Kara Drumke: 2021 candidate for District 128 school board
10 candidates are vying for four seats (4-year term) in the 2021 Libertyville-Vernon Hills District 128 race.
Occupation: Reading Interventionist at Fremont Elementary School and self-employed as sole practitioner in own law office.
Civic involvement: None listed
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I'm running for the school board to give back to a community and school system I have benefitted from for the last 19 years. I am the product of a strong high school program based with the belief that each student shall have every opportunity to excel and lead. D128's D.A.R.I.N.G. Mission offers our children the road map to that same potential of greatness. I don't view our schools as broken or failing, on the contrary, I believe they are thriving.
I would bring with me my voice as a current D128 parent, a teacher, and a community member. I have counseled many families moving to our district and feel I have a good understanding of what homeowners in our area value and expect from our schools. I hope to offer this balanced perspective to the board where my focus will be on continuing the successful and forward moving trajectory we've already come to expect from both schools.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I believe the current Board, like most school boards in the state, made the best decisions with the information they had at the time. The pandemic is not something we were prepared for. D128 had to pivot and re-imagine delivery of rigorous curriculum in real time. I believe the current Board's decisions on remote and hybrid learning took into consideration both safety of students, staff and the community balanced with academic needs. I would characterize the district's actions toward the pandemic as "responsive." Seeking out feedback from parents, students, teachers and in some cases the community at large, and shifting when necessary. I believe the board is working toward the same goal, the full opening of the schools in the safest way possible, and I support that wholeheartedly.
Could there have been improvements, yes, but hindsight is 20/20. As a parent, the frequent moving of the hybrid date, while also shifting the schedules was frustrating, As we have lived through the pandemic the metrics have changed. Based on current information it appears schools likely could have started earlier this school year with the same safety mitigations we are using now. But, I don't think it is fair to judge the board for decisions made based on the recommendations from the IDPH and LCHD at the time.
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: If I were fortunate enough to be elected to the school board, I see my role in all aspects of board business, pandemic or no pandemic, as a "listener" first. Although the opening of schools is the highest priority right now, we will soon be back in school and my viewpoint will not change. I commit to listening to information from the administration, faculty, students and community, and weighing it against the district's mission and goals, and voting in a way that I feel would move our district forward.
I believe everyone on the board has the same goal, get back to face to face learning in the safest way possible, as soon as possible. So my role would be to listen to all the information first, and then act as a collaborator with the other board members to lead collectively.
During the shutdown, I was not privy to the information disseminated to the board; and frankly I thought D128 was acting in concert with other area districts. I am hopeful that with the extensive vaccination of educators and the safety mitigation protocols set in place we will move toward that goal as quickly as possible.
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: First, I believe in-person learning is the best delivery model. With that said, I have been impressed with the efforts the district made in reaching students under these circumstances, and also how responsive the administration and board has been in making changes when it was clear procedures weren't working. Increasing the synchronous learning time this fall, students are far more engaged in classes than last spring. Moving to a block schedule to allow for this extended time seemed to alleviate some of the students' duress and allowed for more individual assistance. Again, after students indicated they were overwhelmed with synchronous 8-period days remotely, the district listened and made changes, with more asynchronous learning allowing additional opportunities for individual assistance from the teacher if needed. I'm also encouraged that the district began taking select students back to school for full-day instruction 4 days a week, recognizing the individual needs of these students.
Additionally, in an effort to maintain a sense of community and address students' social-emotional learning, the district has supported and offered numerous outreach events like the drive-through senior parade, "homecoming" week, home hot-chocolate delivery, and drive-through plays as just a few examples. Throughout the pandemic I believe the district has prioritized students first.
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: I do not have a specific plan, other than to be a part of that continued conversation moving our students back into the buildings. With suggested distancing space limitations, it appears spring classes will look much like now. The most important consideration is choice and flexibility, which has been offered to the students. Those who choose to attend in person have that option, while those choosing remote, participate in an environment that works for them.
I encourage the board to continue frequently evaluating how more students can be invited for increased in-person time. Opening the schools fully should be a rollout process, first identifying students most at need whether for academic, engagement or social-emotional reasons and offering them additional time in school. Then increasing the number of students or the amount of time in school in waves with continuous monitoring. Simultaneously advocating for those students who continue to choose remote. With the continued vaccination program and decreased positivity rates, all signs point to a full opening in the fall.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I am the parent of school athletes and understand how important sports are to children's physical and social-emotional health. Sports are more than just games, these teams are their families. The camaraderie, perseverance, and dedication the athletes put forth are as important as time spent in classrooms. With that lens, I fully support D128 participating in sports to the full extent IHSA allows. The coaches and athletes have already shown their commitment to following safety mitigations during the fall contact days; I feel certain they will continue to do so during the winter and spring season. The LHS football program has a credo: "Whatever it Takes," those words were never truer than during this pandemic. The athletes are willing to take whatever precautions are necessary to compete, and I support that fully.