Leah Collister Lazzari: 2023 Candidate for Barrington District 220 school board
Town: Barrington Hills
Age on Election Day: 58
Occupation: Attorney, real estate broker
Previous offices held: Barrington 220 school board member, vice president
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: My family has lived in Barrington more than 20 years and my children attended Barrington 220 schools, where I was a constant volunteer. I was elected to the school board four years ago and would like the opportunity to continue serving the Barrington 220 community.
As an incumbent, I will use my experience to ensure B220 provides continued academic excellence, maintains its fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers, completes the work of our $147M capital improvement plan, and continues to attract excellent educators.
With our superintendents impending departure, my experience and leadership will be paramount in hiring a new superintendent.
I am running for reelection to continue the important work I have started. I believe I am a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars, investing when needed to make our schools better and our community stronger.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board does not directly select individual curriculum instruction materials, instead the administration makes curriculum recommendations to the board. If the school board has a concern about the recommendation, the board directs its questions to the superintendent who then gathers information and reports back to the board. The board does allocate funding for the renewal and updating of curriculum and monitors academic progress of our students as a direct result of curriculum.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: The district has a regular curriculum review process at both the elementary and secondary levels. On a rotating basis, each year an area of curriculum (such as math) is reviewed by the administration and staff using the following criteria:
1. Research into best practice, and standards.
2. Changing the curriculum if needed.
The school board is updated on curriculum review regularly. For example, last fall the administration implemented more personal fitness and student education related to lifetime fitness to the Physical Education/Health curriculum at the elementary level. Through this process I feel confident saying I do not believe there are specific curriculum issues in our schools, however I am an advocate for the continued evaluation and assessment of current curriculum in order to maintain academic excellence.
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 member of the Barrington 220 school board I am committed to listening to all stakeholders. As a board member, I represent the community and try to make decisions that are best for our community as a whole. My personal view is not as important as the stakeholders that I represent.
Our community has been divided over the past few years. Members of the community have been very passionate on both sides of many complex issues. It is important to remember that the school board is a nonpartisan body, and even if we disagree on some issues, the one thing we all have in common is providing a safe learning environment and an excellent education for our students.
I will continue to listen, keep an open mind, respect people's opinions, and work with the community, other board members, and district administrators to make the best decisions for our district.
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: Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, it was challenging to develop a plan that met the needs of every student and family while abiding by mandated health guidelines. But we did it. If another outbreak occurs, we are much more prepared. We know what works, and what science supports. In the unlikely event that our district was required to return to remote learning, we have the tools in place to ensure a seamless transition. We learned the importance of personalized student learning opportunities and the need for increased attention to student mental health. Our district was able to hire more social workers, psychiatrists and counselors over the past 2 years due to federal Esser funds. If reelected I will continue to advocate for the necessary resources to meet the needs of our educators, students and their families. As a board member, I would recommend following the advice of the our public health departments.
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: Being a member of the school board is similar to working on many other boards. In order to work together as a team there are important things that need to be done. 1. It is important to be a good listener and make sure everyone has an opportunity to share their ideas and views. 2. It is important to have open communications and build trust in the team. 3. Study the facts, data, and community feedback. 4. Calmly discuss the options and results of different choices. 5. Keep emotions out of the equation. 6. Listen to all sides and be open minded. 7. Work together to come to a solution that will benefit everyone.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I offer the district experience, proven leadership, fiscal responsibility, and advocacy for all people. I have served on the board during unprecedented times. I have listened to both sides of issues and made the best decisions with the information that was available. I am honest and transparent and strive to be reasonable and clear about my views and those of our community. If reelected I will continue to vote for fiscal responsibility in our school district, while seeking effective solutions that promote academic excellence for all students in our district. I will support a balanced budget and maintain our triple AAA bond rating. I will advocate for necessary updates and improvements to our buildings, recruitment and retention of outstanding educators, safety and security at our schools, as well as personalized learning opportunities and mental health resources for our students. I will be a voice for all of our community.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I am very excited about Barrington 220 and our future. The most urgent question before our district is finding our next superintendent. As we did when we hired Dr. Hunt, who has been a fantastic leader of our school district, we will work with the parents, teachers, administrators and the community to find the next leader for Barrington 220.
During my tenure on the board I have had the experience of working with two very different superintendents. Hiring and managing the superintendent is the most important job for the school board and I am ready to lend my experience in order to hire the most qualified and best fit for our district.
I am also passionate about continuing to work on the strategic plan we call Framework 220, the possibility of a future new Fine and Performing Arts Center and continuing to help our staff and students to succeed in the district's mission to "empower personal excellence in all learners."
I invite you to find more on my website: leahfor220.com