Mildred "Millie" Palmer, 2021 candidate for Northwest Community High School District 214 school board
Eight candidates for four seats
City: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Attorney at law, business owner at Navigant Law Group, LLC
Civic involvement: Arlington Heights Noon Rotary Club, Arlington Business Group, Arlington Heights Chamber, Rolling Meadows Chamber, former RMHS Athletics Booster, former RMHS Orchesis Booster
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 am running for reelection for a second term as a member of the board of education in Township High School District 214. During my first term, I found my work challenging, rewarding and really enjoyed being part of the tremendous success of the incredible students we have the honor of serving. I am also proud of the groundbreaking work going on in D214 related to Redefining Ready, Pathways, college credits, certification and licensing that results in our students and staff being able to excel. While at any given moment I may be working on a particular issue, I am not motivated by a single issue or agenda item. My skills honed as a business owner (co-founding partner of a woman owned and operated law firm), mother to four graduates of D214, and community volunteer (Rotary Club of Arlington Heights, AHYAA, RMHS etc.) enable me to work the problems and identify opportunities for D214. My goal is the success of students in high school and beyond in college, the trades and life. We owe them excellence in educational opportunities, a safe learning experience, and a caring environment to grow and achieve. I will continue to work hard to provide this to our students.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would give us high marks. The board challenged the administration and teachers to manage what can only be described as an incredible feat in extraordinary circumstances. First by pivoting to a solely remote learning experience with days notice by order of the governor, then by beginning the difficult return to in-person learning in a deliberate method to ensure the safety of our students, our teachers and staff and our community. We are now proudly and confidently returned to in person learning five days a week for any student who has so chosen and are organizing and planning for a safe return for all students not only to in person education but to a more typical high school experience.
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: The role of a member of a board of education is to make policy decisions for the district. With a heavy heart, but the strength of will to vote for the unpopular slow return to in-person education, I have worked to question the information upon which the district has relied and to challenge the administration to be creative and find ways to ensure a robust educational experience for students as we worked to return to in-person learning. The response from the community has been overwhelmingly supportive. That is not to say that some people do not disagree or have not voiced concerns. I have carefully listened to concerns and comments. Some of these have been very helpful. I have worked hard to remain neutral and unbiased in listening to parents who have come to meetings and to question and challenge our plan based on their concerns.
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: This is a great question and the very real answer is only time will tell. D214 administration, teachers and staff members worked extraordinarily hard to provide a robust remote experience, to continue to serve our families in need, to provide a safe learning experience for both students and staff members. For example, we worked hard to ensure students had the technology they needed for remote learning and created mobile tech units that went into the neighborhoods to provide support to families. We created drive up lunch and meal pickups. We worked to ensure that the teachers were able to deliver content and brain- stormed ways to change the learning experience for remote delivery. I worked to ensure that the policies in place supported the endeavors of our administration and staff members and that all of us understood the goal, weather the storm, make extraordinary possible, and find ways to offer in person learning for as many students as possible as quickly as possible while keeping our community, students and employees safe. If reelected, I will work to ensure the communication of efforts and decisions are better and parents understand the issues, concerns and plans.
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: Yes. While our plans change as the guidance from the CDC and the pandemic itself change, we are now conducting in person learning five days per week. No student who has requested in person learning has been denied this status. D214 plans to continue to expand opportunities for in person learning, sports and other activities as the school year progresses. I think we have all learned that despite the best plans, unpredictable things will happen. In D214, we have become more nimble and able to respond to change quicker. I think that as spring progresses, we can and must continue to push for a safe return to in person learning and for a continued expansion of the high school experience as it previously existed in D214. In addition, from the fall semester, we learned that we have work to do in district to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are the watchwords of our district. We are working hard to ensure that D214 is a great place to be for all of our stakeholders, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or beliefs.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I absolutely believe that sports offer students the ability to grow, to connect, to achieve. With sports come self discipline, learning to work in a group setting, and healthy habits. Here in Illinois, IHSA creates and governs the parameters on what sports are able to meet and how the schools compete. The schools set their rules on how to run teams. I want our schools to participate in the fullest extent possible while continuing to practice personal and team safety for the benefit of our student athletes, coaches and community.