Mindy Dupee: 2021 candidate for Lake Zurich Community Unit District 95 school board
City: Hawthorn Woods
Occupation: Music therapist, private music educator, co-manager of DuPage Animal Hospital
Civic involvement: Built and designed the sets for May Whitney Musicals; volunteer for Cricket Theater; volunteer for Peace for Pits; guest performer for Arts In Bartlett Spring Gala
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: The job of the Board of Education is to work in close partnership with the superintendent, provide the checks and balances necessary to ensure that all stakeholders are receiving an equitable education, and to help guide the district toward a forward thinking and diverse curriculum that truly empowers all learners to achieve personal excellence. I will also provide the board with a unique perspective with my background in therapy and education as well as my current experience as a parent of three students in the district. I plan to be a voice for the students and the staff.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: This is a difficult question. My primary concern during the pandemic has been making sure all students receive their education in an equitable fashion no matter their learning preference, whether it be remote or hybrid. I don't think this has happened. I think our teachers have done the best with the resources they were given. But, only the elementary schools were provided with dedicated remote teachers in each grade. At the middle and high school levels, teachers have to do double duty teaching to the live students in their classrooms along with the remote learners on Zoom. There is no way to give both groups of students equal attention or equal resources. For this reason, we lose out on equity. This was my biggest concern at the start of the school year, and it has proved to be a continuing concern as we progress toward the end of the second semester. Unless you are living through this with kids in the school district, you cannot have the full perspective. That is why the board needs someone like me -a parent and an educator -- to provide that point of view.
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: At the late summer BOE meeting where we adopted the hybrid model of learning, I spoke to give voice to the students and staff who didn't feel safe entering the building at that time. As a member of the BOE, I will give a voice to all constituents and represent those who may not be bold enough to be the loudest voices but who still deserve to be heard. It has not been easy for our current BOE, and I commend them for doing the best job possible in the situation we are in, but that still doesn't negate that many voices were drowned out among the uproar to open schools. Everyone's voice is important, regardless of whether the opinion is popular or not, especially in this unprecedented situation. In my professional opinion as a therapist, I think social emotional needs of students were not addressed in a timely manner. I reached out to the district administration multiple times to help remedy this and was recently invited to sit on the district's parent committee for the Student and Staff Success Team, working toward providing more SEL mitigations as we round out this school year and start the next one.
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: In the spring, when we first went into quarantine, absolutely we did well. Our students and staff pivoted quickly. CUSD95 made sure all students had 1:1 devices and access to internet as well as food for those who depended on the school to meet those needs. Paperwork was also delivered to families who could not find internet access in time for the pivot, and I commend the district for doing a fantastic job in the spring. Now, though, I think we should be considering a new way of learning/providing education and not trying to mimic in-person school in a remote or hybrid setting. By that I mean altering schedules, providing asynchronous time for students to recharge and teachers to meet with kids in small groups or one-on-one, and considering more social opportunities in a remote/safe setting. I think we are in for the long haul with the pandemic, and in order to provide an equitable education for all, we need to consider how some students are thriving while others need extra support. What can we do to meet everyone's needs? That's why I want to sit on the BOE.
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: We need to provide for the worst case scenario, which is, what will happen if we are thrown into quarantine again? This year, teachers were given mere days to learn the different technologies needed to provide a quality remote learning experience. Because of this, many teachers started the school year ill-prepared. If they had been training all summer long on how to provide a rich and robust remote experience, we would be in a much different place than we are right now. I don't think there is much we can do differently with spring right around the corner. However, the committee that I'm on surveyed families and found the majority don't feel that these schedules work well for their students. I know from my own children's experiences that it's a difficult schedule to maintain focus and a healthy regard for their education. This is something that could be addressed before the end of the school year and that would benefit all middle and high school students. Then I'd like to start planning for earlier training for teachers and staff for the fall semester so that whatever learning model we are in, we are providing an equitable education to all.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I think that all activities, whether they are sports, academic, or fine arts related need to be handled as safely and responsibly as possible. Following the guidelines provided to us by the CDC, state, and local health authorities need to be mandatorily followed. Transportation for participants also needs to be safely addressed. In addition, I feel that testing should be made available by the districts to ensure the safety of the participants and also of the general school population especially after any travel for games, performances, and competitions.