Shawn Killackey: 2021 candidate for Fremont Elementary District 79 school board
Eight candidates are running for four 4-year terms.
Occupation: Artist, published writer, Barnes & Noble bookseller, and most proudly stay-at-home dad
Civic involvement: Mundelein Centennial Committee (2009); Board of Education at Messiah Lutheran Preschool in Wauconda (2010-2016); Mundelein Old Village Hall Committee (2014-2015); Board of Education at Fremont District 79 (2017-present); Mundelein Historical Commission (2019-present)
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'm running for reelection onto the Fremont School District 79 Board of Education because I have helped to accomplish so much with the current Board over the past four years and I want to continue making the Fremont School District the best in Lake County. Even though being on the Board of Education is a volunteer position, I am a very dedicated and hardworking member of that Board (only missing two Board meetings in my four year term) taking it very seriously that the public voted me in. Whenever I vote for or against a policy for our district, I always think first of how it will affect the students.
Besides COVID, we have so many other things to deal with to keep our school district the best it can be: keep balancing the budget which we've won awards for doing, preventing any school shootings because that hasn't gone away, improving all of our buildings with the most updated equipment, etc. I know what we do on that Board is very important because we're dealing with the futures of so many of our kids.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: Being very blunt and honest about it, even though I'm currently on the Board, I do feel that we could have done better on making sure the students got back to in-person schooling sooner rather than later. That said, we also have to take into account that this was the worse pandemic since the early 20th century and this was going to be new unchartered waters for every school across the country, not just Fremont. We had to be cautious so not to put our students and staff in any danger. Our main priority was the safety of each student, teacher and staff member in order to protect them from this virus. I am glad though that we started off 2021 going from remote to hybrid and soon having all the students go back to in-person schooling permanently. With all that we've learned this past school year, we are now better prepared for the 2021-2022 school year.
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: To sum it up over the past year, it has been very tough. My role as Board member has been one of looking for the opportunity to get the students back in school physically somehow. I realized through my own son, me having to sit with him the entire school day at home, that remote learning was very hard on him and his classmates.
In September and October of 2020 with all of our students doing remote, I voiced at our Board meetings that while the cases had gone down it was prime time to start some kind of hybrid. Unfortunately the cases went back up before we could do that, but in December, after gaining a majority of the Board, I began a resolution that was added to our agenda that said the students will start hybrid in January; and we did. Yes, of course we can never satisfy every parent in our district and there have been a group that have voiced how the current Board has handled this pandemic, but unless you are actually on the Board, gathering the data and talking with the staff, you just can't judge us on the Board as not doing our jobs. Above all, we always try to do what's best for the kids.
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: Fremont District 79 continued to have meal programs go out to students who needed them by way of our transportation services. Because Fremont owns its own bus fleet, the district is very proud that we were able to continue this much needed service.
Also the district recently went a step farther in helping the community by providing 1200 vaccine shots, to not only our teachers so they remain healthy which in turn helps our students to remain healthy and continue with in-person schooling, but to residents of Del Webb and Saddlebrook so even more people can remain healthy. Our district is not just sitting back and watching others during this pandemic; we are going that extra mile to help our entire community make it through this pandemic.
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: Definitely what we learned from the fall is twofold: first, we have learned how to improve our remote learning in so many ways so if we have to totally rely on it again, we are ready for it. We learned how to use technology not only for the all-remote days but even when we switched to hybrid, having students both at home and in the classroom. Fremont used its resources to equip our classrooms with monitors so the in person teacher can teach all her students at the same time. We also invested in devices that take students temperatures as they walk in, having COVID test kits at the schools to deal with symptoms as they occur and of course masks, social distancing & constant cleanliness.
The flip side is that we learned not to stay remote for too long. Children on the most part don't do well sitting in front of a screen for six and half hours every day. When we get back to some kind of normalcy, we as a school district and as a community are going to have to look at what this experience has done to our kids. Hopefully we continue this positive path to controlling this virus, we keep in mind that students need social interaction for both mental and education well-being.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: That is a tough one because each sport is different on the kind of physical contact they endure. I would have to say we'd have to base each sport individually on if they are fully allowed to continue. I feel it depends on how efficient we as a community are on vaccine shots, if kids are going to be allowed to get vaccines soon, cases continue to go down, etc. Unfortunately all I can say is that time will tell on this matter.