Steven Neurauter: 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: Business and Engineering Consultant at PMB Consulting Inc.
Civic involvement: District 89 Citizens Advisory Council (2017-19); District 89 Finance Committee (2017-18); District 89 Community Engagement Committee (2018); Yes4Our89 Referendum Committee (2018); Village of Glen Ellyn Capital Improvements Commission (2019 to present); Park View Watchdog Dad (2016 to present); and local school crossing safety improvement effort
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. This is my first time running for this office. I want to make sure that the good work the current board does continues into the future so all of our community's children can achieve their potential. The public school system is the heart of every community and I want to make sure our community remains strong and healthy.
The current school board has been fantastic stewards of the community's tax dollars, they are thorough in their analysis, their teamwork is remarkable, and they focus decisions on whether it benefits all students. Their efforts have resulted in high and improving student achievement marks in the district while maintaining a lean budget.
I will bring my expertise to the board to continue this good work with a focus on ensuring our district teachers and staff has what they need to operate in a way that ensures exceptional, equitable education, inclusive and accessible by all our district's children.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I grade the current school board an A- on its response to the pandemic. The district responded well to the pandemic to balance safety while also providing an opportunity to learn, within the district's resources. I believe the board provides safe options for parents by following expert advice regarding COVID transmission mitigation strategies. They also adjusted their strategies based on new information from experts. I applaud their recognition that the district is diverse and each family has different needs. They ensured underserved students had what they needed, whether or not they are learning in-person.
I have three children attending remotely in the district, in kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade, and I have witnessed tremendous efforts by their teachers to teach remote and in-person students. As we continue to address this pandemic's impacts on the students, I will advocate for more emphasis on mental health by seeking and incorporating advice from mental health professionals, similar to what schools often do after a catastrophe. I think the mental health effects of COVID will last for years and these kids need the tools to manage their feelings in a healthy way.
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 think we need to continue to listen to appropriate experts and be ready to adjust our plans as new information about the pandemic comes in and research about mitigation strategies is completed. I believe the district does a good job of building advisory committees with relevant stakeholders to understand what parents, teachers, and the public wants. On the board, I would very much consider the outcome of these committees when taking in advice from health professionals and state authorities. Our district is a subset of DuPage, which is a subset of Illinois.
I think we need to look through our community's lens to ensure we are making the right choices; choices about safety, first, then equitable, inclusive, and accessible education. We need to continue to build relationships with all groups within the community to make sure we are bringing in all voices and we serve all students. If we do not have everyone at the table, it can be easy to miss important information and then our decisions can have unintended consequences.
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. The spring was a difficult time but our district did well, compared to some others. I believe our district has done a very good job of serving students since the start of this school year. Services for those in most need continued and the district provided the necessary tools to continue education. During remote teaching, most students are engaged and teachers do an exceptional job managing them online. I am particularly impressed that, even though D89 was not a 1-1 technology district prior to the pandemic, the district quickly procured and prepared devices for each student's at-home use.
When schools could open for in-person learning, parents were provided the option to return or stay remote. I appreciate the inclusive and accessible way each option has been executed because family in our diverse district has different circumstances. Communication with parents has been good with schools and with the board moving online for their meetings. I will build upon this, as best we can. I am also happy the board and district continued its transparency during this difficult time. All board meetings and relevant district documentation is online, available for anyone to view it.
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. I think the district's current plan is good because it offers everyone an option for in-person or remote and both have been relatively effective. As new information about COVID and relevant mitigation efforts becomes available, I would work with the board to engage health and teaching professionals to determine if we can make adjustments. Ultimately, we all want the kids back in school full-time, each day. However, I will not sacrifice safety to achieve that goal.
The research and experts will have to prove to me that any plan we decide to implement is safe enough before I agree to it. To build upon the board's interaction with the experts they've spoken with, I will ask these experts for each potential option's risk assessment because parents need to be aware of any potential risks so they can make informed choices. I am particularly focused on this because one third of our district's students are remote despite our district having one of the most thorough mitigation strategies in the area. Once it is safe enough to increase in-person learning, I would consider increased screening to validate the risk assessments and protect against community spread from reaching the schools.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. CCSD89 is a K-8 school district so my opinion about high school sports during the pandemic is irrelevant for my candidacy for this school board