Natashia Dannegger: 2023 Candidate for School District 95 Board Member
Town: Deer Park
Age on Election Day: 40
Occupation: Formerly a dual-language teacher, currently a substitute teacher
Employer: Lake Zurich School District 95
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: My desire to run for the board stems from my children. I have four boys ranging in age from kindergarten to high school. To say I'm invested in the success of our district is an understatement. Academics, sports, orchestra, IEP meetings -- all of these things touch our family's life. I have been involved in the schools in a variety of ways. Currently I am a substitute teacher in our district. I have served on The Strategic Planning Committee, The Referendum Committee, The Interview Committee for the last two superintendents, and the Redistricting Committee. I was the Isaac Fox PTO president and homeroom parent coordinator. I have taught and helped develop both bilingual and dual-language programs in local school districts. With our district's influx of English language learners, I think it's extremely important to have someone with knowledge of those students' experiences. I believe my involvement in D95 and professional knowledge would be a positive contribution to the board.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board should always serve as a representative of the school district's community. As for its role in setting and monitoring curriculum they should be the voice of the community. While choosing and implementing curriculum should be done by professionals who have the experience and background knowledge to pick the grade-appropriate material for our students, the board's role is to listen and represent those in the community with concerns. My children have been part of pilot programs which have allowed teachers to thoroughly vet curriculum that will be used in the district. As a teacher I have experience with how often curriculum and practices change in the world of education, and I have been happy with D95's ability to adapt and keep up with current best practices and curriculum.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: I have been impressed with administrators' thoughtfulness in choosing district curriculum as well as their initiatives to bring more STEAM into the curriculum and with the beautiful and innovative new labs. The future will be heavily science and technology based and the more STEAM knowledge students graduate with, the better prepared they will be for the future job market. I would like to see continuing development of a vocational curriculum for students at the high school level; vocational jobs are in demand and a great path for those not choosing the college route after high school.
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: The school board is elected by the community to give voice to constituents no matter what the situation. I believe when confronted by opinions that differ from mine, I would have an open mind. I grew up in a family with many opposing opinions, it was not uncommon to have dinner time debates about whatever current hot topic was on the news. We were not afraid to hear opposing viewpoints, and it was expected that we could respectfully argue our own thoughts. I would approach the board in the same manner in confronting difficult policy or controversies. I would draw on my experience in the district, as a mother, and as teacher to share my opinion respectfully even if unpopular.
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: I have empathy for anyone who served on the board or administrative position during those early months of the pandemic. There was no prior knowledge on how to approach the situation, the science was continuously changing, and opinions were varied and loud. However, we now know better, and I expect we will do better. If faced with another pandemic, I would listen to expert opinions, and as a board member I would of course listen to the community. I would be extremely hesitant to shut down schools. The effects on students academically and emotionally have been catastrophic. Students need to be in schools, they need to develop relationships with their teachers and peers, and they need a social outlet. If anything, the pandemic highlighted the importance of schools and teachers in our children's lives.
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 truly enjoy working in groups and listening to differing opinions to reach the best possible outcome. While participating in the Redistricting committee and Strategic Planning committee it was incredible working with different stakeholders in the community to come together to find the best possible outcome for students. My approach to these meetings is often to listen to others' opinions then draw on my own knowledge and experience when sharing my own. I believe my past experiences in the district through my children, subbing, my involvement in many committees, and my role as PTO president give me confidence and have proven that my viewpoint is helpful and unique. My opinions will be rooted in experience and firsthand knowledge of how the actions affect the students and staff in the district. With four children in the district, it is extremely important to me that the board's actions are effective and benefit the community.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I love our community; I have seen firsthand the commitment so many have to our students in the district and there is nothing more I would love than to be part of the progress our district continues to make in moving our students to the future! I believe my involvement in D95 and my professional knowledge would be a positive contribution to the board. My background knowledge through subbing, serving in the Strategic Planning Committee, the Referendum Committee, two Interview Committees, the Redistricting Committee, my time as PTO president, my experience as a teacher and my current role as LZBSA secretary all help contribute to my knowledge that will help form my opinions as a board member. Most importantly, I love my four boys and I want them and all of our students to have a school district that sets them up for a bright and successful future!
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I would love for D95 to implement a dual-language program like those in neighboring districts. I piloted 2nd and 3rd grade dual-language in District 220. I was able to see firsthand native-English speaking students and native-Spanish speaking students become fully bilingual. These students, now well into their twenties, are completely fluent in both languages and many have careers where being bilingual is essential. D95's current bilingual program serves English-learners well, but it would be amazing to see native-English students, who choose to participate in the program, benefit from multi-language experiences.