Thomas Hollatz: 2021 candidate for Lake Park District 108 school board
Seven candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Lake Park High School District 108 board. Anthony Gironda, Christoher Casaccio and Thomas Rofrano did not complete a questionnaire.
Occupation: Retired elementary school teacher
Civic involvement: St. Walter Church ministry; Cub Scout Pack 412; Boy Scout Troop 408; volunteer photographer/videographer for Lake Park Marching Band, theater, band and choir; PADS volunteer; Roselle District 12 board
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 seeking reelection to the LPHS School Board to continue working on moving the district in a positive direction. There is a newly hired superintendent and principal. I look forward to supporting them in keeping Lake Park High School among the best in the area. My involvement with all areas of fine arts is a particular passion of mine. However, all areas concerning the education of our young people require equal attention. Working on curriculum, budgets and policy are three areas that I feel can benefit from my many years in the field of education.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic?
A. There are so many facets to the pandemic and its effect on education which make this a complex question. At the onset of the pandemic, following the ever-changing state and county directives grew to be an ominous task. Directives changed daily or weekly. Responses to those changes had to happen in a timely fashion with constant communication to the community. In that area, I feel that the district performed in an outstanding fashion. Many have expressed opinions that would oppose this statement, as there are groups who believe that Lake Park should have returned to and maintained in-person learning for all students. This simply would have been irresponsible. Along with being financial stewards of our district, school board members must also focus their decisions on the life-safety aspects of education and its effect upon our learning community. This includes students, teachers, parents and extended family members, as well as others residing or working in our attendance boundaries.
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. My role as a school board member is to receive information regarding the pandemic, understand how that will affect the unique population of our school community, and aid the superintendent in making decisions regarding the educational program at Lake Park. One only needs to look at the positivity rate of our district's communities to see that we have consistently operated by allowing students to return only when the positivity rate was lower than guidelines set by the CDC. One can clearly see that those rates rose above and remained above the CDC threshold from October 2020 until January 2021. That is the period of time when students went to a fully remote learning model. We planned for and anticipated when those levels would return below the CDC threshold and began to resume in-person learning exactly at that time.
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. Lake Park's adoption of 1:1 technology was crucial for providing continued education during the pandemic. All teachers have been trained in the use of Google Classroom, which has allowed teachers the opportunity to seamlessly continue their educational programs from a remote setting. This, of course, is not the ideal setting in which education of young people should occur. There are challenges in any remote learning environment. With the use of support staff and shifting of other school personnel, Lake Park was able to provide quality education to all students. Counselors have been utilized to contact students to help in keeping them engaged.
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 continue monitor the metrics on a daily basis. This information is provided to the entire community on the LPHS website (https://www.lphs.org/domain/245). We began to allow students to switch from fully remote learning to hybrid learning almost an entire month earlier than planned. Currently we are allowing students with greater needs to attend in-person learning on a full-time basis. This number is expected to grow and expand as the metrics improve.
Q. What is your position on allowing school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. Sports are currently happening on campus. Practices are being held by all sports teams, on campus, 7 days a week. Because education is not limited to the classroom, it is important that these programs be allowed to continue, as long as safely possible. Sports are back up and running seven days a week. Competitions are ongoing in basketball, bowling, cheer, gymnastics, and swimming.
Contact days for all sports have begun. Contact day allow students to practice any sport with their coaches as long as they only do activities that are allowed in the current risk category of the IDPH / DCEO guidance (https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/sports-safety-guidance).
IDPH guidelines only allow us 50 spectators per event. These individuals are usually limited to the parents/guardians of the student athletes. However, we have installed webcams on the competition sites, allowing anyone who signs up to view the competitions.