Christi Helm: 2021 candidate for Naperville Unit District 203
Challenger Christi Helm, 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.
In-person early voting with paper ballots is now available 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/.
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Occupation: Currently not employed due to COVID-19
Civic involvement: Elmwood Elementary classroom volunteer and room parent, DuPage PADS volunteer, Feed My Starving Children volunteer, DuPage County NAACP member
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 the School Board because I care about the kids in District 203. My degree in sociology helps me identify various inequalities in the education system. My background in teaching, educational sales, and nonprofit will allow me to be well-versed on educational policies while serving as a Board Member.
I am a single mother of an elementary child in District 203. I have lived through the changes in remote and hybrid learning. I can relate to the struggles that our families are going through on a day-to-day basis. I think it is important that current District 203 parents are represented on the Board.
I am passionate about providing educational equity for all students regardless of race, gender identity, or socioeconomic status. As a Board Member, I am determined to continue District 203's mission by ensuring that all students have access to the best possible education.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I think the current pandemic is an impossible situation for all School Boards, including District 203. No one knew how long the pandemic was going to last or how much it was going to affect our children's education. Hindsight is 20/20 and I appreciate the current Board's service. I think that the Board and District did a great job of keeping student and staff safety as a top priority.
Knowing what we know now, I wish that the School Board Members had not granted complete control to the District. As an elected official, I believe that it is extremely important to listen to the voices of the constituents. By relinquishing the control, it felt as though the constituents also lost power.
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 think that it is extremely important for Board Members to be a voice for all constituents, even if the constituent's opinion differs from the Board Member's opinion. I believe that all members of our community need to be heard, especially during this unprecedented time. Additionally, Board Members must be leaders even if their message is unpopular. A Board Member must be a strong advocate for our children. I also think that it is important to listen to the advice and guidance from local health officials during the COVID-19 crisis.
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: I commend the District for continuing to provide free meals to families in need. The District has done a great job to ensure that the meals are easily accessible for all children and families. Many of our families have lost incomes and suffered financially during the pandemic. Therefore, the meals provided help to ensure that our students are not experiencing food insecurity during this hard time.
I think that District 203 did a great job with remote learning at the elementary level during the Fall semester. Students were online with their teachers all day during normal school hours. Our teachers worked hard to modify lessons to be taught online. Although the students were on Zoom, their instructional time was minimally impacted.
I would like to see the District offer more supplemental programming and resources to students affected by the pandemic such as tutoring programs, support groups, etc. To my knowledge, these types of programs have not been widely offered by 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: Students benefit from instructional time with a teacher as opposed to completing a checklist of asynchronous work. This is especially true for our younger learners. Therefore, I would like to see the students have more instructional time with their teachers. Since the switch to hybrid, elementary students are now only seeing their teachers for 2.5 hours per day. This has been a challenge for many students and families.
As the COVID-19 numbers improve, I would hope that students have more opportunities to be physically in school. However, I think that the District needs to be very conscious of continuing to include children and families that are choosing to remain 100% remote. Regardless of a family's circumstances, all students in District 203 should be valued and considered.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: As a former competitive athlete, I understand the huge role that sports play in students' lives. Physical activity also helps a child's mental health. Additionally, many high school students rely on scholarships as a means to pay for college. Therefore, I would like to see high school sports continue in a safe capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order for sports to continue safely, student athletes must continue to wear masks and social distance. Additionally, athletes should be regularly tested even if they are asymptomatic. As long as all COVID-19 protocols are strictly enforced, high school sports should be allowed to continue.