James Vargas: 2023 candidate for Marquardt Elementary District 15 board
Age on Election Day: 49
Employer: American Association of Youth Athletic Boards
Previous offices held: Marquardt Elementary District 15 board member for the six years
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 work that I have started and been a part of the past six years. I am grateful to have been heavily involved with the process in updating our buildings throughout our district as well as setting goals to help our students get back on track after the pandemic. My motivation is our students and making them feel part of a community, giving them the best educational opportunities inside and outside of the classroom.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: I feel the role of the school board in setting and monitoring of curriculum is one of being a partner. A partner to our administration in supporting them the best that we can so they may work with the understanding that we are all there to do what is best for our students.
I also feel strongly that the board is a partner with our parents. We as board members represent our community and our parents. We are entrusted with doing what is best for our students and a board cannot achieve that goal without the input from our parents.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: Currently, there are a variety of curriculum and behavior beliefs/philosophies within the district, some of them are in conflict with each other. Also, there are a great deal of resources available to teachers, but no core curriculum.
This has been very confusing for teachers who are often operating in silos and this has impacted student growth. As we move forward in hiring our new superintendent, it is imperative that we as a board, our admin and staff come together collaboratively to create a philosophy that set the foundation of our curriculum and put our district back on a track of getting our students prepared for the next level of education.
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 view my role as someone who needs to understand and respect that there are many different opinions in regards to our current educational system. It is imperative to listen to all viewpoints, no matter if I personally agree or disagree with them. That is the fundamental aspect of our system.
As a board member, I feel that there are times that we need to be the mediator and help move our district forward by listening and when appropriate, incorporate differing opinions into a policy that is best for our students.
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: Hindsight is 20/20 and I hope that we have learned lessons that we will keep in mind if we face another pandemic. The devastating impact of having our students not in school is already showing and I am very concerned about the years to come. Every situation is different but we need to understand that decisions need to be made from data and as a board member, need to respect each individual opinions but keep the best interests of our children as our top priority.
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 through two teacher negotiations in the past six years. Policies are a part of these negotiations and at times have trigged the formation of new policies.
During these sessions I have listened to both sides, to the data, the personal opinions and the limits that school code/policy dictate. I have been able to help both sides come to an understanding in the middle that has put our students interests first and have resulted in fair and equitable result for the district and our teachers.
I strongly feel that these experiences have help me to understand the immense value of listening to all sides of the question and allowed me to be the leader that brings people together. There will never be an issue where everyone is happy or satisfied with the outcome but I feel that I have been and will continue to be able to help our stakeholders tackle the issues and produce results that are best for our students.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I feel that over the past six years I have developed many relationships with our district admin, community members, parents and students. Those relationships have helped bring new ideas to our district and moving forward, I look forward to implementing those for our students. I think my sense of humor is my strongest asset because sometimes you just need a good laugh to get the day back on track.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I am involved with many ideas/goals that we are currently working to get the ball rolling on. Before and after school care for our students, intramural basketball for our elementary kids, strengthening our relationship with Glenbard East.
However the biggest idea I have for our district is to build an extension on our middle school that would have four basketball courts and several classrooms in addition to an outdoor track. This project will help our district financially, provide more space for student services, i.e. our special education program, and help other schools in our area by hosting track and cross country meets as high schools face scheduling challenges for their athletic fields.