Ashley Kilburg: 2021 candidate for Maine Township High School District 207 school board
Five candidates for four open seats
City: Park Ridge
Occupation: I am a professional educator, with a Master's in Education and many years of service, including as a third- and fifth-grade teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Chicago and as a mentor at One Million Degrees and Room to Read. Currently, I raise and help educate my children while participating as much as possible in my community and its challenges.
Civic involvement: Admissions volunteer for Phillips Exeter Academy; volunteer for Room to Read, One Million Degrees and Park Ridge Travel Falcons Football
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 District 207 school board because I would like to contribute to the essential issue of how to educate our children. With the ubiquity of technological images, traditional reading and writing skills need to be emphasized. However, I would also encourage contemporary educational opportunities such as D207 Program's "Lead the Way," which gives hands-on training to students interested in careers in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, as well as D207's Career and Technical Education classes in the culinary arts and elementary education. As a mother of three children 15 and younger, I am invested in D207 for the next decade. With my fellow board members, I would seek the best educational practices and the healthiest emotional environment possible for a variety of student needs. I believe my Master's Degree in Education and professional teaching experiences qualify me for this position and would like to contribute to the board and its important mission.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: Schools need to reopen immediately. I believe that education is an essential part of our children's lives, and that teachers, as essential workers, should receive top priority in terms of their safety since the virus is more dangerous to adults than to children. Those safety measures have been employed in many districts with success. We are making progress in our own school district, and should continue to do so, given the Feb. 3 statement by the director of the CDC supporting school openings and increasing availability of the vaccine to teachers.
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: COVID-19 has given us all great anxiety about our health, but health is not just about the body. We all know that. It is also about the mind and emotions. To those who make their health decisions exclusively according to the unknowns about the virus, we respect your choice, and ask you to respect ours and the other variables that science has definitively proven are gravely dangerous to the young: isolation, loneliness, lack of community, radically decreased social stimulation, discussion of academic topics, and the absence of an encouraging, enlightening and routine place to go outside the home so as to learn to think and work with others. Remaining guidelines, which make sense and are, I believe agreed upon by almost everyone here, are readily available, and seem to have slowed transmission. These guidelines include masks, social distancing, and increased sanitizing and ventilation of shared spaces. Our schools could fully reopen with the strict application of those guidelines for the teachers, parents and students and I believe is necessary.
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 207 did a wonderful job providing education remotely for its students but it was still not what is best for young developing minds. District 207 offered tutoring services and meals and a safe space for students that needed to be in the schools to have access to Wi-Fi and resources.
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: D207 is close to having all of its teachers vaccinated and therefore should resume full time classes immediately. Other schools have been in session since August without incident and it is vital that D207 students, who are able to do so, return to the vibrant halls of Maine East, Maine West and Maine South.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I believe that high school sports should be allowed to continue during this time. If proper precautions are taken it is so important to allow these students to exercise and thrive together in a team atmosphere. Their physical and mental health depends on it. A student was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying "They have taken all the fun out of high school and left us with only homework." This sad statement shows us that it is essential to allow students to participate in the school play, the chess club, and girls tennis. Many of these activities can be done safely and help to keep our children mentally healthy.