Jessica Hinkle: 2021 candidate for District 211 School Board
Nine candidates for three 4-year terms
Occupation: QA Compliance Manager
Employer: NOW Health Group, Inc.
Civic involvement: None as it relates to a nonpartisan elected position
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. Here are just a few of the reasons I decided to run. I think the board and students would benefit from having more parents on the board. As a parent of a D211 freshman, I think parents like me can be the voice of the students and can also provide insight to the board of issues the kids are facing. I think we can do a better job of being fiscally responsible while still providing the best student experience. We owe it to our community, especially during times like these, to be responsible with their tax dollars. We owe it to our children to ensure that the money we do have is spent wisely and for their benefit.
Lastly, I think we are missing out on an area of opportunity that I would like the board to explore. We should have more interaction with the elementary districts that feed into our high schools. Create a dialogue between the districts in order to help the elementary schools better prepare our children for high school.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. It's hard to grade the board for their response to the pandemic, since they voted to allow the superintendent full ownership of the responsibility. I would give the board a lower than average grade for that action since I think the students would benefit from more discussion and dialogue about a topic among the board members especially with so many unknowns related to this pandemic.
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. At this point it would be difficult to say what I would have the power to do, since the superintendent has full power over this topic. I would push to change this dynamic. If my voice was heard, I would advocate for all students. There are some that need to be in school, not only for the education aspect, but the social aspect as well. And there are some that need to continue with remote learning for family health reasons. For those that are in school, we need to push toward the full in person experience (in person teachers without having to Zoom in school). For those learning from home, we need to make sure that they are provided all of the educational, emotional, psychological and social well-being support needed.
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 district put forth effort to serve the students, but I think more could have been done. I feel that the superintendent should have used localized COVID-19 data and the BOE members as a sounding board for options to maintain a high level of education. More interactive discussions with the parents should have been implemented to better understand the needs of the students.
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. The fall semester was subpar for the student experience. My quick/easy response is that I would look into how our neighboring private schools were able to set up and maintain a safe in -person atmosphere. Additionally, I would have used the localized COVID-19 data to determine how to initiate full in-person learning. I would have pushed for setting up the classrooms to accommodate for the most possible volume of students in a safe manner. This would include options like the use of Plexiglas (where needed) updating the HVAC units for better filtration, introducing air scrubber units and looking into the value of UV-C in HVAC systems.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. The first focus during this time should be academics, but as a mother of a HS athlete, I think we should look again at localized COVID-19 data to understand the local concerns, but look to our neighboring states that have allowed sports to continue throughout the pandemic and mimic it.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed? Ethics (teachers union buying off BOE members). Contract negotiations. Tax burden to the community. Taking a deeper look into capital projects and expenditures, making sure they are appropriate for the individual schools and that students benefit from them academically and athletically. Communication and transparency to the community about district topics. Initiate changes to the current board structure to incorporate more student and parent voices.