Tayyaba Syed: 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: Glendale Heights
Occupation: Author/journalist, self-employed
Civic involvement: Former Hadley PTA secretary, former Ben Franklin classroom mom, fundraiser for global nonprofit, youth mentor for Sisters' Steppin' Up, founded local moms' support group called the Blessed Orchard, member of Gary United Methodist Interfaith Club, volunteer for Junior Achievement
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'm running for the Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education to help develop high quality educational services, enhance safe spaces that ensure a secure and successful learning environment, and provide diverse, equitable and inclusive schools that attract and maintain talented educators and dedicated students.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I would grade it with high marks. My family was hit with COVID-19 in early November. I informed the school as soon as we were exposed. As a parent, I greatly appreciated the preventive measures that the school took to keep everyone safe and healthy in my 1st grader's class. Even though she herself didn't get COVID, her quarantine lasted an additional 2 weeks after ours. We received regular phone calls and emails from our school nurse. Her teachers were very accommodating and simply transitioned her to remote while she was home. The saliva testing has been effective too. Everyone is dealing with this pandemic, but I strongly feel the current school board has made responsible and accurate decisions for the safety and protection of our entire community. All the while, they have maintained the opportunity for our kids to learn and grow with programs like FLES and Dual Language even with the hybrid model.
That said, we can always do better and the professionals at D41 always rise to that challenge. While I am proud to celebrate our many successes, it's important to honor the challenges of families that feel efforts have fallen short and work collaboratively to resolve concerns.
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. It is our moral imperative to follow medical advice during a pandemic. We as a board would have to look at the science and data as it comes in through the World Health Organization, academic medical schools, DuPage County health guidelines, CDC and the most up to date research. As much as we want to maximize in-person learning, we must make sure to minimize any health risks. We would need to consider how many people can occupy the same space, while maintaining social distance and wearing masks. We also need to think about the students and teachers and administrations social and emotional well-being. Most importantly, how will this affect students with special or medical needs? We must take the whole community into perspective before making such a big decision. What is best for all students? It would require getting guidance from the administration and listening to parents' needs and then asking the appropriate questions. It is a process to make an informed decision as a board.
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. Yes, the district did work with B.R. Ryall YMCA and the Glen Ellyn Park District to get fees reduced during the pandemic for outside-of-school care for respective students as well as remained committed to food/meal distribution to families in need since the beginning of the pandemic. They immediately got Chromebooks to their students and conducted regular wellness checks on all students. I believe the district needs to continue to partner with its community.
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. As per the oath and position of board members, their role is to govern responsibly and do what is right for students and for the district by making sound and legally compliant decisions. I believe the hybrid model is working. I spoke with our Superintendent, who shared that due to space restraints and safety protocol, extending the day for the spring will be difficult to do. She also stated that the data is not telling us that all our kids have regressed or learning loss has occurred on a large scale. They do plan to offer summer learning programs for students. Our kids are learning, and we have stability.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. This question does not apply to my candidacy.