Eileen Maloney: 2021 candidate for Lake Zurich Community Unit District 95 school board
City: Lake Zurich
Occupation: Attorney at Zurich North America
Civic involvement: LZBSA; Flames Football; executive sponsor for the American Heart Association at my employer, Zurich North America
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 school board to give back to the community. There is a significant learning curve once beginning as a board member and during my years on the board I have worked extremely hard to gain as much experience as possible on all aspects of the board. I worked hard taking Illinois School Board Association classes and seminars and I have achieved the distinction of becoming a Master School Board Member in 2018 and have maintained that distinction ever since. My experience and expertise on the school board is an asset to the community and I want to use that experience and expertise to continue to serve the children and taxpayers of the District 95. I continue to be interested in indoor air quality and am on several schools' indoor air quality groups.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would give the school board very high marks with respect to our response to the pandemic. Even before March of last year, the board discussed potential responses if COVID-19 spread. By March, the administration was poised to act on a dime and the end of the second semester of 2020, while not at all ideal, was certainly a good response to such an unprecedented time. The school board directed the administration to have a plan that included fully remote, fully in person and a hybrid solution when returning to school in the fall of 2020. Most importantly, the plan had to be flexible enough to transition back ad forth based on governmental guidance. Our administration team was very closely in tuned with Lake County Health Department, the Illinois Department of Public Health and State Task Forces to be able to succinctly follow guidance and be prepared to be in person to some extent. I am very proud of the fact that District 95 was one of only a few school districts that allowed a hybrid option.
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 believe that the role of a member of the school board is all three -- to provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree and defer to state authorities. Each role has a place and any of those three examples of leadership should be successfully employed. Many of the decisions made by the school board can prove to be unpopular because the board is focused on what is for the good of the district not necessarily one faction of constituents even if they are vocal. The role of the school board is to be the voice of the members of the district and dissenting opinions are vital to challenge status quo and to keep minds open and constantly evolving. Finally, especially with respect to the pandemic, guidance from state authorities is vital in adhering to consistent protocols being advised with respect how and when testing and safety protocols are changing.
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: District 95 was continually driven by making data driven decisions. As such, I believe we continually looked to appropriate guidance and metrics to drive the decisions made regarding opening classrooms and delivering the mission of the district -- empower every learner to achieve personal excellence. We started the 2020/2021 school year with a staggered start. The most in need populations began the school year in person first and then we continued adding grades until all the students who wanted to be were given an opportunity to be in person at least some portion of the time. The administration and our facilities department paid meticulous attention to the safety and cleanliness of the buildings. The district provided amazing support to families in need of meals and delivered or prepared for pickup. The administration staff worked numerous hours to ensure excellent social emotional response for our students and that response is constantly being evaluated to ensure we reach out or otherwise meet the needs of students who are struggling. A specific site is available to the website with information about providing social emotional support for our 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: I am very proud to say that classes will continue in the spring on the same plan as they have for most of the school year. We have made some changes in that there is increased opportunity for students who would like to be in person more often, to have a five day option for in person. Not all details have been firmed up but where there is room in classrooms more students will be given the option to attend in person. I believe this is an excellent example of the district listening to constituents who have requested additional opportunities for in person learning.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I believe the current plan to allow sports to continue is a good compromise position. Giving the students a chance to compete with their high school teams is such an integral part of the high school experience. It is a much easier decision with respect to noncontact sports and many of them went forward in the fall. I am very happy to see that student athletes in "contact" sports are being given the opportunity to compete. One of the most important aspects of why the students are allowed is that the spread of the virus needs to be balanced with the social emotional needs of our children. Achieving a way to continue sports while being safe is a huge concern, but the safety protocols in place have been adequate and the extremely low incidence of spread as a result of contact at schools is a testament to these protocols working. Our kids need to have the opportunity to compete and learn the lessons that teamwork and athletics provide for them.