Robi Vollkommer: 2021 candidate for District 211 School Board
Nine candidates for three 4-year terms
Occupation: Bilingual Recruiter
Employer: Pacific Advisory Service
Civic involvement: Schaumburg High School VIP Booster Club Co-President; Director of Schaumburg Oyanokai; Village of Schaumburg Sister Cities Commissioner. Past: PTA, School District 54 Citizens Advisory Counsel
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I feel the district has steered away from academics and needs to get back on track, especially after the huge academic loss to students this past year. I have seen and felt the damage to my own high schoolers and want to help reverse it. In addition, I want the district to be more fiscally responsible and cut costs as much as possible and make logical spending choices while being more transparent. I have also decided to run because I am a heavily involved parent and have always supported the schools and my community throughout the years. I have been approached on multiple occasions to run and feel now is the right time to bring my experience and knowledge to the district to make an even more positive impact on the schools and greater community.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. They waited far too long to try to get students back in school. A lot of students became too lazy and comfortable with doing school remotely where you can sleep in longer, zoom from the bed and cheat on tests, etc. Too many advantages of not going in-person from a student's perspective. The wait was not justified by the threat of COVID and we saw many other school districts go in-person much sooner. In addition, the school day hours went from 7 hours and 15 minutes per day of instruction to 4 hours and 45 minutes! How are teachers supposed to effectively get through the material, especially for AP students scheduled to take AP exams in May? Children are being damaged with subpar learning results and will suffer the consequences the rest of their lives because of the educational disadvantage.
Where there is a will, there is a way, and the academic learning and mental state of our youth is far too important not to find a 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 as a member of the board we should be proactive and work with the community to come up with a solution to get the students in school. We can utilize other districts and private schools that have been opened for months as examples to follow. I feel, as elected officials, since we represent the constituents that we should be communicating with them as well, whether we agree or disagree.
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. There was a poor attempt with the remote learning and knocking 2.5 hours off the normal school day. This being said, they did offer tutorial help after school for students both in-person and remotely. The shortened learning and teaching time have made grasping material more difficult for students, especially those in AP or Honors classes. As previously stated, students should have returned to in-person learning a while ago.
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 already halfway into the spring semester, but I think we could have had ALL students back long ago. Have them wear masks and provide whatever means necessary for teachers that need added protection or comfort to get back in the building teaching (HAZMAT suits as well if needed). The teachers are going to have a real uphill battle next school year trying to get these kids back on track academically.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. If we can have sports, we can have students attending academic classes in-person. Priority is again messed up, put academics first. Science and statistics confirm that COVID hardly affects young students at all. Of course, sports should be allowed, but much more importantly, in-person school for all students should have been allowed months ago. This has been the problem for some time now in our society where we glorify sports over academics. I see it at my kids' high school. There is a mausoleum of sports pictures and recognitions and they had not updated the Academic Scholar wall in 7 years until I pointed it out the absurdity to the administration. There is a high school in D211 that does not even have an Academic Scholar Wall, but proudly displays athletic trophies and awards in display cases. I remember when I was a student at Hoffman Estates High School many years ago when there was a class rank and high academic achieving students were put on a pedestal and proudly publicly recognized for their achievements.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. I would like to address the fact that the school board election is supposed to be nonpartisan, but from my brief involvement with this election thus far, appears to be anything but. There are candidates that have received endorsements from political groups, including monetary or by way of advocating their political agenda. I do not think this should be allowed in a nonpartisan election. There also appears to be some questionable tactics by the teacher's union. It is my understanding that yard signs have been provided for some past candidates by the teacher's union. The teacher's union also conducted a "forum" earlier this month and did not invite all candidates nor was the "forum" made open to the public. With teacher contract negotiations coming up, this appears to be a conflict of interest.
Again, priorities appear to be off, we should change the board focus on teacher's union first, to students and their education first.