Katie Karam: 2021 candidate for Barrington Unit District 220 school board
11 candidates for four seats
Occupation: Stay at home mom
Civic involvement: Barrington Juniors Women's Club, Barrington Honor Ride and Run, Roslyn Road PTO
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I have been on the PTO of Roslyn Road for several years and I know firsthand the volunteer efforts that go into keeping our district successful. If elected, I look forward to being able to serve our entire district. I am running for three main reasons:
I believe our children deserve the option to return to full-time in-person learning. We now know this can be done safely and the harm of keeping our children out of school far outweighs the risk of opening our schools.
I believe our Board needs to focus on fiscal responsibility and transparency. Clearly articulate how our tax dollars are being spent and ensure they are allocated in ways that produce the highest returns for our children and taxpayers.
I believe in holding our Board accountable to the community. The Board decisions should reflect the voice of the community.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I have been extremely disappointed in the current Board's response to the pandemic. They were never able to work together as a unit in the best interest of our children. Our community was forced to sit through meeting after meeting where little was accomplished, decisions were put off for another month, and our children suffered at home. We had a solid plan to return to school in August, once the Board decided to pull the plug on that plan at the final hour, they spent months trying to invent another option. The fact is, had they stuck with their original plan, we most likely would have had weeks of in-person learning, relationships with teachers, and a solid grasp of materials and technology before having to go remote as cases spiked in our community. Ultimately, I feel that decision set our entire district back.
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 am running to give a voice to constituents. I feel this has been an issue with our BOE for years, they send out survey after survey to solicit the opinion of the community, but decisions made continuously fail to reflect the voice of the community. The Board must have accountability to the taxpayers. The majority of parents have wanted an in-person learning option since August. Instead of moving forward with a plan in August, where 70% of parents chose a return to in-person learning and 30% chose a remote option, the Board "kicked the can" down the road for months. Our children did not return to a consistent hybrid option until January. Our youngest children have not attended a full day of school in a year. Our children a suffering from a mental health crisis and learning loss. Our "middle of the road" children are being lost in the Zoom shuffle. Our Board is exploring a remote option for the 2021/22 school year. We must focus on a safe return to full-time in-person learning for our children.
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 feel our teachers did their best with an impossible situation but, were unable to adequately serve students during the pandemic. We ended up making the difficult decision to move our oldest child to St. Anne's in November, a local school that has been open full-time the entire school year. Our son was not able to successfully attend school through Zoom and his grades and mental health were suffering. We tried to work with his school and teachers to get him back on track, many teachers admitted he was not alone in his struggles, but there was only so much they could do through Zoom. We were shocked in the positive change in him after one week of in-person learning. While thankful we were able to make the move to a private school, I know this is not an option for everyone. It has motivated me to fight to give our children, including mine still in D220, a voice and a choice to return to full-time in-person learning.
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: I think we have already laid out the foundation to open safely and effectively in the spring. Our superintendent has admitted that the biggest hurdle to allowing all students to return is the 6-feet social distancing guidance. Many districts have now adopted a more reasonable 3-feet social distance guideline with great success. We have been told since the beginning that we need to follow the data and the science, well after a year we now have the data and science to prove schools can open safely. Children are not a significant source of transmission, our teachers have all had the opportunity for vaccination, schools that have opened are not seeing a high rate of transmission in the school, reasonable guidelines can be followed to keep our staff and children safe. Districts across the country, including Illinois, have opened fully and successfully. We must put our children first and do whatever it takes to ensure their right to a full educational experience.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I believe sports should continue at all grade levels during the pandemic. Our children are suffering, school is about so much more than academics. I would take it a step further and say our children deserve to opportunity to return to all extracurricular activities. We need to prioritize our children's mental health and sports and activities play an important part in their overall development.