David D. Whitson: 2021 candidate for Fremont Elementary District 79 school board
Eight candidates are running for four 4-year terms.
Occupation: Professional educator and coach
Civic involvement: IEA/MEA
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I'm running for the Fremont School Board because I believe this past year's Pandemic has hurt the educational system, hindered the social-emotional development of student, and strained the relationships between teachers and parents. Having the experience as an educator for the past 31 years and a coach for 35, I have mentored many students to overcome adversity. This past year has been by far the toughest year ever. Knowing what students, parents, and teachers are going through at this time I feel I can offer a variety of strategies and experiences to help Fremont get back to some normalcy as far as educating students.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: My personal opinion is both the existing District 79 School Board and the Administration has been doing a great job under the current circumstances to the Pandemic. Since the Governor Pritzker closed schools and business in the State of Illinois due to the Pandemic, in my opinion the leadership from the state level to the local level has been intermittent at best. I've witnessed many schools districts and the boards working hard to find solutions to do what's in the best interest of their students.
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 view the role in confronting the Pandemic as crucial to the best interest of students and the community. As unpopular of a decision it was within my own colleagues, I came to school every day and performed my duties as an educator with in person learning with students on a daily basis. My time with students was limited to only two hours of instruction, but I felt I had to be a role model for others and follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the Lake County Health Department. I've been extremely fortunate not have contracted since I resumed by duties back in August of 2020. Over the years as both a teacher and coach, I have to make many unfavorable decisions which can be gut wrenching, but in the end, the decision was always based on what's in the best interest of the students, the program, and the 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: Through the Pandemic, I have personally witnessed both side of the disruptions to students and teachers and have seen some students rise to the occasion and over the adversity of not being with their friends- not having the materials they were accustomed to when they were in person. I have witnessed the resiliencies of teachers to overcome and make adjustments on the fly when we they had very little time to prepare for on learning. I myself had to learn new things on the fly to maintain a high level of academic integrity for students who are having to learn through multiple strategies and platforms.
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: I believe there is a plan in place and it seems to be effectively working, however, it is in the infancy stage at this time- and only time will tell if is effective. I believe we learned a lot since the fall. What I hope to happen this spring is students with individual education plans be back in school with in person learning as often as the guidelines allow them to be in school. Being an educator I see this as number one challenge. I also recognized students need in the social/emotional of collaborating with their peers in the educational in environment, but working with students' now- we have to constantly remind them about social distancing. So developing a strong suitable plan and to monitor the progress is something which cannot be taking lightly and needs effective supervision.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I'm personally coaching a varsity football team which started on March 3. I don't have anything but good things to say about allowing high school sports to continue. My coaching strategies like teaching, has had to be modified to meet the guidelines set by the IHSA and the Lake County Health Department. I believe it is something we can do safely as long as we are intelligent about how we are doing things. The energy from the student athletes have been phenomenal and we are seeing better focus from the student athletes in the classroom. Students increasing are performing better in the classroom and I believe this is because of the allowance of high school sports.