing it, so there's no reason why we can't. I do not know what the identified barriers are to reopening and exploring what these are so they can be properly addressed is important. I'm also prepared to not let perfect be the enemy of good in this situation.
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: It adapted as well as can be expected for remote learning. If school were five days per week in person, kids would be in school about 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Somehow for remote they basically made Mondays a throwaway day, and are ending a bit earlier on other days. I have many questions about that.
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: At this point, many studies conclude that kids have a higher likelihood of contracting COVID in the community or home as opposed to school. With this mind, I don't believe any current precautions in the school setting should change.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: They should 100% continue. Travel teams have been going to Wisconsin and Indiana since the fall to play. Somehow the virus is more dangerous in Illinois? I don't buy it. I also believe that sports should be played without masks. I am not aware of a study that concludes that playing sports maskless is somehow an activity that puts kids at risk. If I'm wrong, I'm happy to change my opinion.