West Conway Marinier: 2021 candidate for Villa Park Elementary District 45 board

Updated 3/19/2021 3:14 PM

Eight candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Villa Park Elementary District 45 board of trustees in the April 6 election.

They are incumbents Judith C. Degnan and Navreet Kaur Heneghan, and challengers West Conway Marinier, Allen Legutki, Kelli P. May, John E. Naughton III, Kathryn Padberg, and Emily Shultz.


The Daily Herald asked each candidate about issues facing the district and how they would contribute to its progress.

In-person early voting with paper ballots is now available at the 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/.


Town: Lombard

Age: 38

Occupation: Board certified behavior analyst, By Your Side Autism Services

Civic involvements: Aided in creating a Teen Dating Violence curriculum Take Back the Halls for Chicago high schools. Volunteered with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. Board member for DuPage for Progress; Member of Prairie Food Co-Op


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?

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A: Over the course of the past few years and the political atmosphere, I felt if I had the opportunity to do more for my community beyond voting, I should. I can make a positive contribution to the community through my knowledge in the education and special education field. Committed to sustainability, and equity in education I will be a voice on the board that strives to ensure representation of all students and work toward a more environmentally conscious community.

Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?

A: The current school board rightfully put the community's safety at the forefront. Their response to close schools initially and going full remote was a smart choice, but as research has developed regarding the spread of COVID in schools I believe they could have considered more options for families (especially those student's that needed it most, i.e. students with IEPS) other than only remote E-learning. Their current model of hybrid is offering families more options to fit the needs of students and a good response which seems to be working at this time.

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: As a school board member not only do you provide a voice to the constituents, but also provide resources and response to why certain decisions are being made. Additionally, being diplomatic, willing to compromise and understanding other's views are necessary traits a member needs to possess, and all things that I am already practicing in my day-to-day work environment as I have to navigate the different dynamics of parents, leadership, colleagues, etc. while prioritizing the needs of my clients.


District 45 has a strong group of educators whom I look forward to collaborating with and supporting as we face tough decisions like this one, especially with them at the front-line of education.

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: Students who struggled with E-learning had a very difficult time and had little choice until in-person learning became an option. Unfortunately, there wasn't much support that could be provided other than in-person learning so these students I would consider to not be adequately served, however, I do understand the district had to consider the health and safety of the overall community during these times. The district did do well ensuring students needs were met in other ways such as continuing to provide meals to students consistently.

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: At this point with the hybrid model that is being implemented, the current course should remain the same in the spring. Ideally, there could be opportunity to offer outdoor learning in a way that is safe and supports our teachers and students. Outdoor learning has a lower risk of spreading COVID compared to being in a classroom, and would also provide additional benefits for students in the form of higher academic achievements, an appreciation for the environment, and mental health benefits.

Outdoor learning is something I hope to bring to the district as a benefit that goes beyond the pandemic and can be implemented as part of the ongoing curriculum.

Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.

A: There are no high schools sports in District 45.

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