James Lerch: 2021 candidate for Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 board
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: Payroll manager at UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago
Civic involvement: D89 school 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. I have the desire to serve the children and families of D89 and a strong belief in the value of the public school system.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I would give us an A. We have worked hard to involve all of the stakeholders in the decision-making process regarding the pandemic from the instant the 2019 school year ended.
We openly engaged our community and based our responses around protecting the children, staff and families of D89. Our ultimate goal has always been to have the children and staff safely return to 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. Board members are responsible for connecting with the community. It is my goal to listen to the parents and families of the district and to offer a balanced opinion regarding the direction of our response to this health crisis.
The health department has been our guide in setting the standards for the return to full in-person learning and I believe following those recommendations has been and will continue to be the best practice.
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. I believe our district did the best we could during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. We invested in technology to help teachers connect with their at home learners and include them with the in-person students to maintain a strong class bond.
During a tour I attended of several of the schools in the district, I witnessed firsthand how the teachers were using projectors, Chromebooks and microphones to keep their classes together and engaged to provide our usual high standard of education.
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 have adopted a program of surveillance testing for the virus and it has allowed us, with the dropping infection rates in our district, to increase the number of in-person hours available to those students' families who have chosen that option.
This is a step in the right direction and it is made with the safety of everyone involved as a priority. We will continue to evaluate the environment and adjust accordingly and safely. All of the buildings in the district were upgraded over last summer with improved HVAC modifications, intense cleaning systems and social distancing markers. We will continue to follow all prudent health precautions as we increase the in-person learning hours until our full return to school.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. Our district is an elementary district, so I really don't have an opinion to offer on high school sports programs. I can say that my son has continued to play organized baseball during the spring and the fall and do it safely due to current health practices being strictly enforced.