Barry Altshuler: 2023 Candidate for Barrington District 220 school board
Town: North Barrington
Age on Election Day: 65
Employer: Advocate Children's Medical Group
Previous offices held: Barrington District 220 school board
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 reelection to continue the good work of the current school board. We have shown responsible financial stewardship of our district with balanced budgets, AAA bond ratings, and modest tax levy increases while maintaining top quality educational offerings. We have emphasized community involvement where all voices have been heard and respected. We have advocated for the best interests of all of our students by creating a welcoming and safe school environment where diversity, equity, inclusiveness and access are emphasized. We are implementing an updated strategic plan and completing referendum construction and I look forward to continue my oversight and contribution to these processes.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The main role of the school board is to hire and support a superintendent. The superintendent assembles an administrative staff who are responsible for setting the district's curriculum. The board therefore is in the position of monitoring the curriculum. We try to represent all of the voices in our community to maintain a curriculum that meets the needs of all of our students. While we (both community and school board) should have input, we must put trust in our highly trained professional staff to make the hard decisions on our curriculum to serve the needs of all of the students in Barrington 220.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: I am concerned that there is a facet of our community that has a political agenda questioning our curriculum decisions. We have to defend our community's values by fighting unnecessary restrictions on our curriculum. We need to avoid unnecessary cuts in programming and curriculum disguised as budget cuts. While rigorous academics are central to our curriculum, we must prepare our students for life after their Barrington education by emphasizing all aspects of our learner profile - collaboration, empathy, communication, etc. Additionally, we must continue to make educational materials available that serve and respect the needs of all of our students.
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: As a board member, I take pride in seeking out and listening to all of our constituents' views and giving them a voice at the table. I then have to make the tough decisions based on what I feel is best for our community on the whole. These decisions take time, thought and thorough research. I do not want to necessarily defer to state authorities regarding curriculum and am currently fighting for more local control on curriculum decisions and less state mandates (especially if they are unfunded or underfunded).
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: As a physician, I put the health and well-being of our community as the primary consideration regarding decisions about COVID. Many people were misinformed using social media sources and then propagated that misinformation. During COVID, I followed the science, used the current information available, and consulted with the appropriate experts to make the best decisions for our students and our community. We learned that we need more flexibility in how we teach our students - our students have different learning styles and some thrived during remote and hybrid learning. We can apply these lessons learned as we go forward in our curriculum decisions. We must do everything possible to avoid the disruption in our students' educational and social-emotional growth that occurred because of the COVID pandemic if there were a similar threat to our community in the future.
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: I have spent these last four years trying to collaborate with my fellow board members. I try to be prepared to do the best job I can by arming myself with the latest research, reviewing board documents, and questioning the administration to understand the policies and issues that we are discussing. A group member must listen to her/his colleagues and try to reach consensus with thoughtful, respectful discussion and compromise, if necessary.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I feel that I am the best candidate for Barrington 220 because of my experience, conscientiousness, temperament and caring attitude. With 5 new board members elected over the past 2 elections, now is not the time to train new board members and bring them "up to speed" - I understand the hard work and preparation needed to be successful. I have done significant amounts of board continuing education and have attended the annual Triple I Conference all 4 years (virtually in 2020 due to COVID), making me a more informed and effective board member. I would describe myself as quiet and thoughtful but thorough, traits that have served me well on the current board. I care about my community and about our schools and hope to continue to serve our school district as a board member.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: The idea for a new fine and applied arts wing for Barrington High School has been flying under the radar for years but still is not being talked about in the community. Our school offers phenomenal opportunities for our arts students with old, outdated facilities. Our current auditorium has serious safety and accessibility issues. We need up to date facilities to allow our talented students to thrive and perform, to offer a gathering place for community events, and to provide a flexible learning space for our district's students.