Adam Weingarten: 2023 Candidate for School District 95 Board Member
Town: Lake Zurich
Age on Election Day: 39
Occupation: Controller (Finance)
Employer: Alzheimer's Association
Previous offices held: None
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
A: I am running for this office first and foremost because I want to ensure there is somebody championing for all students in the district. I want to be part of a Board of Education that is collaborating with the school district to ensure all students are receiving a robust curriculum that suits their needs. It is important for the Board of Education to have members representing students at all levels. On the current board, there is no representation of the elementary or middle schools. Because my children are young (currently in kindergarten and preschool), serving on the Board of Education and engaging in the community is something I'm hoping to do for the long-term. Another reason I am running is to make an impact in the community. The only way a community can thrive and unite is for everyone to actively participate. Joining the Board of Education is how I believe I can best utilize my skills and experience to serve the community.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The Board of Education's role is to initiate and lead the collaboration that ultimately results in the curriculum that is set for District 95. I would want the Board of Education to continue to oversee the current strategic planning process, which engages various stakeholders throughout the community, specifically administrators, teachers, parents, students and community leaders. It is the Board of Education's responsibility to take all of the input and feedback from the community to approve a highly-rated curriculum that is able to be achieved given the financial resources available to the district. The members of the Board of Education are critical thought partners in how the curricular resources are helping the students in our district be college and career ready. Each member of the Board of Education should leverage their knowledge and specific areas of expertise to put forth the best possible curriculum for all students.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: The curriculum approved by the Board of Education should focus on preparing all students for their next stage, whether that's middle school, high school, college or a career. Students should be provided with well-rounded opportunities and experiences at all levels of education. I want all students to feel represented in the resources that support the curricular goals. The curriculum should result in students that are strategic, independent, and critical thinkers. Additionally, I understand the Board of Education has started the process of aligning the curriculum so that there is a clear connection from kindergarten all the way through high school. The curriculum now includes concepts and skills that build upon each other from year to year. This needs to be continued and the Board of Education should monitor and nurture this process. Equally important, the district's focus on social and emotional learning should continue to be an area of emphasis.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting policy or curriculum controversies: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: Any policy or curriculum controversies that can be resolved at the local level by the Board of Education should be done so accordingly. It is the responsibility of a board member to listen to all constituents regardless of their own individual opinion. Board members should be open to other beliefs and ideas. Decisions must be made not on individual biases or preconceptions, but based on the best interests of the students, faculty and community. Board members must provide leadership in difficult situations and not just pursue individual agendas, especially on issues where there are ranging opinions and beliefs. Allowing for all members of the community to share their thoughts will allow for better communication, more transparency, and a closer community.
Q: Concerns are growing regarding a new resurgence of the pandemic. If another massive outbreak of infectious disease occurs, what have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that will guide your decision making?
A: The Board of Education in collaboration with district administration and the local governing bodies did an admirable job managing the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no prior protocols on how to handle a pandemic. The board considered guidance from health authorities, complied with all local, state and federal mandates and allowed for the community to voice their opinions and concerns. The main takeaway is that we, as a community and the Board of Education, always need to put the safety and well-being of the students and faculty at the forefront when making decisions. There are differing opinions on how to accomplish that, so if we were to be faced with another pandemic, the Board of Education needs to lead with understanding and respect within the community. If we all take a step back and realize that while we may have differing opinions on how to care for our students and faculty, we all just want what is best for them. If we lead with that, we'll make the best decisions possible.
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.
A: Working collaboratively with a governing board and the senior leadership team to determine policies and procedures is a large part of my job as the Financial Controller of the Alzheimer's Association. Listening to others in the group is an important part of the process, while also providing my own ideas and observations. Policy setting and policy compliance works best when it is created collaboratively. When everyone participates and has ownership of the policy, it will be more successful than if policy is created by a small group and dictated to others. A large part of my platform is to give everyone in the community a voice, take the best ideas, and craft them into policy or reflect them in the curriculum. School policies created by the Board of Education are the moral and ethical anchor on how the district functions. Clear and strong policies drive the Board of Education to create effective actions and decisions.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: The combination of my values, work experience, and familiarity with education makes me the best candidate. I believe in actively participating in the community, promoting collaboration, and giving everyone a chance to voice what is important to them. I have spent the last 12 years working in finance for the Alzheimer's Association and have experience creating and adhering to a $400 million annual budget, strategic planning, creating policies and procedures and board governance. I also have experience within District 95, spending the last two years volunteering as a mentor for the high school's IncubatorEDU business class. The first year I was named Mentor of the Year for my contributions to the program. With my wife having worked in education for 17 years, learning and education are important parts of our family's everyday lives. I bring a diverse set of experiences that make me the ideal candidate and I also have elementary age children which are not represented on the current board.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: The district places a major emphasis on ensuring that students are college and career ready. We look at our Illinois Report Card and other testing results to determine how our students are performing while in school. I believe an area of data that is missing is determining if the 21st century education provided by District 95 sets students up for success post-graduation. An innovative idea is for the Board of Education in collaboration with district administration to create ways to track the success of students in college and in their careers. This would provide data and information on the results of the curriculum provided in District 95. The report card and test scores now may indicate that the district is leading students on the right path but without subsequent data, there is no true way of making that assessment. This also would allow for the district to maintain closer relationships and ties to former students, which would enhance the district's overall reputation.