Jonathan P. Matta: 2021 candidate for Barrington Unit District 220 school board
11 candidates for four seats
Occupation: Designer for KI
Civic involvement: None listed
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 to bring an explicit focus on the purpose that is K-12 schooling: the student user experience. I am growing ever concerned over the absence of a focus on STUDENTS and their experience. In fact, this Daily Herald interview is the first time I've received questions that relate to students and our community; everything else has fallen under the lines of identity and tribal political shenanigans, driven largely by political action committees endorsing slates of candidates. I seek to restore servant leadership to the Community of Barrington and the students our schools serve. I am a Dad of 3, all who currently attend, or will attend, Barrington 220 schools, a Husband, and a community member that wants to restore common sense and a student and community focus.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would give our current board a D, or, failing. This relates to the majority of our Board demonstrating an ongoing lack of creative leadership, along with their inability to serve the community's interests/requests/asks, and their emphasis on serving their political agendas/tribes over students. The Board of Education is elected by the community to serve the student users and community interests. This Board, but for a few, has not done that.
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: I view my role in confronting the pandemic by ensuring that we are leading creatively and courageously in service of the student users and our community's interests, even if that means that we diverge from state authorities/ISBE. ISBE doesn't elect our Board members, nor do they have a connection to our Community's desires, wishes, wants, and needs. Mutually, this pandemic is finite; it will pass, and I am concerned that we don't have an aligned strategic vision for where our School District is going, and how that can serve our students and our community over time/into the future. Professionally I am a designer that leverages the power of design strategy to align teams on shared vision, and have done so successfully for a decade. Serving my hometown community, where I'm a Father and Husband, would be a privilege in shaping the macro vision of our District after the finite nature of this pandemic passes.
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: No. By and large, this Board has failed to adequately serve the students and our community when looking at their performance amidst the pandemic. By their own admission, the Spring was not up to the District's own level of human development and learning. To be fair, the first few weeks of the pandemic brought forth so much unknown, so at the beginning, one can't blame anyone. They had a tough job, if we are being honest. That said, their lack of finding creative solutions and accepting mediocrity, all while not serving the community's interests, is why I adamantly believe the District did not, and still hasn't, served our students. As a community we had 72% of our Village opt in for in person learning to start the 2020/21 School Year, and yet, we saw a back and forth, with poor communication, and a lack of courageous and creative solutions to support the students and our community's interests.
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: From the Fall semester, we know that virtual learning hurts those that we need to be serving the most, and that learning is experiential for all humans. We need to move from the current hybrid model to full in person ASAP. I believe that we need to give families the right to choose, now, and then as a Board, find creative ways to accommodate for as many in person learners (up to all) as possible. If this means we need to look at improved engineering controls, like HVAC improvements (particularly over the summer), then we need to be working on that NOW. We can't accept that this current Board will be able to return our students to full in person come Fall 2021; they have shown a tendency to cancel all too willingly without creative solutions in support of the communities' interests.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Let them play. My position is that high school sports and performing/fine arts should have been in play. These serve a huge part of the student experience, and we have more than enough data to show that play is more than safe for our student athletes and student artists. We see every State but IL, NY, and CA played, continues to play, and without politicizing our student athletes over it. Mutually, we see Chief Medical Doctors in the NFL and other leagues speaking to the science of sports being a safe playing environment. As a prospective school board member we need to be empathizing with our student athletes in our community, and realize how hurtful, socially, emotionally, and physically, the cancellation of their sports seasons has been.