Cynthia Marie Henrichs: 2023 Candidate for Wauconda Unit District 118 School Board
Age on Election Day: 38
Employer: Mundelein Consolidated District 120
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 school board because I am interested in being part of the conversation to help Wauconda continue to grow and develop and offer the best possible education for all students. This is not limited to academic experiences, but also including extracurricular, athletic and post-secondary planning to name a few. I firmly believe that Wauconda School District has so much room and potential to grow, such as providing full day kindergarten, and I want to be a part of that process. As an educator at a local district and parent to two children in the district I believe I have valuable insight that will allow me to be a valuable member of the board and I am committed to continuing to push the district to grow and change as needed based on the needs of our community.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The school board should ask questions to learn more about the curriculum and offer insights, suggestions and possibilities for change based on student need, areas of deficiency, and compliance with state and federal guidelines. The school board should be part of the conversation and seek to learn from all stakeholders to determine the best course of action for the district curriculum. The school board should also actively monitor student progress in order to continue to watch for student growth and identify areas of need. I believe the board should also continually evaluate district goals to make sure that the curriculum is aligning with what they believe to be in the best interest of all students in the district.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: In regards to curriculum I know that the district has continually been evaluating what is in the best interests of the students. This has included looking at reading and math programs, selecting new programs for curriculum and committing to staying current with new curricular options. While the district has continued to develop and grow in new ways by incorporating STEM, career and technical courses and programs as well as Social/Emotional Learning and post-secondary planning, I do believe they can continue to evaluate the different opportunities that are available to all students. An area that I would say could use some revision and attention would be to review curriculum and curricular offerings to ensure that they are robust, engaging and appropriately challenging while making sure that all students are given access to high level pathways
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: My role would be to make sure to gather as data, evidence and information about any policy/curriculum controversies. Before I voice my opinion on topics, I do my best to make sure all those involved have a fair chance to voice their concerns. I know not all decisions that are made will be popular, nor will they all be within the hands of the district and board and may come from state authorities, but if we are continually guided by what is in the best interest of students/staff that we will make the best decisions. This does mean that we will not please everyone, but it is important to show transparency in decision making and be willing to explain decisions that are made. I will remember that as a member of the board I am making decisions for the district as a whole and not just myself or what I personally believe. People need to know that they are heard and their voice is valued even we don't agree.
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 believe that we have learned how to navigate through extremely challenging times and that when you keep the best interests of the students and staff at the forefront you will make the best decisions possible. High quality education will always remain the cornerstone to all decision making. We have learned how to adapt and adjust as needed and those are lessons that we can take with us.
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 been fortunate to be part of policy/curricular discussions in my 16 years as an educator. I have been able to develop the curriculum for several different courses. I have also been part of conversations on school policies both formally and informally. I am one who will seek to understand the situation as best as possible before starting to develop my opinion on the best course of action. If we function with the belief that everyone is coming to the table with positive intent and keep an open mind to all ideas it will allow for fruitful discussions. I tend to ask a lot of questions to gain a better understanding and then I start to put together an action plan that addresses areas of concern or matches with the intended goals. I have insight into how classrooms function and what students needs that allows for me to make informed decisions. I continually evaluate decisions that I make to ensure they are still the best decisions and am always willing to discuss new options.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: As an educator I have a lot of experience that allows me to bring a different viewpoint to the table. I am also a parent to two children in the district. I can draw upon my experiences and my children's experiences within the district to help guide my decision-making process on what might need to be addressed or changed. I am also active in the PTO and see what dedicated parents can do within the district to continue to support our children's education. I have been an active member of the District Equity Committee and have been part of the district 5-year planning committee. I understand the district goals and where they want to be in the future. I am also able to communicate in Spanish and this will allow me to communicate with an even larger population within the district. With my diverse experiences and perspectives, I believe I can help guide the district to an even more positive future. I am committed to the success of the district for all students and families.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I would love to see the development of more robust orientation programs at the middle and high school levels. More formalized orientations for students to allow them to feel comfortable within the school and have a strong connection with another student who has already successfully navigated what the incoming students are experiencing. By creating peer-to-peer mentorships it can make a new school feel more welcoming. It will allow the incoming students to be more knowledgeable about their new school, and it also empowers the older students to be positive role models and strong leaders. When their peers are inviting them to be more involved and encouraging them along the way in their academic endeavors, we see that more students will succeed. Once this is developed, it would be beneficial to also look at what opportunities there are for parents to learn about the schools and what they have to offer as well.