Millie Sessions: 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: Events manager at Blackberry Market
Civic involvement: Active PTA member and volunteer; VBS volunteer at First Presbyterian; Cub Scouts Pack 158; active member of Glen Ellyn Bible Church, where I am involved in various outreach ministries
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 District 41 (D41) Board of Education because I believe the current board is unbalanced, lacks diversity of thought and has marginalized the voices of many of our educators and those in the community. In a period of many diverse opinions on the quality of education and paths forward for education in the pandemic, there are many critical matters under review by the board that are not discussed in transparent, public forums. This lack of accessibility to the board, combined with minimal effort in gathering inclusive and equitable stakeholder input has caused a loss of trust among the community. My hope is to restore that trust through open and honest communication, diverse and equitable viewpoints, and offering more opportunities for community input and questions. I also hope to represent a differing viewpoint to aid in open discussion during board meetings.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. As a parent of three elementary school students in D41, I wholeheartedly would give the current school board a "D" on its response to COVID-19.
The public and private schools surrounding Glen Ellyn put in place comprehensive plans to allow for in-person school to return earlier in Fall 2020 when the weather was decent enough to leverage outdoor facilities. While I appreciate the D41 students have returned to limited in-person learning, the current hybrid model is inflexible and has not been adapted to the new information we now have about transmission of COVID-19 (or rather, the lack thereof) in school. How we started the year is how we will finish -- 10 months later -- while other schools have adapted and increased opportunities for in-person learning. Our District and school board have also failed to prioritize an effective plan for students in younger grades and those with IEP's (Individualized Education Program), 504's (a second form of disability accommodation plan) and other necessary learning accommodations, who have been more severely impacted over the past year by not having broader in-person instruction and access to vital accommodations for their success.
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 the role of the board, whether in a pandemic or not, is to give a voice to all constituents. Board members must be open to those who disagree with then so they can look more critically at their decisions and try to find a way to build a better consensus. I also believe students and education should be at the forefront of all board decisions.
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. My personal view -- and that of many parents that I have spoken to during my campaign -- is that our District has not addressed the needs of many of our students during the prolonged disruptions caused by COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, District 41 was not successful in implementing a way for students in quarantine to livestream the classes they were missing. District 41 was full remote until end of fall and didn't move to hybrid until the implementation of the saliva screening. Board members and some candidates would cite the saliva screening as a way our District has successfully adjusted in order to continue to provide services. However, surrounding elementary schools in Districts 200 were able to successfully offer a form of hybrid/in-person options without this incremental program, and were open by early fall with only an adaptive pause during the holidays. The cost of this additional information from the saliva screening has led to no additional in-person benefit in comparison to these other schools.
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. A critical component of any plan to safely and effectively continue to expand in-person classes needs to involve direct input from across the District's stakeholders, including parents and our educators in the classrooms. In an effort to collaborate with other prospective board members, I have joined with three other candidates to conduct a community survey to solicit feedback on the district's existing pandemic response and what is important to them for the next semester, including detailed questions about their level of comfort with certain mitigations and strategies. With that additional information we will be able to make a community-supported plan for reopening. Part of the reopening plan will have to include effective utilization of existing campus space, and possibly the creation of additional space in cost-efficient methods.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.