Wendy Schilling: 2021 candidate for Libertyville District 70 board
Two candidates for one two-year term
Occupation: Self-employed attorney
Civic involvement: None listed
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 decided to seek reelection because I want to continue to give back to my community. All of my children attended D70 schools and received a quality education. Over the last 8 years, I have attended conventions and conferences to hone my tools and knowledge in the education field. I learned that there should not be just a single issue that motivates a person to seek a board position. This pandemic will come to a conclusion and there will still be work to be done. There are always budgetary concerns, the Life Safety Building Plan, Capital Improvements, Teachers Contracts, Board Policy Amendments, Curriculum Decisions and Personnel Decisions. Also, I think it is important to have board members that do not have children in the school. All taxpayers are a stakeholder and should be represented at the table. I deeply care for all of the children in the district equally. I am not moved by emotion or desire to put my child's needs before others. Decisions should be made what is best for all of the students.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The grade really depends on whether you advocate for schools to be open day one or out of caution you believe schools should remain remote out of safety. If you ask parents advocating reopening without layered mitigation then the grade would be a D. If you ask the families choosing remote learning a B. When all students were in remote learning, the students had equal opportunity or access to the teachers. With introduction of hybrid, the remote students lost time with their teachers and this is why with every decision unfortunately there was a consequence. The middle school with livestreaming will address the loss of synchronous time for the remote learner. If you ask the parents advocating in-person learning, they would give the board an F. I would disagree with that grade and I would say that the grade should be a B-. In July, I advocated that we may have started in remote but we should do whatever is necessary to get students back into the classroom. In August, we got the most vulnerable students into school. The board next got the K-5 in with a morning or afternoon hybrid schedule and at the beginning of the second trimester the middle school came back to a hybrid schedule. This was never to be seen as the end but just the next phase with the ultimate goal of in-person all day. Each board member has but one vote and I have not been satisfied with the timeline presented. I believe we should be in-person especially since we have layered mitigation in place. The board can keep pushing for reopening but if the administration does not execute the plan legally I am not sure what the board can do. A school board is not to be involved in the day to day operations and should be seen as evaluative. The board can give our one employee the superintendent a poor evaluation but I do not know if the board can force open the doors. There has never been a pandemic and these questions have never been needed to asked or answered.
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: In July, the Superintendent believed that remote learning was necessary and the execution of creating a robust remote platform was the focus. Even with that decision, I advocated that the most vulnerable students be brought back as soon as possible and focus on the youngest of students. In August, we did bring back the most vulnerable students. We were told to follow the science and the science said we should wear masks and socially distance. The distance was 6ft. The 6ft meant that all of the D70 students would not be able to attend class as a complete group. The metrics provided by the State and Lake County Health Department were not necessarily of assistance. There really was no deference to state authority because the Governor never said teachers were necessary employees. The County officials gave different numbers to consider and selecting one metric over another was finally determined not to be useful. Instead, I and others looked at our mitigation to see if we could safely open schools. When we were remote, parents who wanted to be open made their voices heard. I heard them but I also had to consider the safety of the staff, students and community. I heard them that they did not agree and I continued to push for a reopening plan that focused on safety. Now that we are moving to reopening, the remote families accuse me of caving into the small outspoken constituents. My response would be that I am giving both sets a choice. Each side should respect the other's choice. I demonstrated leadership because I respected each position and my focus is on making sure regardless of the choice the student is being provided a solid education. I did not let the less than civil emails or comments have me make a hasty decision. I followed the science, I asked the questions, I researched other districts and ultimately voiced my displeasure of not reopening in January, February, or March. The April date for the K-5 was disappointing and only reopening at the Middle School 2 full days with livestreaming is not what the constituents want nor do I. I will continue to push for a complete reopening at Highland.
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: The District was able to redeploy the Math and Literacy Coaches to fill Elementary teaching positions created when the K-5 students came back half days. The District had the early childhood students and students with IEPs back in school on a hybrid schedule in August. The district moved up the purchasing of equipment of new iPads and Apple TVs for the teachers to use in both remote learning and in-person learning. The District created ELearning Centers. The centers were first offered to families that receive free or reduced lunches. The enrollment was then opened to families of single parent incomes and eventually opened to everyone in the district. The centers were not seen as additional educational instructions but a safety net for the students. The ECenter Staff would assist the student in staying on task. The Staff would make sure the student was logged into their Chrome books for synchronoustic learning sessions and complete their assignments. The District has also reached out to all of families to offer Social and Emotional Intervention for students that are struggling. Summer school will focus on the student's learning loss if any. The classes will be reading, writing and math. The District wants to make sure the student is ready in the fall to meet the challenges of the students new grade.
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: With layered mitigation, the wearing of masks, symptomatic testing of staff/students, shields for lunch periods, the improvement of air circulation/filtering systems, contact tracing, learning pods and strict adherence to seating charts, the schools can move to the next phase of in-person instruction. The District will begin livestreaming at Highland on March 8 and a new hybrid AA/Remote/BB model for now with the expectation that Highland will be completely in-person 5 days a week before the end of the school year. The District should also investigate testing for asymptomatic staff/students. The District has two partners for vaccinating the teachers/staff. It should be noted that even with all of the mitigation measures, a student or staff member may test positive for COVID. This may require individual students or staff quarantine but it also could cause a whole class, grade or even a school to quarantine.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Very few high school sports have continued during the pandemic. The ones in the fall allowed for social distancing and were not considered contact sports. I understand that for some students sports have a financial impact for them with respect to scholarships to college. The Illinois High School Association has revamped the sport schedules and I would support allowing students to compete if safety measures are in place. Our District is looking into offering our students sporting opportunities internally once outdoor space and indoor space can be identified to insure student safety.