Anna Klimkowicz: 2021 candidate for Palatine-Schaumburg Townships High School District 211 Board
Nine candidates for three 4-year terms
Age: (Did not respond)
Occupation: Housing Program Manager at Northwest Compass, Inc. (full time); Substance Abuse and Gambling Counselor at SHARE (part-time); Licensed Professional Counselor
Employer: Northwest Compass, Inc. Mt. Prospect; SHARE, Leyden Family Service, Hoffman Estates
Civic involvement: Currently serving as Chairperson of the Schaumburg Peer Jury; Currently serving on the Governor's Taskforce for Social Emotional Learning; Service as D211 representative/liaison: Liaison to Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization (NSSEO); North Cook Division Resolutions Chairperson for the Illinois Association of School Boards; Liaison to Education Research Development (EdRED). Past involvement includes: Serving as PTA President at Blackwell School and Adams Jr. High; past PTA Council President; Girls Scout Leader; Cub Scouts; volunteer at WING's; Volunteer for events with Children's Advocacy Center
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I seek reelection to District 211 School Board to safeguard our schools so our communities can continue to depend on them for excellence far beyond any single board or board member's term. I'll use my experience as a board member to make sure we provide opportunities and support to every family, especially because the need for both will escalate as a result of the pandemic. I listen to all points of view and fairly consider arguments or concerns on their merits, regardless of origin, because effective school board members balance everyone's interests and show aptitude for teamwork.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. The current board did a lot of things right. We used our reserves to upgrade our ventilation systems and increase sanitation months before other districts did the same. We aggressively purchased personal protective equipment well beyond minimum requirements and used it to offer safe in person learning to our most vulnerable students in early fall. We expanded into opening for safe in person learning for all students soon afterward and made sure the 50% of our families who requested remote learning did so right alongside their in-person peers. We also raised pay for substitute teachers to address staffing shortages and we built enough flexibility into our response to adapt to constantly changing government guidance. The pandemic put pressure on all of us. We responded to that pressure by facilitating what our families asked for: half wanted in person learning and half wanted remote learning. It's our job to deliver and we did. Hindsight gives us opportunities to learn and grow. As we move forward we need to learn from this past year, so we can be even better prepared for the future. I look forward to playing an active role in that process.
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 thoroughly review all materials the superintendent provides. I prepare well so that I can ask tough questions, even if they make people uncomfortable. I listen to all points of view and consider them when I vote. I educate myself about state law and authority, and carefully weigh the risks and benefits of submitting to or disregarding either before making a decision. I demonstrate stewardship when I weigh the short and long term consequences of proposals. Most of all, I hold myself accountable to serve not just to the people who vote for me, but the people who don't. I serve on the board to protect and promote our schools, and by extension our community.
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. As someone who works with the homeless, I care a great deal about consistency. Families need consistency in order to thrive, which is why I repeatedly pushed the administration to consistently deliver high quality in person and remote learning over the past year, pandemic notwithstanding. I'm proud we offered full time in person learning to our most vulnerable students beginning in September of 2020. I take a special interest in these students and pressured our district to meet their needs months before other districts even opened their doors. It is quite a challenge to deliver the kind of education our community expects when half of our students choose in person learning and half choose remote learning, but one that we meet though proactive planning, commitment, and our financial reserves. Like most districts this year, our board confronted pandemic related staffing shortages. When our superintendent was forced to implement temporary short-term pauses to in person learning due to conflicting guidance from the Cook County department of public health and the Illinois department of public health, I worked with my fellow board members to prevent future pauses and voted to pass a resolution resolving the primary driver of those shortages in January.
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 safely conducting in person classes right now and have been since October, with little disruption. We made the decision to follow the science while prioritizing the diverse needs of our students from the beginning, so we addressed each safety requirement for in person services even before the CDC's most recent guidance. We know that schools safely provide in-person instruction when they implement the following strategies: improve ventilation, universal masking, social distancing, contact tracing/testing, health screening, and improve sanitation. D211 implements all of those strategies. With the benefit of hindsight, I want to provide more on-site testing capacity for students and staff, so I'm pushing for that right now.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. I push the administration to offer maximum athletic opportunities allowable under IHSA guidelines. Students need sports and extracurriculars as much as they need academics. I support providing those opportunities within the guidelines because doing so minimizes the district's legal risk in the event of an exposure and ensures our teams have other teams to play against. At the same time, I understand some families do not feel comfortable participating in athletics at this time and respect their decision.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. I see four areas of need. 1. Social Emotional Support: My first priority is expanding social-emotional supports to students, their families, and staff. Students cannot learn if they are coping with trauma and we need to make sure our school counselors and community partners are ready to provide the help they need. We have students who lost not one, not two, but three or more family members to COVID and feel scared to go to school in-person. We have students who grieve for lost time with friends. We have families who lost homes. The list goes on because none of us will come out of this unscathed. We need to make sure we are prepared to meet our kids' needs and I anticipate their needs will increase over the next several years as a result of the pandemic. 2. Finances: My second priority is budgetary. We all know the state of Illinois is a financial disaster, which is just one of the many reasons I feel so proud whenever I look at our district's balanced budget. After more than 15 years of careful financial stewardship, we're one of the only debt-free school districts in the state. Being debt free saves people money on their property taxes. Several years ago, during the financial planning process, I pushed the administration to end working cash debt, resulting in an abatement of $30 million dollars, decreasing the levy and saving people money on their property taxes. We lowered costs for our community and simultaneously maintained our facilities. 3. Strategic Plan: We need a new strategic plan. I want to focus on Life Readiness; Professional Responsiveness, Community Partnerships, and Organizational Effectiveness. I want to review key priorities and goals of each strategic area to determine the future direction and what areas need to be added, expanded or redirected and how best to safeguard "The 211 of tomorrow." 4. Equity Team: This past summer our students pushed us to implement an equity initiative to make sure everyone feels valued and connected to our school community. We started that process the fall of 2020 and I want to see that work through to the end.