Donna Kemp: 2021 candidate for Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89
Six candidates are vying for four, 4-year seats on the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 school board in the April 6, 2021, election.
Town: Glen Ellyn
Occupation: Part-time substitute teacher at District 41, part-time Medicare Consultant (Independent contractor) at Aetna & Humana
Civic involvement: Church volunteer, classroom reader volunteer, field trip chaperone, math tutor
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. 1.) To clarify the district's purpose to serve our students, by sharing clear commitments to a full educational experience; 2.) to create Equal/Equitable learning environments, by ensuring all students feel accepted and able to participate; 3.) to Unify our community by building trust and mutual respect with district leaders, and by re-partnering the parent-teacher relationship, thereby strengthening our connection with the community. I'm a child-centered advocate who is education-based, business-minded, family-focused and solution-oriented.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I'm not sure "grading" the current school board on its response to the pandemic is beneficial, considering the schools haven't been "grading" our students learning during the pandemic. I'd say most teachers have made an excellent effort in going above & beyond for our students -- we have amazing teachers. That said, the school board conducted 3 surveys to the parents, and after they received results of approximately 75% wanting in-person instruction, the district's response did not align with those results, as the superintendent chose a complicated hybrid instruction model with barely over 2 hours of in-person instruction time (despite other local districts like District 200 opting for models with longer learning time).
I think a better question might be: how would students rate their ability to perform or handle the two-third decrease of their in-person learning?
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. My role in confronting the pandemic would be to remember to take a step back to see the whole picture, then look closer and listen deeper to all the dynamics involved. I believe in examining verified data/statistics/studies, along with empirical evidence. In my opinion, two aspects that have been overlooked are: 1.) the mental health/well-being of our students -- with anxiety/depression/suicide & fear-based emergency visits on the rise; and 2.) the diverse/learner-specific needs of our students (kids with no internet or "learning areas" at home, or kids on 504 plans, or kids with attention issues, anxiety, or social challenges).
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 adequately served students during the pandemic by making sure each child had an iPad or Chromebook laptop to participate in Remote learning -- great use of resources to provide equal access for students. And teachers went above and beyond with their adaptations. There's room for improvement in realizing the impacts of the large "asynchronous" learning time on students: 1.) having only 2.25 hours of in-person instruction feels subpar for our highly rated district, and leaves 4.5 hours of their remaining school day to be done via independent/asynchronous time -- where the younger elementary kids (especially kindergarten-second grades) are not "naturally independent" nor fully capable of sitting to read, comprehend and follow the various instructions via iPad/Chromebook; and 2.) now two-thirds of their school day is guided by: students themselves (if responsible/old enough), or a paid caretaker (an out-of-pocket expense), or an unpaid parent (who can no longer work full-time, or even part-time), or a grandparent (an "at-risk" person). This could have been handled better by trying a similar successful learning schedule as Wheaton D200 (approximately 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in person).
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 plan would be outlined collectively and collaboratively by working with all involved: gathering input from the district administration, board members, parents, teachers and students. There are data-driven measures that can be followed for safe in-person instruction, with careful attention given to mental health aspects, and social-emotional learning.
Numerous studies by doctors, infectious disease professionals, mental health organizations, and even CDC have provided guidance (not mandates) for safe in-person instruction. Implementing an imperfect plan is better than staying status-quo, or permitting further educational decline ... especially when children have shown to be the in lowest-risk category (as President Biden stated on CNN).
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. My particular board seat would only serve grades K-8, but my personal position on high school sports is that it should be allowed for those who opt to participate. I believe it's important to allow students to safely partake in their FULL educational experience, which includes all extracurricular activities and clubs (like running clubs, music, art, chess, etc).