Christine Poirier: 2021 candidate for DuPage High School District 88 board
Seven candidates are running for three, 4-year terms on the DuPage High School District 88 board of trustees in the April 6 election. They are incumbent Diana Stout of Lombard, and challengers Andrew Edmier of Addison, Tina Haralambopoulos of Addison, Blanca Jessen of Villa Park, Al Manzo of Addison, Christine Poirier of Lombard, and Jean Taylor of Villa Park.
The Daily Herald asked each candidate about issues facing the district and how they would contribute to its progress.
Tina Haralambopoulos has dropped out of the race and is not actively campaigning. Andrew Edmier, Blanca Jessen and Al Manzo did not respond to the questionnaire.
In-person early voting with touch-screen voting is available at locations throughout the county. In-person early voting with paper ballots is available at the DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
Occupation: Director, Global Benefits
Employer: Motorola Solutions
Civic involvement: As a District 88 parent, I have been active on many school committees, including the Citizens Advisory Council, Parent Transition/Reopening Committee, Willowbrook Music Boosters and Willowbrook Parent Organization. I am also an enthusiastic supporter of the athletic and performing arts programs (my daughter and nieces played basketball, gymnastics and soccer; while my son is active in the CenterStage show choir, concert choir, speech team, theater and Vocal Jazz Ensemble). My past involvement outside of District 88 includes membership on the St. Pius X Parish School board and the Firebirds Soccer Club board.
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I have lived in District 88 for over 20 years. My daughter, Sarah, is an alumna (2018) of Willowbrook High School and my son, Michael, is currently a senior there. I also have two nieces, Samantha and Gabriela, who are alumnae (2013 and 2020) of Addison Trail High School. I want to be a member of the school board because my family's experience with District 88 has been a very positive one, and I want to work to continue those positive experiences for future generations. I am excited to have the opportunity to put my personal and professional experience, as well as my enthusiasm to work for the students, families, and faculty/staff of District 88 in this capacity.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. Overall, I think that the current school board has done a good job on its response to the pandemic. This was an unprecedented global health emergency that presented many issues in terms of dealing with school governance and operations. Although local school boards were given a framework to guide them in their discussions about the reopening of schools, there was no "playbook" and each was left to make their own decisions on critical issues such as governance, policies, programming, personnel, health and safety of the school community and fiduciary responsibilities. I think that the current school board's decision to align the District 88 Return to School Plan with the DuPage County return to school framework and COVID-19 School Metrics Guidance was the best decision at the time to ensure the health, well-being and safety of students, staff, families and community members.
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 of a school board member in confronting the pandemic to be a combination of all of these things. It is certainly important for school board members to listen to and incorporate guidance from state and local authorities, such as the DuPage County Health Department and the Illinois Association of School Boards into their pandemic response plan. It is also important to give constituents the opportunity to express their views, as District 88 did with the recurring Return to School Student Advisory Committee and the Parent Transition/Reopening Committee meetings. Finally, after taking all information available at the time into account, school board members should demonstrate a united front by standing behind the decision made and encouraging constituents to do the same.
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. Yes, District 88 continued to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. One example of this is in the area of student support services. The district continued to provide access to school counselors, deans, social workers, school psychologists, special education department heads, IEP coordinators, the library media center director and literacy departments to students to provide consistency and continuation of academic, social and emotional support. When students were unable to access these services in person, they were able to do so through a variety of alternate means, including virtual meetings, District 88 email and/or Remind.
In addition, District 88 developed a community food-service program in partnership with Chartwells and Cottage Hill Operating Co. to ensure that eligible students continued to receive free meals even though they were not in the buildings.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
I support allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic, but only when it is safe to do so. Recently, in accordance with Illinois High School Association guidelines, District 88 approved a number of sports to begin their winter season, including: boys swimming and diving, cheerleading, dance (poms), boys/girls bowling, girls gymnastics, badminton and boys/girls basketball. In addition, District 88 approved the following extracurricular activities to resume as well: Jazz Band, CenterStage (show choir), Thespians, National Honor Society, Orchesis, SkillsUSA, International Dance Show, Scholastic Bowl and Key Club. I am thrilled to see students (including my senior) back in the schools, and I am hopeful that District 88 will be able to provide more in-person options for students as the county's COVID-19 numbers improve.
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. District 88 is continuing to follow its Return to School Plan during the spring semester, moving through the various stages as the DuPage County return to school framework and COVID-19 School Metrics Guidance permit. This approach has resulted in frustration on the part of some students and families who do not understand why other districts have moved to hybrid/in-person environments and District 88 has not. I certainly understand this frustration, as I myself have a senior who is experiencing some of the same emotions.
However, as much as everyone would like to have students and staff back in the buildings, it is important to only move to this environment when it is safe to do so. The pandemic situation is still very fluid, with new challenges popping up all the time, such as lack of access to vaccinations and emergence of new variations of the virus. I think that by continuing to follow its Return to School Plan, District 88 is making what it feels is the best decision at this time to ensure the health, well-being and safety of students, staff, families and community members.