Sandra Ficke-Bradford: 2021 candidate for Barrington Unit District 220 school board
11 candidates for four seats
Occupation: Executive Advisor, Software Solution Architect at CVS Health
Civic involvement: Barrington 220 Community Unit School District: Barrington 220 Board of Education, 2009-present; Vice President, Secretary; Insurance Committee, 12 years; Finance Committee, 6 years; Policy Committee, 6 years; Labor Management Committee, 12 years; Resource Allocation Committee, 12 years; Barrington 220 Enrollment Monitoring Committee, Co-Chair, 2006-2008; Sub-Committee of Board of Education. Barrington United Methodist Church: member since 1999; Human Sexuality Design Team, 2017-2018; Futures Committee, 2004-2005; Building Committee Member and Head of Interiors Sub-Committee, 2000-2003.
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: The recent months prompted me to make an honest assessment of where we are, where I think we could be headed, and what I can personally contribute.
I have more board experience than all of the continuing board members combined. My years serving the districtwide community will bring invaluable perspective and continuity. I contributed to the district's balanced budget for 12 of the last 22 consecutive years.
If reelected, I would utilize my in-depth knowledge of board policy to ensure the smooth continuation of operations, advocate for fiscal responsibility, and propose creative ways to increase board transparency. I am motivated to work together with the new superintendent and board members to engage with the community in establishing the goals and priorities for the next several years, with a particular focus on addressing pandemic education, and affirming diversity and equity.
I love our community. I feel a sense of responsibility to continue the important work I have been doing. I am proud of the positive impact I have made in the district. I am driven every day to continue to make our schools the best they can be. I invite you to find more on my website: https://www.sandrafor220.com/.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why? (200 word limit)
A: I am proud of how the administration, teachers and classified staff have strived to serve student needs during the pandemic. When all is said and done, our teachers and staff -- whether old faces or new, whether current or future -- are the greatest asset we have in Barrington.
I give myself and the Board a "B" grade. As CDC, state and local guidance was realized, the administration pivoted again and again -- always with the best interest of students and staff in mind, but I realize that this resulted in district parents feeling confused and frustrated. Also, with hindsight, the initial plan for elementary students fell short.
Despite the division about how to reopen, I believe that the board and the superintendent worked hard to do things safely and in line with state and CDC recommendations. In fact, Dr. Harris was recognized by his superintendent peers in Lake County for his "remarkable" involvement at the state and national level in support of pandemic-related educational initiatives.
Even with all of the considerations due to the pandemic, the "business" of the board -- such as our referendum plans -- continued without interruption. In fact, construction to replace the mobiles at Grove, Prairie and Station will begin this spring.
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: Every household endured some financial hardship because of the pandemic, and so I advocated for parents to receive a cost reduction for student fees this year. I also advocated for reduced summer school fees for each student, to encourage families to allow their children to continue learning this summer. In each case, the Board did not agree with my request to reduce fees. Even so, I will continue to advocate for some financial return to district families as grant funds become available.
When the Board was asked to consider eliminating metrics, I supported the guidance provided by the subject matter experts at the CDC, ISBE and Health Departments. In addition, I recommended following the advice of our district's attorneys. I supported the administration requesting additional funds to increase staffing and transportation costs to enable the Hybrid 2.0 Plan.
We have witnessed so much division over the last year, and I am hopeful that we can come together as a board and community to recognize that we are all working toward the same goal: the academic success and social and emotional well-being of 220 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: Ahead of our time, we implemented technology solutions giving students remote access and empowering staff to adapt the curriculum to distance learning. We were among a few school districts in the nation who were ready to educate on Monday, days after a Friday lockdown. We also implemented a calendar change allowing students an academic break between semesters.
Our forward thinking enabled us to quickly pivot to a fully remote solution, as districts across the country scrambled to find a way to connect teachers to students. Some districts were completely unprepared, rushing to print and distribute materials in an effort to build a fully at-home curriculum, while others tried to figure out how to quickly fund and distribute technology. In Barrington, we were able to send kids home on Friday and have them ready to learn the following Monday.
Globally, we entered uncharted territory, with pass-fail lessons for all of us unfolding on a day-by-day basis. Though not perfect, our foresight and technology investment enabled us to put some of the most critical worries aside, prioritizing content delivery, effectiveness, and the well-being and safety of district families and staff, without needing to develop an emergency infrastructure on an extremely rushed time frame.
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 220 administration introduced the district's Hybrid 2.0 Plan as students who selected this option returned to in-person learning in January. The Hybrid Plan follows the mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC and is based on guidance from the LCHC. The Hybrid Plan addressed some of the previous shortcomings at the elementary level, now allowing each student to return to school daily. At the high school, hybrid students at all grade levels are now able to attend in person everyday. Many parents have expressed their appreciation for Hybrid 2.0.
I am also advocating to continue with a Distance Learning program into the fall of 2021, based on the interest and needs of the community. While vaccines are now available, it is not certain when there will be a safe vaccination for children, nor when distribution to all will be available. District parents recently received a survey opportunity to express their desire to keep their children remote in the coming school year. I assume enough families will express interest to make the solution cost-neutral. A common theme I have learned during my board service is that Barrington 220 families like choices that enable them to best meet their needs.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Barrington 220 is a member of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), which governs the equitable participation in interscholastic athletics and activities that enrich the educational experience. As such, District 220 has committed to follow this governance.
That said, I supported last fall the continuation of basketball in a safe manner within Barrington 220, knowing that the sport could be paused in the near future due to rising COVID metrics -- which it was. I have advocated for all sports and activities at all levels to continue whenever possible this past year. It is extremely important to students' overall well-being that they continue to have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. Furthermore, I asked the administration to find additional ways to bring all students back to their schools whenever it is possible to do so.
The IHSA has classified each sport as low-, medium- or high-risk and has outlined by risk what is allowed under each phase and tier on their website. The district has followed the IHSA guidelines throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so.