Fei Shang: 2021 candidate for Stevenson High School District 125 board
Six candidates are vying for three four-year seats on the Stevenson High School District 125 board.
City: Long Grove
Occupation: Senior Investment Consultant at Aon Investments USA
Civic involvement: Stevenson Foundation Board member since 2019, Stevenson Education Board member since 2020
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 serving on the board of the Stevenson Foundation and the Foundation's Finance Committee for a few years. This community involvement helped me further understand and appreciate Stevenson's mission of "success for every student." The pandemic forced us to reflect on how fortunate we are and what we can offer to our students and the community. During my 15 years living in the Stevenson community, my family has greatly benefited from our public schools, and serving on the school board gives me a wonderful opportunity to give back. I also enjoy adding diversity to the Board of Education by connecting the board with Asian families in the school district which represents 34% of the school's population.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The Board has done an excellent job in responding to the pandemic. When schools were forced to close in March of 2020, it was heartbreaking, but we've made historical progress since then. We immediately went to a remote model that worked, but we felt could be improved on, so we pushed our administration to improve remote learning from their experiences in the spring of 2020 and summer of 2020, which allowed us to have a very successful fall remote learning program for students that met the Stevenson standard of excellence.
Working closely with health officials, we learned to expect a disruptive fall surge that would cause the school to close again in the fall, so rather than start students in school and then remove students from school again, we held off on our hybrid model until January. Since our hybrid plan has launched we have followed the science to protect our entire SHS community, and our students have been overwhelmingly receptive to our hybrid learning model. Like all families in the district, we'll only be happy when school gets fully back to normal, but we also know that by continuing to work with public health partners, that goal is achievable.
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: Our Board member's role during a pandemic is leadership. The board still sticks to our mission of "Success for every student." We give a voice to constituents by urging the administration to build teaching & learning models with enough flexibility for students and our families with different health needs. We stick to the science, follow the mandatory laws of the state while keeping our focus on the local population. We emphasize good teamwork with the administration so that we build consensus with the administration and teachers, with full respect of each individual's safety concern, while guiding the board communication with the administration, teachers and our SHS families.
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: The final victory of fighting this pandemic and leading the school district through the public health crisis can only be declared when all students feel safe and are willing to come back on campus. Before the final victory can be claimed, it is important to have frequent evaluation of the school's response to the pandemic at various stages. At the early stage, a seamless switch to a remote model without major technical challenges marks the success of the school's response to the pandemic. Throughout the remote learning stages, the school has been very sensitive to students' mental health needs while adjusting logistics, reallocating school resources, and facilitating support to students. As soon as vaccine development provides scientifically based risk mitigation, the school redesigned the teaching model to provide sufficient flexibility to students with different needs. I believe the school district adequately responded and adjusted to serve students at various stages of the pandemic.
We are now in a hybrid model, and our hybrid plans are top-notched. We test students, staff, and faculty, and by doing so we ensure that SHS can be open without high risks of community transmission.
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: I continue to support the administration's efforts centered on the goal to bring students safely back to school. We learned from our own experience as well as other school districts' failures. We have learned to focus on the local population and follow the guidance of science. We also learned from other schools' failures that a learning model with enough flexibility increases attractiveness for students to come back to school. Based on the encouraging data and trend observed during the first three weeks since the New Year, the current hybrid model of SHS is doing its purpose to provide students flexibility while providing students on campus a sense of safety. The board has approved the school's plan to combine the current three groups of students to two, hoping to encourage more students to feel comfortable to come back to campus. We expect the learning plan to continue to evolve as we get more students back in the classrooms.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: The board recognizes that high school sports along with academic studies and other extracurricular activities are all important parts of students' high school life. The board is willing to let students resume direct participation in high school sports when safety rules are followed. High school sports should be guided first by the general guidelines applicable to the school-issued by the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Lake County Health Department, and the CDC concerning schools. Then specific sports participation and attendance should be further guided by The Illinois High School Association (IHSA). Individual sports need to be evaluated distinctively. Sports practice, spectators, and competition need to be guided separately. Indoor vs. outdoor, individual vs. group sports need to be differentiated.