Judith C. Degnan: 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: Teacher assistant in special education, DuPage High School District 88
Civil involvements: Prior to the pandemic, our school board and administration met consistently with our village leaders, state representatives, and leaders and boards from our surrounding District 4, 88 and 48. Those meetings continue to take place, but on a different level. I'm looking forward to getting back to face-to-face meetings soon.
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've been on the board for 8 years and I initially ran because I was very involved in my children's school and I was ready to take that to the next level. I feel like by being on the board I can help make my community better.
As a board member I look at our district as a whole, what's best for all students. But I also believe that our 8 different schools are unique and have different needs. Our district is small in comparison with many of the districts around us and it's important that we continue to improve and evolve the education our students receive. With strong schools comes a strong community and this is my way to give back. I've been involved in education my entire life and being a positive influence in the education of our future is one of the best ways I can think of to spend my time.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: Our board has done well with the pandemic situation. We followed the DuPage County Health Department metric and guidelines during the fall and into the winter. We tried to give families a choice early on, but due to case counts, couldn't. After winter break there was a distinct change in our communities feelings about the urgency of going back into school.
Our board took a good look at what other communities were doing, our ability to have sustainability for our students if we were to go back, and different metrics throughout the area. We made a decision to go to a hybrid model in January. As a board, we represent the community and given the change in how the community felt, we went into hybrid. This is what good boards do. They listen to the community and try to provide what is best for the students.
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 is to look at the big picture, what's best for everyone in the district. What does our community want and is it safe to do that. As a leader you can't always to the popular thing. But I feel as a leader for my district I did my best to listen to our community views, teacher views, study the guidelines, metrics and then make an educated decision. Based not just on the facts before me, but the feelings of our community and the ability for our district to provide what is best for our students.
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: We were very consistent in what was provided to our students. We stayed in remote until Feb. 8 when we went to a hybrid model. This provided our families with consistency in learning and in their day care situations. One reason we stayed in remote all fall into winter was that we saw other districts moving from hybrid to remote and back several times and our board felt this would be a disruption to our families. We wanted to wait until we felt it was safer to bring students back but even more provide sustainability in our plan to be able to remain in school once we did come back.
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: Our district has had a plan since the summer on how to safely and effectively conduct classes when we were to go back into school and since we are in our hybrid plan right now, we are following that plan. We are following the DuPage County Health Department, Illinois State Board of Education, and CDC guidelines for back to school.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: As an elementary board member, I don't have a say in high school sports, but my personal opinion is that they should be playing.