Barrington 220 candidates discuss priorities for the district
The 11 candidates running for four open seats on the board of Barrington Unit District 220 have different views on priorities moving forward.
Running in the April 6 election are incumbents Sandra Ficke-Bradford and Mike Shackleton, and challengers Lauren Berkowitz Klauer, William Betz, Katie Karam, Jonathan Matta, Malgorzata "Maggie" McGonigal, Thomas J. Mitoraj, Steve Wang, Erin Chan Ding and Robert Windon.
All have children in the district.
Ficke-Bradford, 49, of Barrington, an executive adviser and software solution architect, and Shackleton, 54, of Barrington Hills, a management consultant, said their experience will be an asset as the district gets a new superintendent July 1 and navigates construction projects, teacher contracts and a new strategic plan. New board members will have a learning curve, they said.
Chan Ding, 39, a freelance journalist from South Barrington, said her core tenets are "equity in all things, effective communication and exceptional stewardship."
She and Ficke-Bradford want to give families a choice between full in-person and remote learning next year.
Offering both options will "damage" the district's budget, said McGonigal, 43, a mortgage loan originator assistant from North Barrington. She suggested following the lead of schools that are fully open about how to implement such a plan. McGonigal said she's disappointed in how the board has tackled the challenges of the pandemic, which has affected children's mental health, she said.
Wang, 36, a finance director from Barrington, said the board has done a wonderful job. Still, change "is a good opportunity to start fresh and bring a fresh perspective."
Betz, 47, a medical doctor from South Barrington, said he favors opening full time. "This pandemic is not particularly dangerous for children and can be shown pretty convincingly to be safe for their teachers as well."
Windon, 43, lawyer and former Barrington village trustee, said it's important to ensure the continued success of "word class" programs such as language immersion and the business incubator at the high school.
Matta, 39, a designer from Barrington, said he believes in the "reimagination of learning" with students as "experiential learners." "The board has had a hard job," he said.
Karam, 44, a stay-at-home parent from Barrington, wants to focus on fiscal transparency and holding the board accountable. "The board needs to reflect the voice of the community."
Berkowitz Klauer, 39, of Barrington, is a stay-at-home parent who said she has "mad respect" for the school board, which did its best in the past year. "The board can use some levelheaded people who can listen to both sides," she said.
"Balance is a key to sustained success," said Mitoraj, 53, of Barrington, an engineer/manager and adjunct professor.
Starting July 1, the new superintendent will be Robert Hunt of Ohio, which incumbents Shackleton and Ficke-Bradford touted as a great choice. Hunt already had started meeting principals and touring facilities.
Wang said the new superintendent also will need to meet with students and parents, and focus on fiscal responsibility and transparency.
The new superintendent will need to address students' learning loss, and their mental and emotional health, Chan Ding said.
Karam and Berkowitz Klauer said the "middle-of-the-road" learners especially were lost in the shuffle during virtual learning.
Karam also wants to focus on fostering students' personal interaction through sports and extra curricular activities.
Mitoraj agreed, saying students need to also learn outside the classroom, and teaching needs to be tailored. It's also important to work on the details of how policy statements, such as commitment to equity, are applied, he said.
Matta referenced the "forming-storming-norming-performing" model of team development, saying the superintendent will have to work with the board and the whole school community to "find that community vision."
Berkowitz Klauer said many in the school community are "feeling not heard," and the superintendent will need to have "good, open, honest conversations."
Windon said it's imperative to put together a post-COVID-19 plan, starting with the immediate 2021-22 chapter. "We need to know what we are triaging," he said. He also wants to address learning gaps and plan for future disruptions while keeping in mind that kids in kindergarten, first grade and second grade can't handle Zoom like high schoolers.
Betz said the superintendent will need to be aware of how his decisions affect parents, and wants the district to do more surveys, such as regarding busing preferences.