Linda Coyle: 2021 candidate for Maine Township High School District 207 school board
Five candidates for four open seats
City: Park Ridge
Age: Candidate did not respond
Occupation: Litigation attorney at CN Railroad
Civic involvement: Current D207 board member; Finance Committee chairman and Policy Committee member; past member of Maine School District 207 Community Advisory Council; commissioner, City of Park Ridge Planning and Zoning Commission (2014-2017); past member of Park Ridge Police Chief's advisory board; past treasurer and member of Park Ridge Community Women; Oakton Community College alliance governing board liaison
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: It is an exciting time in the district. The construction upgrades at Maine South, East and West are just spectacular, and I'm so excited that the students will be able to learn, grow and collaborate in state-of-the-art facilities. Back in 2018, the board unanimously adopted a resolution to ask the citizens of Maine Township to support a construction referendum to improve the schools. The referendum was approved by voters, and since then I, along with the other board members, the superintendent and staff have been focusing on providing new facilities for the students and teachers, that includes a secure environment that is conductive to contemporary teaching and learning, but that stays at or below budget. Further, there is still work to be done on continuing the district's mission of providing every student, regardless of background, the same opportunity to succeed. If reelected, I plan on continuing to use my fiscal conservativeness, strong leadership skills, integrity and common sense to make our schools better, continue to help develop policies on equity, make our district financially stronger, get the best teachers, and give all our students a superior education.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: From the beginning, the D207 school board, the superintendent and staff took the pandemic seriously, with the biggest concern being the health and safety of the students and staff. I did disagree with the decision to have no in-person learning, and I was the only board member to vote against moving to total remote learning. The social and emotional toll of remote learning is huge, and kids become more isolated and disconnected the longer they are away from school. That said, the board and district from the beginning focused on ensuring that each student was provided with the technology and equipment, as well as support to succeed, even with remote learning. Presently, the D207 schools are offering four days a week in person learning for those who choose to attend, as well as remote learning for those who do not, which the board supports. Further, the board and district continues to address the mental well-being of students who are faced with the challenge of remote learning. The superintendent and staff continually keep the board updated and apprised of plans and circumstances, and it's important for the board to encourage a continued safe move toward full-time learning.
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 District 207 school board member is a combination of those three things. It is important to listen to the residents of the district and realize that their concerns are valid and add a new perspective. D207 consists of very diverse communities with different economic and ethnic backgrounds, and all those voices must be considered when making board decisions. Many district families suffered economically as a result of the pandemic, and many students did not initially have access to all the tools to work successful remotely. The board and district has addressed these issues by providing free food to families in need as well as ensuring each student has the support to learn successfully. Further, the board and district must adhere to state rules and regulations as a public school in the state of Illinois. The CDC and IDPH guidelines have been followed by the district thorough the pandemic. However, as a board member I am not afraid to go against a proposal or policy backed by the district if I do not believe it is the best path. An example of this is my NO vote on the district's proposal to conduct all remote learning last August.
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: Yes. The district set up a Student Services Team at each high school to address COVID-19 issues for all students. The services provided to students include addressing health concerns, social emotional help, academic help, safety and equity concerns and issues, as well as technology help. In addition, the district's Adult Learning and Coaching Program, which is virtually 100% teacher led, has been focused on helping teachers recognize mental health and other issues faced by the students on a day-to-day basis. The district put together a COVID-19 Dashboard to provide students and families with COVID-19 related data at a school level, a district level and a community level. Importantly, the district has provided its students and families with free meals since the beginning of the pandemic.
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: The district is continually analyzing the changing health guidelines set out by the IDPH, the state of Illinois and the CDC to work toward giving the students more and more opportunities for in-person experiences. Right now, Maine East, Maine South and Maine West are offering in-person learning four days a week. This can be done safely and effectively. However, the ability for students to plug into classes virtually and remotely will continue to improve and evolve, and will likely be a part of how school is done in the future permanently. Much has been learned about how to go to school safely and healthier in this past year. The student experience has been vastly different from student to student, but the district has focused on ensuring that each and every student has been given access to tools needed to succeed in this pandemic.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I fully support all high school sports resuming right now. Of course, it's important to follow all IHSA and IDPH guidelines, but I believe high school sports can be played safely at all levels. The pandemic has been so tough on our students, they have lost so many connections, have become isolated and have suffered mentally and emotionally. High school sports provide a way for the kids to reduce stress, control anxiety and depression, socialize and become fit. High school sports provide more than just being on a team. Kids forge close friendships with team mates, learn leadership skills and gain confidence. The sports can be played safely, using all the required protocols.