Steve Wang: 2021 candidate for Barrington Unit District 220 school board
11 candidates for four seats
Occupation: Finance director
Civic involvement: Co-leader of Girl Scout Troop 310; room parent at Countryside Elementary; Board member for the Notre Dame Club of Lake County
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 am running for office because I want to represent the people of our great district and the needs of their families. The recent decisions to increase our annual operating budget, while many districts were issuing refunds, and the decision last fall for the continuance of solely remote learning, while neighboring districts implemented hybrid, if not full-time programs, are the primary issues motivating me. When I speak to the constituents of our district, I understand they have concerns on both these matters and feel their voices are not being heard; I want to ensure these voices are considered in district policy.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I believe the current board could have done a better job responding to the pandemic. My primary critique of the current board is the level of transparency on how the decisions for pandemic planning have been made. By late spring 2020, the Center for Disease Control, Coronavirus Task Force, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, School Superintendents Association, among many other nationally recognized authorities of health and education promoted in-person instruction based on empirical data on the needs of children and their specific risks of virus transmission. Further, based on a poll conducted by the district, 70% of parents supported in-person instruction. Nevertheless, the decision was made to continue remote learning, without the choice for hybrid, shortly before the fall 2020 semester was set to begin. Throughout the summer of 2020, parents were led to believe in-person instruction would resume in the fall. Thus, the decision for only remote was a surprise to many, myself included.
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 see my role in confronting the pandemic as a combination of listening, learning and acting/executing. If I am fortunate to serve, I will approach the board position with dignity and act in accordance with all those I represent. In doing so, I will work diligently to learn from subject matter experts, analyze empirical data, and think rationally. Then, just as I do in my professional life, I will evaluate all potential outcomes, weigh risks and deliver a decision that aligns with the needs of my constituency, not my personal views.
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 believe the teachers and administration within the district's schools did everything in their power to serve the students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. It was an unprecedented time, not just for our district, but for the global community; the teachers and administration did an incredible job managing tremendous demands with the limited resources and guidance available. Any time I had a question or needed support from anyone at Countryside Elementary, there was never a hesitation to do everything in his/her power to support my family.
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: In order to have safe and effective spring classes, I recommend following the Center for Disease Control's guidance on how to safely resume in-person instruction: consistent and correct use of masks, social distancing to the greatest extent possible, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, deep cleaning and disinfection, and contact tracing in collaboration with the Lake County Health Department. In observing my own child's challenges, as well as, hearing about those from other parents, the key take-away from the fall semester is the school district should have followed the science and, at a minimum, provided parents with the choice to return to school when the recognized experts in education and health nearly unanimously recommended in-person instruction. The district had already made the necessary investments to create a safe environment, thus, the choice should have shifted to the parents.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: High school sports should continue, despite the pandemic, potentially, with the safety protocols that have been established at other levels of athletic competition. As illustrated by the success of college sports last fall, preemptive testing and adherence to physical distancing and masking standards were successful in minimizing the transmission of the virus. With high school aged student-athletes being at relatively low risk to suffer extreme effects of the virus, they should be given the opportunity to participate in sports competitions provided that is their preference.