Lesli Melendy: 2021 candidate for Huntley District 158 school board
10 candidates are running for four, 4-year seats on the Huntley School District 158 board. Tara Masino did not complete a questionnaire.
Occupation: Executive Director for a not-for-profit
Employer: Metro West Council of Government
Civic involvement: Current member of D158 school board, past President of Chesak/Martin PTA and Marlowe PTO, past Executive Board of Huntley High School Boosters, past Executive Board of Huntley Cheer Association, past member of McHenry County Health Board, member of St. Mary Church, past Religious Education teacher, volunteer for Huntley Hootenanny, St. Baldrick's Go Bald, Huntley Fall Fest
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 am running for a second term because I feel I can continue making a meaningful contribution to a variety of critical decisions and policies that will come before the board during the next few years. Especially during the current health pandemic, decisions must be viewed through a comprehensive lens that considers all relevant factors of each decision. Decisions cannot be emotional; they must be deliberate, fact-based and benefit all students, not just small populations; and I have a proven record as a board member who can take an unpopular vote when data indicates it is the right vote. I am not a one-issue candidate. I am interested in every aspect of the district as it relates to the delivery of education and extracurriculars to students at an affordable cost to taxpayers.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I would give the current board an A or B. These are unprecedented times that no one could have prepared for and there is no road map that illustrates how to perfectly manage a pandemic. I feel the school board and administration always kept the safety of the staff, students and community at the forefront of every decision. We followed the metrics and created a safe environment for the return to school. Data points and executive orders are constantly changing, and the board is responding in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner with an eye on physical and emotional health.
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. Since March of last year, the school board and the district leadership team have managed this pandemic with integrity and strength. There have been many parents who are upset with aspects of the plans. I have met and continue to meet with parents on both sides of the return to school issue to better understand their concerns. It is a very personal decision as to whether you want your child to return to school in person, and every family has to make a decision that works for them. I feel it's important to give our families a choice of remote and in person learning and that is what we have been striving for. There are many factors that go into reopening schools, such as spacing restrictions, staffing, proper sanitation, and adequate amounts of PPE. Student and staff safety remains the number one priority.
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. Thankfully our school district has been an innovative district and our students were familiar with 1:1 learning while our high school has a blended curriculum which allowed for a relatively smooth transition to online learning. Our teachers and staff were able to adjust and be flexible and because of that, we had an easier transition than most districts in the area. We also brought back our more vulnerable students as soon as it was safe to give them the continued support they require to reach educational bench marks.
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 are seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Provided that these metrics continue, when combined with the active vaccination rollout, we expect to be able to offer full-day, 5-days-per-week instruction the Spring. District 158 has done an excellent job of creating safe classrooms for both the teachers and the students and I believe that will continue as we transition back into full days. It's also important to continue to provide the option for remote learning for families that believe a remote setting is still in their child's best interest.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. Based on reduced COVID infection, hospital and death statistics, I support a pro-student approach to sports and activity participation for our students. Families should have the freedom to decide if and when their kids should return to their activities, and as leaders we must be mindful of overall student health, which includes physical and emotional health. The many benefits of paying organized sports must be considered. The CDC has thorough guidelines in place for student participation in sports, and with proper precautions, I believe sports can be offered.