William Betz: 2021 candidate for Barrington Unit District 220 school board
11 candidates for four seats
Town: South Barrington
Occupation: Medical Doctor
Civic involvement: This is my first time running for public office.
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 school board to use my knowledge as an actively-practicing M.D. to keep our schools open when the risk to students is low, implement efficient infection mitigation measures, and decrease our real estate taxes. My 3 children are in the school district. They are in 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades. I have a vested interest in the success of the school district for many years to come.
I have experience with assessing the relative risks of diseases and interventions. Fewer children died in 2020 from COVID-19 compared to deaths in a normal year from influenza and pneumonia. Education is extremely important. Extracurricular activities and friendships are important. Parents' ability to count on their schools while they're at work is important. The threshold for jeopardizing these should be much higher.
I run a small business. I have experience doing due diligence regarding review of contracts and finances. I will keep a close eye on the spending of the $23,753 annual revenue/student. I will not rubber stamp spending on the order of the proposed $656,000 per grade school classroom. I will work toward reducing our real estate taxes.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: For those of the seven school board members who voted to give the parents the option for in-person, full-day school, 5 days per week, I give emphatic A's. For those who didn't, I give provisional C's. I hope to upgrade them to A's after convincing them to change their votes.
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: My role in confronting the pandemic is to advocate for parents having the option to send their children to school for full days 5 days per week. Closing schools to in-person learning disrupts the lives of our students and their families. Households with those at high-risk due to age or underlying medical condition need to have an option for remote learning. The parents should decide. Harvard School of Public Health physicians and the CDC "recommend that schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen during these times."
It is important to keep the risk to children from COVID-19 in perspective. There were 154 deaths of children in the U.S. from COVID-19 (as of December 3). Compared with the CDC data from 2018 (the most recent available), COVID-19 would rank behind 8 other causes of death. The deaths from suicide are approximately 20 times greater. The deaths from accidents are approximately 30 times greater.
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.
Q: The teachers of my 3 children went above and beyond the call of duty by making phone calls to check in on us, dropping off school supplies, and writing frequent email reminders. The PE teachers were entertaining and inspiring.
A: Our school district could have done a better job by keeping schools open for parents who want in-person education. The remote learning option should have included instruction all day. In-person and remote after school activities should have been made available to all students. The district needs to do more to avoid social isolation of its students.
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: Schools need to be open 5 days per week for full days including extracurricular activities for parents who choose this option. There needs to be a remote learning option for students who are ill from any cause and for students with serious health concerns in the household.
Communicable disease is nothing new. Epidemics like Swine flu, Ebola, Zika virus, and COVID-19 happen. The seasonal flu is a perennial concern. We need to have an informed policy in place to ensure great ongoing education. I will push to keep schools open for parents who strongly value in-person education. I will push to keep a remote learning option for parents who have serious health concerns in the household. A permanent remote learning option will also be needed for sick days from any cause. It will reduce the risk for the students in the classroom if their sick classmates can learn from home.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: High school sports and other activities should be available. Students have many goals and interests in their lives beyond potentially reducing their risk of serious infection from extremely low at school to similarly low at home.