Rebecca Giannelli: 2021 candidate for Marquardt Elementary District 15 school board
Six candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Marquardt Elementary School District 15 board. They are: incumbents Jean Randazzo, Danuta Polsakiewicz and Luz Luna; and challengers Marcia Reiken, Karen Camporese and Rebecca Giannelli. Polsakiewicz and Luna did not complete a questionnaire.
Village: Glendale Heights
Occupation: Revenue Cycle Manager for Patient Registration and Self Pay Collections
Employer: DuPage Medical Group
Civic involvement: Board member, DuPage Medical Group Charitable Fund Advisory Board, appointed in December 2016; Inaugural Member of Women of Impact since May 2019, committee to support food scarcity projects in DuPage County through the Neighborhood Food Pantries; Volunteer since 2008, Village of Glendale Heights Christmas Sharing Initiative and Food Distribution Events
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I am running for this office to share my time and talents with the school district and town that have given me so much. I'm a 37-year resident of Glendale Heights and a District 15 graduate. I am proud to raise a family here and to have my children attend these schools. We all faced great challenges this past year that centered around brutality and tragedy; between social activism in the wake of George Floyd's death and the culture shock of living in a post COVID reality, we have been forced to dig deep, make hard choices and reconsider our priorities. I witnessed our children and their teachers squaring up to the here and now and was inspired by their ability to lift and shift to find success. I felt called to lend my voice and support to my school district and my community.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. Rather than assign a pass or fail grade to the current board for their response to the pandemic, I prefer to be a part of the solutions-focused collective moving forward. I honestly believe they did the best they could with the information they had at each stage of this unprecedented time. I am confident that the safety of our children was always their number one priority. I know that I speak from a place of privilege in that I was able to work from home and provide daily support to my children in their remote learning environment. Many families did not have this luxury. Moving forward with focused energy on improved communication is essential in order to understand each family's unique struggles, each child's unique learning needs and each teacher and school's resource gaps. Communication and understanding, coupled with adherence to science and best practice recommendations for health and wellness will help inform future decisions and result in robust and effective responses to challenging situations.
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 believe that providing leadership, giving a voice to constituents and deferring to state authorities are all necessary in some measure to confront the pandemic. The response from the school district should mirror the approach of the broader collective; Following science-based information provided by subject matter experts. Everyone deserves to have their voice and concerns heard and respected, even if their views are not shared by all. That includes our children, parents, the teachers and community. From a parent's perspective, the only acceptable outcome is healthy students being taught by healthy teachers and cared for by their healthy families. Being a leader means making hard choices based on experience, data and compromise when possible. If we review all issues through the lens of safety and wellness, we will be united in achieving a healthy outcome.
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. District 15 made consistent improvements in their ability to serve students during disruptions caused by the pandemic. Early on, there were technology and communication gaps. Slowly, more direction came out regarding technology and the deployment of devices and learning tools for students as well as general expectations of attendance and participation. By late spring, I saw increased communication and acknowledgment of the issues and concerns our children, parents and teachers were facing. We received supplies, books, learning aids and helpful instruction for technology such as navigating in new software and replacement of broken or malfunctioning devises. The district also shared creative ideas and unique programs to support the students during periods of isolation and to encourage movement and wellness during the shelter in place. Families received communication on meal pick up and were provided healthy food options for all students. While there were gaps in serving the students early on, the District seemed to pivot as quickly as possible to address the issues.
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. District 15 is safely conducting in person and remote classes now and parents should be able to make the decision to keep their child in a remote setting this spring if that meets the unique needs of their family. With continued adherence to best practice rules, as well as more teachers and community members gaining access to the vaccine, I am hopeful that in person learning will be available for more children soon. We will have to be creative in terms of space constraints and making sure our teachers have access to the resources they need when more children return to school. Regarding lessons learned from the fall, over communicating should be the goal and the district has really stepped up in this space. Recently I received an email, text and phone call from my child's school notifying us that due to a snowstorm, all students would be remote learners for that day. This is the level of communication that is necessary based on the diverse needs of the community. Open and transparent communication will reduce concern and confusion for students, teachers and families.
Q. What is your position on allowing school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A. I agree that students should be able to participate in sports if proper mitigations are in place. Aside from sports, I am also a proponent that clubs and activities should resume as well. Students and their families should be able to make the decision to participate in these types of programs as they do contribute to the overall wellness of our children.