Allen Legutki: 2021 candidate for Villa Park Elementary District 45 board
Eight candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Villa Park Elementary District 45 board of trustees in the April 6 election.
They are incumbents Judith C. Degnan and Navreet Kaur Heneghan, and challengers West Conway Marinier, Allen Legutki, Kelli P. May, John E. Naughton III, Kathryn Padberg, and Emily Shultz.
John E. Naughton III has dropped out of the race and is no longer actively campaigning. Kelli P. May did not respond to the questionnaire.
The Daily Herald asked each candidate about issues facing the district and how they would contribute to its progress.
In-person early voting with paper ballots is now available at the DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
Town: Villa Park
Occupation: Professor, Benedictine University
Civic involvements: I've been involved in the past with Scouting, church choirs, and service-learning programs, but most recently have served as PTA treasurer at North School, as leader of a community music group, as research chair for the Illinois Music Education Association, and as a member of a community music group that performs school and community outreach. Additionally, I advise a student group for future educators, who organize professional development and community service activities.
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: Service motivates me to run. I am running to become a D45 school board member because I believe that all kids should have access to a quality public school education. As a proud graduate of District 45 and Willowbrook High School, I am thankful for how both districts prepared me for my studies at Illinois State University (B.M.E., 2000; M.M.E., 2003) and the University of Illinois (Ph.D., 2010), and for 20 years as an educator.
As a university faculty member in a teacher education program, I am passionate about preparing tomorrow's leaders. After living, working, and studying in Central Illinois for several years, my family moved back to the D45 community in 2011, and now have three children enrolled in the district. I would be honored to have an opportunity to give back and serve the students of our community as a member of the District 45 Board of Education.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: While I suspect that remote and hybrid formats are not the instructional design that most students, parents, teachers, and administrators would choose under normal circumstances, it's critical to (a.) maximize the effectiveness of the current format, and (b.) continue to examine information about how and when to return safely to full-time face-to-face instruction.
Both duties require attention and careful planning to address the health and well-being of our kids, families, and staff. As a teacher and a parent, I know what it's like to experience uncertainty and change in schedules. It can be destabilizing. None of us have a syllabus for the pandemic, so I think constituents should look for the qualities that should ground board members even under normal circumstances. Namely, is a person thorough, honest, and prudent? If elected, I promise to embody those qualities in my work on the board.
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: Leadership needs to have a wide, analytical lens. It would be wise to do all three: provide leadership, give voice, and look to government agencies for information. The pandemic is not just a school challenge; it's a community challenge.
By having more information before making a decision, rather than less, a person can lead, reflect, and change course if needed. I'll do the hard work of digging deep for information, listening, and seeing what is successfully being done in other communities. You can count on me to do my homework!
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: I appreciate that our district found creative ways to host meal distribution programs, provide for the technical needs of the kids, and to coordinate supply pickup at the school buildings. My children's teachers have also been doing a phenomenal job of delivering the curriculum and attending to the emotional health of the kids in a system that wasn't primarily designed for remote or hybrid modes.
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: If elected, my plan would be to prioritize safety, functionality, and stability. If our district does not function safely and effectively, we risk destabilizing the system for everyone. Any actions should consider the physical safety of the school community, and should provide creative approaches to address the social and emotional needs of the students.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: For indoor sports, it's critical to consider physical contact, masking, air circulation, safety protocol, and local metrics when making a decision. I would anticipate that creative outdoor options will help expand possible approaches to sports as the weather continues to improve this spring.