Joanne H. Osmond: 2023 Candidate for Lake Villa District 41 School Board
Town: Lake Villa
Age on Election Day: 74
Occupation: University Online Instructor
Employer: Bringham Young University -- Idaho
Previous offices held: Board of Education Member
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 started my journey on the District 117 school board, over thirty years ago. My quest was to ensure representation for children from Lake Villa and Lindenhurst on the Antioch board. I have a degree in education as do my grandmother, mother, and sisters. My grandfather served on a school board in the 1930s so it was as easy decision to run. What I discovered was sitting on a board was not what I expected, it was more. It was about not only the value of education and a desire to see that all children are given an opportunity to excel, but was creating a framework, a structure, an environment to ensure that it happens through well thought-out policies. It was school board governance that kept me engaged in service not only here in Lake Villa, but at SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) and IASB (Illinois Association of School Boards.)
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: The board approves the curriculum, textbooks, and educational services that are directed by the state and implemented by the administration. The board has a seat on the curriculum committee, but it is not a board committee. However it involves all stakeholders and makes recommendations to the board for approval. Although the board approves the curriculum it does not select, nor does it implement the program. Although normally not the case, the board can vote not to approve a state mandated course and face the consequences.
The board of education for 41 listens carefully to the voices of all stakeholders and makes the decision that we feel is in our school district's best interest. We do not feel we are above the law but at times we feel that lawmakers do not take into consideration our specific community needs.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: The board needs to work with the administration to put up guardrails to ensure that divisive and polarizing political issues do not divide our school community. Topics such as CRT and other theories have no place in elementary schools nor does teaching sex education to kindergarteners. Obviously political party views are not "taught" nor is religion. Parents need assurance that children are not going to school and taught views contrary to what the children are taught at home. For example, schools have always been a place to learn to take care of our beautiful world and preserve our environment, but even that can be taken too far with unproven theories and shaky ideas that are in fact proven inaccurate over time. Guardrails are needed. This goes beyond courses taught to include books in libraries and art in classrooms. Our guardrails need to be sensitive to all families and not focused on appeasing one minority over another.
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: I and the rest of the current board members have always been willing to listen to the public. I sat at a table in the middle of the gym in Antioch High School in about 1993 when the bleachers were filled with angry teachers because the board was making cuts that would affect them but would keep the district out of debt. Sitting on the board has not always been easy but we have a fiduciary responsibility to our students today and in the future. This board has had to do drastic things to maintain an adequate fund balance and we have. As president, I stepped in and literally fired staff, because the superintendent didn't have the courage to do it. Did I like doing it? "No!!" While neighboring schools struggled and higher tax rates, Lake Villa school taxes remains below average even with the much-needed repair of the existing buildings.
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: Be careful who you listen to. The person may have a title of authority, but not have any real knowledge of the situation. Listen to OUR public and not the public that includes voices outside our geographic area of influence.
The effect of another Pandemic is more than a runny nose and spreading virus or bacteria. It also has a significant emotional, social, physical and even financial impact that was not always taken into consideration in 2020-2021. A forced decision from Washington, DC or Springfield made it convenient for school districts, but was it always the right decision?
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: As the president of the Illinois Association of School Boards, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with all levels of governance and created various policies by listening. I listen to all input and sort through the various ideas and opinions, creating a list of steps that create a policy or structure that works over and over again. I observed what works and didn't work. I was instrumental in the formation of a new national school board association that was open to listening to parents and refused to force political bias upon local school boards. I proposed the language for a new national constitution for the school board associations based on recognizing local control of public education.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: Each of the candidates has different strengths. I am NOT creative, but I am good at two things that make me a great board member and candidate.
1) I am always learning. I read nonfiction education books, attend more free online webinars and conferences than the rest of the board members put together. I always seek knowledge with the thought about what we should implement here and how.
2) I don't create, but I implement. Over the years I have brought to this board networking, individual student devices, e-learning days, security measures and cooperation with local agencies on programs such as ALICE. I supported fellow Board Members and Administration when they implemented Leader in Me. I still believe that every student needs their own IEP tailored to their learning strengths and needs.
I do not see a child with a label, I just see a child who I am responsible for, to love and care for so they can be the best that they can be.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: Establishing guardrails to keep politics and polarizing topics out of school education while maintaining the Home to School to Community Connection.