Susan Taylor-Demming: 2021 candidate for Indian Prairie District 204 board
Incumbent Susan Taylor-Demming, one of 11 candidates running for four, 4-year terms in Indian Prairie Unit District 204, responds to the Daily Herald candidate questionnaire for the April 6, 2021, local election.
The candidates are: incumbents Laurie Donahue of Naperville and Susan Taylor-Demming of Naperville; and challengers Shannon Adcock of Naperville, Allison Fosdick of Naperville, Saba Haider of Aurora, Robert O. Harris of Naperville, Supna C. Jain of Naperville, Marina Kosak of Naperville, Yanmei May Liang of Naperville, Rajesh Narayan of Naperville, and Kader Sakkaria of Naperville.
In-person early voting with paper ballots is now available at DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
For more election coverage, visit dailyherald.com.
Occupation: Director of Leadership Giving -- I direct major gifts, planned giving and endowments for Elgin Community College
Civic involvement: Board member, Indian Prairie District 204; current board member, Naperville Heritage Society; prior board member, Girl Scouts-Lisle; church school leader at Cathedral of Grace St. John for 18 years.
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 reelection to continue being a Servant Leader with a desire to provide the best academic, social, and emotional opportunities for students. My commitment is to provide the resources necessary for all students to thrive and reach for success while in District 204 and beyond. As a board member, there are many different issues you must handle, so a willingness to represent ALL constituents on any topic we face is an important characteristic of a strong board member.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The school board has been committed to following the guidelines provided by the CDC, the Illinois Department of Public Health and DuPage County Metrics. Northwestern ZIP code data was added last fall to provide specific information regarding our district community. The board and administration have always stated that the health and safety of students are first and foremost as decisions are made. One of the fortuitous steps our district took in 2019 was to prepare for remote learning for our schools in case of poor weather and because of that our district was already highly prepared with one-to-one technology.
Certainly, there were families who wished to return to in person immediately in the fall and while our metrics did not allow for a major return, we did begin to bring in students who were struggling the most, those that were not logging in for remote classes, our pre-K students, our special needs students, and our STEPS population. We are pleased as we seek to add days and length of time for students to return to in-person learning for parents that make that choice.
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: A school board member must always provide leadership and I am proud to have done that throughout my 4-year term. Working on behalf of students is a passion and I am happy to always consider pertinent information as I make any decision and I have done that with every decision and vote made throughout the last year. Decisions have been difficult and as a leader in any civic role, you will never make everyone happy.
I ensure I review information that will provide additional insight and especially with the pandemic, expertise from the federal, state, and local levels. We, as a board, have worked together as a team, but each of us have spent innumerable hours researching, talking with administrators, and visiting our schools to make the decisions we felt have been in the best interest of all students. It has not been easy, and I have not taken my decision-making process lightly and I am committed to continuing doing what is best for the safety and health of our entire educational 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: As we prepared for a return to school in the fall, our district surveyed parents to determine how best to prepare for the school year. Initially most desired a hybrid option, but ultimately the majority desired a remote option, and we adjusted all classwork to make all classes accessible to students. Immense adjustments were required to provide all AP and Honors classes to all students who desired to take them, but the administration worked to make it happen. We were fortunate because as discussed above we had almost universal one-on-one technology (only our youngest learners were without home technology from the district, but all students were provided accessible machines pretty quickly).
Where we did need to make adjustments was to make sure connectivity for all families was available. We worked with internet companies, those that could provide hot spots, and libraries to make sure students had the access required to participate in school classes each day. We have continued throughout the current school year to adjust as necessary to make sure students receive what they need to meet their academic needs.
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: Bringing students back to increased in-person learning hours is a herculean undertaking and will require the coordination of a wide range of entities including transportation, building logistics, and custodial staff. The 6 feet of social distancing is challenging for many of our schools, due to the fact that we have many classes which are close to maximum students during the best of times. We must be committed to purchasing appropriate PPE equipment, following, and adhering to scientific/medical guidelines.
We may find that teachers and students will have to be flexible about classroom availability and alternate spaces may be necessary as we seek to bring more students into the classroom at the same time. If CDC or county health guidelines relax and we can move to 3 feet for social distancing that will assist some of the logistical difficulties, we are facing currently. As we look at the 2021-22 school year, I think finite family decisions will be requested regarding remote or in-person attendance. Hopefully, metrics will continue to move in a positive direction, vaccine penetration will increase, and we can expand in-school classroom time.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: As with in-person classroom attendance, I desire to see our students participate in school sports as long as the safety and health of our student athletes remains the top priority. Our students are in need of not just sports, but all extracurricular activities and I want all to participate in the areas of school that are so vital in addition to their classroom academics. The IHSA has approved sports once again and competition is happening again on the hardwoods, in the pools, and courts. I am very happy to see that much-needed outlet available for our students.