Tim McGowan: 2021 candidate for District 211 School Board
Nine candidates for three 4-year terms
Occupation: Mortgage Company/ Loss Mitigation
Employer: (Did not respond)
Civic involvement: Following the murder of George Floyd last year, I helped lead Palatine's first rally in support of the movement for Black lives. The issue of racial justice is deeply personal to me, and leading this event helped me see how many people in my community are committed to speaking out against injustice. Since last summer, I have become more politically engaged and active in my community. I've attended all the school board meetings since, engaged with dozens of teachers and students, and organized additional rallies. Everyone has to do their part to make our community better, which is why I am now choosing to get involved by running for school board.
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. This past year, I have been able to speak to students, teachers, and parents across this district about their dreams for a better school district. While I have had the privilege of academic opportunities D211 schools offer, there is much work left to do. From issues of racial justice to mental health support for students and teachers, I plan to be an advocate for the voices of D211 families and staff. Through my conversations with stakeholders across the district, I remain hopeful that District 211 is ready and willing to put in the work for an accountable, community-focused, and equitable district.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. I would give it an A-, because although the district has been working hard to address this challenge, there's always room for improvement. Our top priority right now should be making sure that our community can reach herd immunity levels so that our students and staff can safely resume full in-person learning. I support the hybrid model following CDC and IDPH guidelines, but it is our responsibility as a community to make sure that we are taking the necessary precautions in our homes so that our children are not potentially exposing their peers or school staff.
Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A. Community is one of the main pillars of my campaign values. Giving a voice to constituents, especially those who disagree with me, is necessary to develop a full understanding of every problem. At the end of the day, board members are public servants and it is our job to meet the community's needs. To do that, we have to listen. This also means that if we make a decision that not all community members agree with, we have to do our best to explain our rationale in a thoughtful and respectful manner. This applies to all decisions, not just pandemic-related ones.
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 are students who have gone months without seeing their friends and teachers. Even with the hybrid option, students and their families are facing different levels of health risks, so going to school in-person may not be an option. While in a regular year, students would have various school community members to turn to as resources when they are struggling, there is a gap in the student experience this year that the district has to make up for. Teachers are doing all that they can, but the district has to do more by offering mental health services to all 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. While the district can have a plan in place to conduct safe and effective classes, the responsibility ultimately lies with the community to keep transmission rates low. This ensures that students, staff, teachers, and their families can be kept safe. I think the district, as a key community resource, can share more information with the community about COVID-19 testing and vaccination so that we can keep our community spread as low as possible.
Q. What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. Again, it depends on the precautions that community members are taking at home to keep transmission rates low. Sports and physical activity can support students' mental health during this time, so of course we want to have them continue. But especially with sports where students cannot effectively social distance, we need students and families to work with us by taking necessary precautions. We have to remember that even though most of our students may be low-risk for severe cases of COVID-19, many of our students live with loved ones who are high-risk. If vaccination rates continue to progress, I am confident that more sports can safely resume with peace of mind for our community.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. My priorities are Accountability, Community, and Equity (ACE). Accountability: The district has high expectations for everyone, including students, teachers, staff, and board members. There needs to be processes in place to ensure that these standards are met. This means that when the district makes a commitment to the community, progress and data are shared along the way to ensure transparency and that the goal is being met. Community: Our schools are not just places for academic learning, they are truly the centers of our community. Everyone affected by the decisions of the BOE should be involved in the decision-making process. Public comment is the main way that board members hear from the community, but the timing of meetings can be inconvenient for many people and it doesn't allow opportunity for genuine dialogue. The district should have more community engagement initiatives to involve families in their students' education. There should also be focus groups held before making important decisions, for example, teacher focus groups or surveys before making changes to the curriculum. Equity: All of our students deserve the highest quality education we can provide. Anti-bias training is just a starting point for creating an equitable district culture. We need to hire more teachers of color and diversify our curriculum so that our students see themselves reflected and valued in our school. We need to create opportunities for all students to succeed. For example, teachers at Palatine High School started a first-time AP program in which students receive extra support as they take their first AP classes. Programs like this need to be implemented at all the schools in D211.