Robert Windon: 2021 candidate for Barrington Unit District 220 school board
11 candidates for four seats
Civic involvement: Village of Barrington Trustee, 2011-2015; Village of Barrington Plan Commison and Zoning Board of Appeals, 2019 -- present; Executive Board of the McHenry County Child Advocacy Center, 2019 -- present
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: Public service was instilled in me from an early age. My father worked on political campaigns my entire childhood and my mother taught junior high math. From 2011-2015 I was an elected Village Trustee in Barrington before my family moved to Munich Germany for three years. Since my return from Europe, I have served as a member of the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals as well a member of the executive board for the Child Advocacy Board of McHenry County.
I have also been involved in issues related to the school board as one of the founding leaders of the Barrington Chinese Immersion Council and co-Chair of the "Yes for Barrington 220s Future" referendum committee.
As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, my diverse experience allows me to provide a unique perspective on the board.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, the Board did a great job of reacting to the unknown world around us. The administration and teachers adapted quickly to provide the best possible education in very uncertain times.
But, as we learned more about Covid-19 and had an entire summer to plan how to go back to school, the board did not develop a sufficient contingency plan. The district only developed two plans, 5 days a week in person school and fully remote. While having these two plans was necessary, we needed to plan for the possibility that the guidelines from the health officials could change. When those guidelines did change, the district was not prepared. And it took them almost 8 weeks to put together a hybrid plan that should have ready in August.
By not anticipating possible roadblocks to the original plan and preparing a back-up plan(s), the district kept students who wanted, and needed, to be go back to the classroom at home.
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: The school board's first job is always to put procedures in place so that the district can provide the best possible education to the students. Always.
When confronted by an emergency like the Covid-19 pandemic the school board's job is to provide leadership to the administration and the community, even if the decisions that are made are unpopular. Except in an emergency situation, providing leadership means listening to the constituents, especially those you disagree with, as well as state authorities. And then making the right decision for the community.
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: Spring, yes. Fall, no.
In the spring, both the teachers and the administration made lightning fast decisions with limited information. They were able to get the majority of students, the tools needed to stay on top of their education. And, while when we reflect on those decisions, we can find things that could have been done better, the district kept the disruption to education down.
But, in the fall, the district failed to reimagine education to get students as much in person learning as possible. One of the best days of fall for my high school aged son was when he went to school for a science lab, even though it was for one period. This was pulled off safely and effectively. We should have found more ways to get kids into the building- even if for one period at a time.
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: The hybrid plan is working fairly well so far this spring. While Barrington reacted quickly last year, we learned that most students needed the structure of the school day even if they are not in the classroom. The district did a great job of developing a structured school day even when delivering remote school. And this fall we learned that even structured remote learning is not enough for many. We need to be willing to think outside the typical education mold and meet our students needs however we can and continue to adapt as we go.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: More and more research has emerged showing that we can safely resume high school athletics. We should implement appropriate mitigation and immediately return high school athletics.