Joseph Sagerer: 2021 candidate for Elk Grove District 59 school board
Five Candidates -- Four 4-year terms
Hometown: Elk Grove Village
Occupation: University Lecturer
Employer: Dominican University
Civic involvement: Active parent, with occasional volunteering for PTO events, holiday parties and field trips; Explore More Day STEM presenter; Cub Scout parent
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I am running for the District 59 school board because I believe every student, independent of their background, deserves the same educational opportunities. Service on the school board is a way for me to pay forward to the next generation of students the benefits I received from my teachers. I am a lifelong resident of Elk Grove Village and a parent of three children in D59. I want a district our whole community can be proud of, where our students are able to flourish emotionally and are prepared academically for their futures. As a parent, an educator, and a scientist, I have a new perspective and skills that will benefit the board. My focus will be on improving curriculum resources, assessment of the curriculum, and fiscal discipline. I want to be certain that resources are used wisely to best benefit students. I also want to see better communication between the district, the board, teachers, and parents.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. At this moment, I think everyone in education has an incomplete grade in response to the pandemic. The current board has been forced to make difficult judgment calls with incomplete information. The district has been doing damage control, and it is now time to start working back to normal. The real test of the pandemic will be how our district recovers from the learning loss and emotional impact felt by students. The board will need to make certain that additional resources are allocated to supporting our students, teachers, and families. This will be a multiyear process where a wide range of efforts should be considered. Additional help for individual students, optional enhanced summer educational opportunities, support for our exhausted teachers, and outreach to struggling families all need to be addressed. When I join the board, I hope to help guide that recovery 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 will follow the science and guidance of experts. Our knowledge of operating in a world with COVID has expanded greatly in the last year. We are quickly heading toward the point where, with proper mitigation and vaccines, our schools can return to almost normal. I believe we need to be honest about the damage the pandemic has done to education. We need to be honest that it will take time to raise our students back up to where they should be. Recovery will need creative solutions and a team effort on the part of the district administration, teachers, and families. I will listen to and take to heart the concerns of all constituents. I will acknowledge the hardship our students, families, and staff have faced.
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. I am not currently on the board, so I can only speak to what I have seen as a parent and what I have heard from other parents and teachers. In complete honesty, there is no way given the limitations of lockdowns, remote and hybrid learning that the last 12 months could have been adequate. I think that we can all acknowledge the heroic efforts of our teachers and support staff and still be honest that there is a huge amount of work left to do. I think that how we address students' recovery over the next few years will determine if the overall response has been up to the challenge.
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. With falling COVID rates, staff vaccinations, masking and other mitigation strategies, it seems we are on a path to in-person classes for all students in the spring. This is a great trend from a very bad position. The success of our school opening plan depends on the community doing their part to keep rates low. I am glad that our hybrid transition period is going well. Schools and staff are now better prepared with procedures and equipment. If there is one great lesson we should take away from this pandemic it is that we need to think broader in our planning. It is necessary that robust plans are in place for all scenarios. We should hope and work for the best, but also plan for the worst. The board needs to make certain that resources are allocated for safe operations throughout the remainder of the pandemic.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. With the hiring of a new superintendent, I am hopeful that District 59 is poised to make major upgrades to the curriculum, district assessment, and communication within the D59 community. The new superintendent is supposed to be strong in places where D59 needs to make progress. The next school board needs members who will work with the new superintendent to keep what is good in place and to fix weaknesses. As a board member, I will question the administration and talk to parents, teachers, and other community members to make certain that these improvements happen.