Maria Simoncelli: 2021 candidate for Fremont Elementary District 79 school board
Eight candidates are running for four 4-year terms.
City: Round Lake
Occupation: Real estate broker
Civic involvement: I have had a long history of civic involvement but most recently serving on the board and participating in the electoral process.
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. I have served on the board for 4 years. I am motivated for all our children and the quality of the education they receive. As a parent, with kids in the district, I understand wholeheartedly the importance of a good school program. My husband and I moved to the district because we wanted to have children and have them be in a district that was strong and had values for all children. I am motivated as a current board member to see our district continue to grow. The district has done great and has maintained a balanced budget which is another strong asset the school possesses.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I am a current board member. We have kept the children a top priority -- we all want the same thing and that is to have our children in school full-time. We as parents have all struggled by the life changes we have faced in the last year and it has been extremely challenging for our children. I, as a board member, have 2 5th graders and have seen their struggle and decline in the last year due to the changes. We have all sacrificed and to think that we as a board have not considered all options possible would be an understatement. This is a pandemic that has hit America. We see the news everyday of all the challenges and how some schools are doing things different. Our school has followed all guidelines from day one for many reasons. We are working diligently and I give so much credit to the school staff and administrators for all they have worked to do. We are moving in the right direction and the goal today is to be in school 5 days a week.
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 will be to consider the best possible outcome. I understand what we are facing and realize that there is no outcome that is going to be the solution for all. I have a strong leadership background and have been in difficult situations with difficult decisions. The pandemic is definitely an area that isn't going to get the right response no matter the direction. There are parents that feel safer with their kids home and there are more parents that definitely want their kids in school. This is where our children should be.
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: There were areas that absolutely were difficult and that was overall structure with the e-learning process in the beginning. Of course, this was new territory for all. Teachers, parents and most of all our children. The school did the best they could in communicating with everyone and providing the tools best possible to those that needed it. There were families that needed assistance with internet and that was all structured and provided with continuous assistance. There is no perfect resolution but given the circumstances -- everyone had to do the best possible.
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: We have been in a pandemic for over a year and we have all lived life differently. We are doing things today we never considered doing every moment we walked out of our home. From making sure our faces are covered to having sanitizer in our possession. Our children have made this a norm as well. Since we have had to live in this situation and be as cautious as we have -- my plan would be to continue to push the safety guidelines. Even as we progress to the classrooms and making sure our children continue to understand their awareness in public. We should continue to be as proactive as we can for as long as we can.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I support sports in high school. My views on this are simple -- keep to guidelines with safety and we know all should comply with safety. Sports should possibly be spaced out in between games/events to be able to monitor and test for COVID days prior to a game. This could hinder the sport schedule -- but it would help in improving the outcome. There are gyms that are open with limited capacity and sanitize and keep all areas clean. So far -- The statistics have shown that there have not been any issues with these types of locations operating. The idea would be to also limit audience attendance and provide online viewing options for family, etc.