Michael Engle: 2021 candidate for Hawthorn Dist. 73 school board
Four candidates seek the three seats on the Hawthorn District 73 school board in the April 6, 2021 election.
Occupation: Sales Team Lead, Senior Account Manager
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: As someone who grew up in Vernon Hills and attended D73 schools 2nd-8th grade myself, I carry a sense of pride in being a Hawthorn Eagle alum. I currently have 3 sons attending D73 schools now (2nd grade, 4th grade and 8th grade). As a parent, I want to actively play a part in the education of my children, just as I do with coaching their baseball teams, or managing their hockey teams. As a community member, I want to step up and give back to a district that served me so well. There is no particular issue that motivates me. Only a desire to serve the community and district to the best of my ability, and seeing our schools continue their award winning ways.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would give our board an A. No candidate ever ran for a board seat with pandemic experience as a skill they could bring to the table. There's no playbook for something like this. No manual. No answer/solution was going to be acceptable to everyone. For a volunteer position which can be thankless enough at times, they remained composed, focused, transparent and committed to keeping the health and safety of our students, staff and ultimately community, top priority. That is exactly what I would want to see from a responsible board.
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: The answer here is yes to every part of that question. As a board member, your leadership role tasks you with doing what's best for as many stakeholders as possible, which doesn't mean that's what's popular. Rarely will there be a time when a solution will make everyone happy or works equally well for everyone. Solutions come from collaboration and conversations, and if you're only talking to people who you agree with/agree with you, you're likely missing out on some valuable information and not using all the tools and resources available to you. I also recognize that any decisions need to be made in accordance with the laws and constraints placed on us by higher governing authorities.
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 district has done, and continues to do, a phenomenal job. Students were issued devices and virtual learning was rolled out where no virtual learning had ever taken place. To be dealt a hand such as this, where you need to be completely reactive, it was nothing short of a major undertaking. We see that ability to pivot and adjust now as we move into a hybrid model.
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 would continue along the path we are on, as I feel we're trending in the right direction. Words and advice from experts should be listened to, and considered with every decision we make regarding the safety of the students and the administration. The hybrid model right now is the right way to slowly start introducing students back into the buildings. Social distancing, mask wearing and simple hygiene (hand washing) should still be followed within the buildings. The decisions for remote or hybrid learning this spring will likely be made by the time any new board members are sworn in this April. I think everyone wants the students back in the buildings to the greatest extent possible. We are still very much in a pandemic and need to continue to be cautious, but I'm not here to say we should stay fully remote or in a 2 day/week hybrid model for the long term. If elected, I would diligently work with the Board and Superintendent to continue trying to find ways for students to safely return to the buildings this coming fall, while being mindful of the guidance provided and COVID 19 data.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I do think sports should be able to proceed, provided the appropriate protocols take place, are monitored and enforced. This, however, is my opinion and since I am running for a K-8 board, my opinion on allowing high school sports to continue isn't really relevant.