Sandra Muhlenbeck: 2023 Candidate for Glenbrook High School District 225 school board
Age on Election Day: 52
Occupation: Registered Nurse
Employer: Glenview District 34
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: As a longtime member of the District 225 community, I recognize that the Glenbrooks are a tremendous asset for and reflection of us all. My goal is to support the Glenbrooks as they continue to strive to provide a high quality, well-rounded education to all students in a welcoming, inclusive environment.
I am deeply concerned about the large increase in adolescents reporting poor mental health in the past decade. Our District must reaffirm and expand its commitment to protecting students' mental and emotional health by providing a safe and supportive learning environment, facilitating access to needed services, and fostering students' sense of connectedness and inclusion at school and in the community.
Q: What is the role of the school board in setting and monitoring curriculum?
A: I trust our District's outstanding education professionals to be responsible for developing curricula and selecting instructional materials. The Board's role is to review and approve proposed curricula and related materials to ensure that they are consistent with the District's philosophy of providing a comprehensive and balanced education, and to make the final determination with respect to any curriculum-related concern raised in accordance with procedures adopted by the Board.
Q: Are there curriculum issues within the district that you feel need particular attention from the board?
A: The District currently is engaged in a multiphase Curriculum Improvement Process. As this project concludes and new processes are implemented, the Board must provide appropriate oversight to assess their effectiveness
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 believe that the Board must objectively and respectfully consider all constituencies' viewpoints and implement standards and practices that reflect the values, priorities and goals of our community.
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: Shepherding the schools through the pandemic was a tremendous challenge and I commend the District for devising a COVID mitigation strategy that allowed for a safe return to fully in-person learning. However, as a parent of two students attending GBS during that time, I sometimes was frustrated by irregular and inconsistent communication from the District, which I believe contributed to a breakdown in trust between the District and the community. This experience highlighted to me how timely, accurate communication of the Glenbrooks' plans, policies and programs to families, as well as listening to and understanding stakeholders' concerns, are essential to maintaining a cooperative and productive relationship between the District and the community. Especially in times of crisis, I will prioritize prompt, responsible and transparent communication by the District with families and other community members.
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: After practicing law at multinational firms for two decades, I pursued a second career as a registered nurse, first on an inpatient pediatric unit, and currently as a school nurse in District 34. These roles have equipped me to quickly synthesize and critically analyze information; objectively assess multiple viewpoints and offer constructive suggestions on reaching consensus; and effectively communicate with a broad range of stakeholders. My approach to consensus building is to ask questions to ensure that I have a full understanding of the issue at hand, consider all viewpoints with a fair and open mind, and be willing to put aside differences in order to focus on areas of common cause.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: As a pediatric nurse, I will bring to the Board the perspective of a dedicated advocate of the well-being of the whole child. While I want the Glenbrooks to provide our students with every opportunity to achieve academic and extracurricular success, I believe it is equally important that the Glenbrooks are places where students feel supported, included, and nurtured.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: While I don't claim this as an original idea, I would like to see District 225 examine how to expand school based mental health services for students. The availability of counseling services through the new Glenbrook Health School Center is a good start; how can the District leverage this new resource to further support our students' mental health?