District 15 candidates discuss curriculum, board's role in setting it

Candidates for the Palatine Township Elementary School District 15 board say board members should play a strong role in setting and monitoring curriculum, but they have differences about what should be emphasized.

Five candidates are running for three board seats in the April 4 election: incumbent board members Wenda Hunt, Zubair Khan and Samantha Bray Ader and newcomers Justin Hegy and Chris Dargis.

Hegy, a regional manager for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said the board should make transparency its top priority when it comes to curriculum changes.

He said he would push for posting curriculum materials on an easily accessible website.

"Parents have a right to know what their children are being taught at all times," he said.

Hunt, a pharmacist, said the district's curriculum is aging and needs a refresher. She believes school policies should promote best practices, be consistent throughout all schools and support an inclusive environment.

"I have asked for a handful of school policy corrections or updates during my time as a board of education member and have even met with district staff to better understand the context of the who, what and whys of a particular policy," she said.

Dargis, a self-employed businessman, said board oversight is critical and also stressed transparency in communicating courses and content. Close attention should be paid to remedial education, "accelerated academics" and English language learners, he added.

The curriculum also should be "age-appropriate, with an apolitical approach and a focus on academic achievement," Dargis said.

Khan, an attorney, said the school board serves as the public voice for all issues, including curriculum.

However, he said administration is "the most qualified to create a curriculum." The board's role is to make sure curriculum meets state standards and that the public's views and values are considered, he said.

Graduates must have core skills and be "empathic individuals with a more diverse understanding of the world we live in," Khan added.

Bray Ader, a managing director with Latinos for Education, said she believes community input and expert staff guidance will ensure a high-quality, rigorous and relevant curriculum.

She said she was concerned about an outdated curriculum and its relevance to a diverse student population when she first was elected to the board in 2019, but Superintendent Laurie Heinz has implemented a comprehensive and regularly scheduled curriculum review process.

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