Andrew Fekete: 2023 candidate for Huntley Unit District 158 school board, 2-year term
Age on Election Day: 42
Occupation: Instructional technology specialist
Employer: Indian Prairie Unit District 204
Previous offices held: Governing Board Member for Illinois Digital Educator Alliance
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 have lived in the Huntley area since 1990 and am a parent of two children who attend Huntley 158. I have a vested interest in achieving the highest possible standards of education for the children of our community. As a teacher, I know the importance of having community support for our school system.
I am a nonpartisan candidate and want to keep divisive politics from interfering with our school system's ability to provide the highest quality education to each and every student who attends Huntley Unit District 158. The goal for a school district is to educate and put students on a path for lifelong learning. Students should choose their own path and not be indoctrinated with a particular idea or belief. I want each student to graduate with a strong foundation of the fundamentals that mark a well educated person in our society. The focus has been and should always be on the students who make up our community.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The board is the oversight presence of the community that provides direction to the Superintendent along with other administrators and teachers. When questions arise regarding the curriculum, the board is where those questions should be addressed. As a school board, we reflect the standards of the community. District leadership is not free to operate in a vacuum. If they cannot show that the curriculum selected does not meet the highest standards of education for our students, then as a board we must hold district leadership accountable. Ultimately, we must provide educational environments where students are presented with the opportunity to learn how to think, not what to think.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: It is not easy to design a curriculum that is going to meet the needs of our students while preparing them for an unknown future. When I was in school I memorized facts. Now with the abundance of technology there is no place I can go where I cannot find the same information. As a school district, we need to think critically about the skills and ideals that we prepare our students with when they graduate.
The ability to be flexible, resilient, collaborative, think critically, communicate with the world around them, solve problems and more. We need to prepare our students with the skills they will need to become well-rounded members of society.
We cannot ignore the mental health and well-being of our students who are subjected to so many influences outside our school system. The challenge we face is designing a curriculum that provides our students with the balance of information as well as the ability to distinguish that from misinformation, in the world around them.
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: Every member of the board of education for Huntley 158 has an obligation to be a representative for the community as a whole and not to use the board as a forum to advance any personal or partisan agenda. Our schools are not red or blue like states on a political election map. Our schools are a blend of all colors and all views. I will be a listener to all community questions, ideas and concerns. My role is to listen to all views and make a decision.
Schools need leaders who are willing to make a decision and make decisions in the best interest of all of our students. I know the mission and vision statements for the district. I agree with them and I am going to be guided in every decision that I make to uphold those statements and principles.
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: It is a waste of time to criticize school administrators for their ability to predict the unpredictable. After 100 years, who ever imagined that our teachers would be called upon to pivot to remote learning. No one can predict what another outbreak might be like or if there is another crisis that might befall our community.
I am an instructional technologist for a large successful school district. I was impressed at how quickly school systems, including Huntley 158, pivoted to use digital resources to keep kids learning with no advanced warnings. Strong school districts, including Huntley, didn't stall, but instead acted swiftly in providing educational opportunities for kids to learn and grow. The challenges were many at times. It was chaotic but we kept kids learning.
Whatever the next crisis may be, the important thing is that we look at the situation, what tools are available and design and develop a solution to keep our kids learning and supported despite the obstacles.
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 am a member of a select working group that meets with Digital Promise, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), to advise on policy related to innovation and instructional technology in today's classroom. I am on the governing board for the Illinois Digital Educators Alliance, which organizes a conference that is attended by teachers and educators from across the country, including Huntley Unit District 158.
In each of these instances, we bring together people with diverse backgrounds and opinions. We listen to all points of view. We aspire to work toward a consensus driven approach. We look at the values and goals set forth in our mission and vision statements and we provide direction and make decisions based on what the group believes will achieve the outlined values and goals. My approach to the Huntley school board would be the same.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am a parent of two kids in Huntley 158, and there is nothing more important to me than our school system. It is why my wife and I choose to live in this community. I have spent the last 19 years in education, 9 years as a classroom teacher, earning 2 masters degrees both with a focus on strong leadership in the field of education., and spending the last 10 years in a high performing district, as an instructional technology specialist.
I am accredited as a Certified Education Technology Leader, by CoSN, in recognition of my proficiency in leadership and vision, strategic planning, ethics and policies and business management. These are all attributes of a strong and successful board member.
More than that, I have lived in this community for more than 30 years, I am a volunteer, Scout leader, and a community member. I understand our community! I have the background and am prepared to represent our community on the Huntley School District 158 Board of Education.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I am proud of our schools. I am proud to be a member of the Huntley 158 community. I recognize that we live in an ever changing world. Our school system must continue to adapt and evolve if we are going to succeed in meeting the challenges of the future. Huntley High School is renowned for their work to revolutionize the high school experience.
Have we done everything that we can to evolve our elementary and middle school programs? Focus our energy on teaching students how to think and analyze the world around them, not what to think. Prepare students for life with the ability to decipher misinformation through a media literacy curriculum.
I want to engage our superintendent and administrators in a dialogue to explore how we might improve our elementary and middle schools and evolve into learning centers that will support students for years to come.