Randy Harnicker: 2023 Candidate for Lake Villa District 41 School Board
Age on Election Day: 41
Occupation: Sales Representative
Previous offices held: N/A
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 will be the ONLY ACTIVE BOARD MEMBER WITH CHILDREN IN THE DISTRICT, if elected. This is my first time running for election on the school board. I have 2 children enrolled at BJ Hooper School in District 41.
There has never been a BJ Hooper parent on the School Board. My motivation is to ensure all children in our schools have a safe learning environment, feel encouraged, supported by teachers and staff; with all the necessary tools to be successful. As a dad to a kindergartner and first grader, I feel it is my duty to serve my community, lead by example and help enact change in our district that will benefit all families now and for years to come. Our School Board should hope to have more parents who want to be involved in the process of hiring strong educators while ensuring their pay is competitive to give our children the best education. District 41 has shown strong examples of fiscal accountability during the many school board meetings I have attended in person.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: I have learned that the school board's role is to understand State and Federal guidance so that we can effectively monitor the curriculum that has been set. Members of the school board provides guidance with teachers, administration, parents, and students to create the curriculum relevant to the student grade levels in each school. I look forward to spending my time to volunteer to join this curriculum committee. The goal is for everyone to work together to monitor the implemented curriculum and report back on what is or is not working. Community involvement is a big part of what makes the curriculum work in the schools and that goals for learning and testing are achieved.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: The district has a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for all our children, with grade level appropriate education and a focus on ensuring no child is left behind. The COVID-19 pandemic caused learning loss in grades across the district and we need to get those students the support and resources they need to bridge any gaps. I have yet to see any issues with the current curriculum that is in place. I do see a need to be willing to adjust to any family needs or concerns that are brought forward. Unlike a ship in the ocean, we cannot afford to be unprepared for rocky waters or "icebergs." District 41 is a large "ship" filled with diverse family backgrounds and beliefs. We cannot be complicit with a "full steam ahead" approach. We must be open to change and a willingness to listen to the community when they bring forward important concerns or ideas and not easily dismiss 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: In a perfect world everyone would get along with everyone. And our families that make up the community would be more involved with the school board. Engagement is low overall unless something is causing a hard ship on a family. Then they are quick to voice their displeasure. It is important to listen to all the concerns of all stakeholders influenced by the curriculum with empathy and compassion. At the State and local level it we must reach out to those making policy or passing bills that could impact our schools in the short term and long term. It involves showing up to meetings and voicing concern. If it takes emailing State Leadership direct; I will do whatever it takes to ensure my constituents understand the real issues impacting families and I will advocate for them.
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: Lake County is in a much better position in 2023 vs. navigating a global pandemic in 2020. Vaccines and testing are more readily available which enables local entities to more quickly identify an outbreak. COVID 19 treatments are also available and scientific research has helped identify measures -- like masking, washing and sanitizing hands and maintaining social distance -- are needed to maintain safety and limit spread. We are now better prepared for any kind of resurgence. We have a playbook at the local, state and national level to follow. The school board should meet to agree upon and provide guidance for all the schools should a resurgence happen. Historically, this school board has taken a "wait and see" approach and have been slow to act; waiting on the High Schools and larger school districts in the area to take action first. I believe as a community we are now better educated and prepared to make the right choices first instead of waiting to follow suit.
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 excited for the opportunity to be apart of a group that creates policy. I am aware that the District 41 School Board has a policy committee and I am looking forward to learning more about how it helps our schools operate with informing administrators. Building relationships with current board members will be valuable to learn the existing policies and what putting them into practice looks like and how results are measured. Every day I am a part of diverse team while at work that has unique ideas and questions policies that don't make sense or do not provide enough direction toward an expected outcome -- like a deadline for a project or when specifications on a bid that have to be met. I know that the important piece is to ensure you are collecting all relevant information and opinions to ensure you are making an informed decision. I take this approach during all team meetings to ensure our execution is concise and directed toward an expected outcome.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I will be the ONLY ACTIVE BOARD MEMBER WITH CHILDREN IN THE DISTRICT, if elected. I know this is important to reiterate because I bring a perspective that the School Board has been lacking for a long time. Being a BJ Hooper parent on the school board would also be a first for our district. I take pride in being an accountable, approachable, dedicated, engaged and trustworthy community member. I know that I can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective. I know that I am new to this role. Change is constant. I want to be apart of inspiring change and fostering new ideas in our school district. What I am not new to is being involved, caring and willing to put in the hard work to learn all about being the best School Board member possible. My professional career has provided me experience with Project Management, Budget Development and Oversight, Grant Fund Allocation for Boston Public Schools, Team Leadership and Mentorship. All of my experience would benefit the School Board and community.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: I feel we can make an immediate impact with our kids by talking about mental health, the impact of social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat etc. and the correlation to suicide among middle school students. I know topics like this impacted families at Peter J. Palombi. The suicide rate among youngsters ages 10 to 14 has been steadily rising, and doubled in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014, according to the CDC. In 2014, 425 young people 10 to 14 years of age died by suicide (NPR Source). Dialogue in schools as well as at home and in our community to make talking about mental health an important topic and we should encourage them to seek help. Children in our community need to hear this message from administrators, parents and community leaders and be given resources and a safe space to discuss their mental health. Preventative measures can be far more effective vs. reactive measures to console and provide comfort after a preventable tragedy has occurred.