Steven G. Frost: 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: Buffalo Grove
Occupation: Retired attorney, retired as partner at Chapman and Cutler, LLP
MS Accountancy (With Distinction) and JD (With Honors), DePaul University
Civic involvement: Adlai E. Stevenson School Board; Uniform Law Commission (Illinois, governor's appointment); Illinois Institute on Business Laws; Anti-Defamation League, Chicago Regional Board
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: There is a saying that the most important obligation of society is to educate its youth. I believe in that principle wholeheartedly, which is why I have also been an adjunct professor at two law schools for over 14 years and I even taught as a teaching assistant when I was in graduate school. I participate in several community and civic activities, but none is more rewarding or satisfying than being on the Stevenson School Board. Importantly, the leadership at Stevenson has developed and maintains a collaborative atmosphere built on its goal of continuous improvement and the school's mission of "success for every student." As a professional learning community, all board members, the administrative team, faculty, and support staff share in this culture and make this my favorite activity.
I am not on the school board because of any particular issue.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: A+. When the pandemic began in March 2020, and the governor closed schools, it took many schools weeks to transition to remote learning. However, Stevenson was prepared because it had already prepared for remote learning on "snow days." After a two-day weekend and one teacher preparation day, Stevenson began remote learning in full. Last summer, when we had to decide whether and how to open in the fall, we took into account the projected fall COVID surges anticipated by science (and colleges as they accelerated fall semester schedules) and planned on a remote fall semester to provide consistency for students (to avoid switching between remote and in person, which would have caused havoc on teacher preparation and building services, not to mention transportation planning). However, we also brought students on campus in the fall complying with science protocols, including special education, science labs, and so forth. We stopped in-person activities in October when public health officials recommended ceasing these activities. In January, we opened with in-person hybrid learning, and as of March 1 anticipate having every child in school for a part of every day, all while following the science and complying with all applicable guidelines.
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: In October, we followed the advice of Mark Pfister, the Executive Director of the Lake County Health Department, who told all Lake County schools that County metrics used to provide advice to schools indicated Lake County schools should stop all in-person teaching in favor of remote classes. Thereafter, a group of parents, including other candidates for the school board, approached us demanding we reopen the school. The Superintendent and Board President met with these parents, and we discussed their concerns and arguments. Essentially, they argued we reopen Stevenson right away, but aside from some general articles, they gave us no suggestions for how to reopen the school and identified no mitigation strategies or steps to be able to do so safely. While these parents continue to say publicly we did not listen to them, in fact, we did listen to them, but we explained to them and have stated publicly we decided instead to follow the advice of our public health officials and continued last fall with remote learning. Frankly, whether or not the decision is popular, we are going to defer to medical experts in making health-related 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: Our district took several steps to serve students during the pandemic. For example, we added surveys to check in with students throughout the year asking how they feel and whether they need additional support. We added a number of social support mechanisms, including, for example, a mental health awareness series where students engage in tools for coping with stress and anxiety and student counselor parent engagement meetings where families have an opportunity to share more information about their students. Our teams have worked long and hard to support our students during this difficult time.
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: We coordinated with local government health officials and complied with all government health guidelines when we began school in January. In addition to basic mitigation strategies of washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing, we installed UV lighting and special air filtration equipment and are practicing surveillance testing, which identifies asymptomatic individuals and symptomatic persons before they present symptoms. When we opened school in January, we divided students into three pods, but we began with remote learning for two weeks to avoid any spike attributable to travel during winter break. Our presumed infection rate during this period was below 1%. Thereafter, all students may elect to come to campus up to half a day 2 or 3 days a week, during which time we will confirm our mitigation strategies are keeping infection rates low. Assuming our infection rates remain low, beginning on March 1, all students may elect to be on campus for half a day each day of the week. Importantly, we followed the science throughout this period in deciding how and when to bring students back on campus, and we will fine-tune this plan to account for changes in student attendance and infections.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: As you know, the Illinois Department of Public Health has published sports safety guidance for all youth athletic activities, including all high school-based sports. The guidance is very detailed and includes sport-specific mitigation strategies that differ depending on various issues, including the nature of contact in the sport, whether the activities are indoors or outdoors, and the current mitigation tiers applicable in the community. For example, student-athletes still wear masks (unless they are in the water or on a gymnastics apparatus), wash hands, and social distance. In addition to minimum guidelines, the guidance includes encouraged best practices. In all cases, the guidelines are designed to keep children safe. We should base our health-related decisions on the science, which means we should follow the advice of the Illinois Department of Public Health, the CDC, and our local Lake County Health Department in all these matters. We followed the advice of the Lake County Health Department issued on October 20 last fall when we stopped in-person activities on campus, and we are following the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines in how our student-athletes practice and compete now.