Sonal Kulkarni: 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: Director of IT
Civic involvement: I have done literature drops for a few candidates in prior elections but never run for office before.
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 want to serve the community using my personal and professional experiences. I have had the experience of having a child graduate from LHS and is at a highly selective university pursuing STEM. I also hire young career professionals at work and I understand what the future young professional needs to succeed: technical skills, soft skills, critical thinking, learning agility, collaboration with a diverse set of individuals, resilience, and grit. Many of these skills are better learned when the individual is young as this helps them develop muscle memory.
In general, I would like to ensure that our high-performance district continues to function in the same manner. I have some ideas to include career exploration as the next step of evolution of this district. I am not running on any particular issue or because I think something is broken.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: District 128 has taken a methodical approach to handling the pandemic. It serves more than one community and the two large communities of Libertyville and Vernon Hills were diametrically opposite in their preferences for remote vs. in-person. They have followed Lake County and CDC guidelines and have measures in place to determine if Hybrid should expand or not. They have also left the remote option for students. Feedback should be gathered at this point to see if the choices students currently available are working and if they are equitable.
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: In a fairly divided community, no matter what choice one makes, someone is going to be unhappy. If you give voice to one, you are effectively not giving voice to another. So, are there areas where we agree vs. areas where we differ?
Agreement: The community agrees there should be a choice made by the family to select in-person vs. remote instruction. I believe this choice should be given and it needs to be an equitable one.
• Remote students should not be penalized or have fewer choices or reduced access to education because they are not physically in the building. This creates complications when students must participate in labs etc.
• In-person students should be allowed to be in school and schools need a comprehensive plan that includes vaccinations, layered mitigations, and testing.
There is a push to expand hybrid or go to full in-person school. I look to school administrators who understand the logistics of managing thousands of teenagers in close quarters for 8+ hours a day to develop the recommendation they can realistically execute to. They are not just in charge of our student's education, but also their health and safety while at school.
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 do not have children in D128 at this time, but feedback I have received is that full e-school offered more equitable classes vs. hybrid.
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?
CDC now has firmer guidelines and a road map for how to open schools. This was not clear in the falls and everyone was in the position of flying the plane and building it at the same time. COVID is not a single dimensional issue; It can now be managed using more information:
• Testing, testing, testing -- these methods are more available now
• Staff vaccinations
• Other layered mitigations
• Start with small groups and increase the size intentionally and with measurement
• Ask all students to sign a social contract to keep each other and the community safe -- ask the students to create this, so they own it
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: High school sports should continue as long as CDC guidelines are followed to keep all students and staff healthy. Some things to keep in mind
• Manage physical closeness of players -- sports like wrestling may not be appropriate
• Ensure students are masked; manage exhaustion levels of players when they are playing mas
• Clean up of equipment regularly
• Ensure used equipment is not swapped