District U-46 Board Candidates Weigh in on Issues

Article excerpt

Six candidates are running for three, 4-year terms on the Elgin Area School District U-46 board. They are: incumbent and board president Donna Smith and challengers Bartlett village trustee Frank Napolitano, medical association manager Veronica Noland, aircraft maintenance crew chief Gary Percy, ECC admissions coordinator Linda Campos Moreira and student Andrew Giggey.

The candidates provided their answers in response to a Daily Herald election questionnaire. To read more of the Q&A, visit dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/.

Q. With the racial discrimination lawsuit in its final stages, do you think the district needs to do anything differently when it comes to addressing diversity in and among the schools?

Andrew Giggey. Proximity to a certain school from a student's home should be considered, unless a program exists at another school that is essential to a student's success.

Donna Smith. We, the Board, have said throughout the lawsuit that we will continue to make our decisions based upon the best interests of all students and not let the lawsuit keep us from doing what is right for them. Our focus has been "Academic Success for All," and by ALL we do mean ALL.

Frank Napolitano. I do not believe race should play a role in the school boundary discussion. The school boundaries need to be based on overall neighborhood population, school size/capacity and, of course, proximity.

Gary Percy. I am not sure what you mean by address diversity. The District is obligated to educate every child. U-46 is pretty diverse now. I do think, regardless of the lawsuit, new boundaries and evaluation of school utilization is long overdue.

Linda Campos Moreira. The school district has already made some progress when it comes to addressing diversity. The district's Dual Language Program and diverse staffing at the cabinet level are examples of the progress the district has made toward addressing diversity. I would continue to encourage our advisories and councils to come forward with issues and concerns to help guide the district. I would like to increase student input to learn how the district might continue to improve their learning environment. Also, I would encourage more multicultural competency trainings for our administrators, educators, social workers, counselors, and our students. Sometimes, we don't know what we don't know and multicultural trainings might bring to light something of value to help increase student engagement as well as college and workforce readiness levels.

Veronica Noland. The lawsuit ruling will dictate what remedies, if any, the district must implement. Beyond that I believe the establishment of an education ombudsman, such as now exists in Washington state, would go a long way in resolving and addressing many of the issues facing the district, including diversity. In addition, I believe the district will invite less lawsuits over the long run because issues will be addressed through an independent resolution process rather than be allowed to grow into a full blown lawsuit against the district.

Q. What do you think about the district's response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School? How is the district on safety, more generally?

Giggey. Pretty safe, continue the use of school resource officers in schools and have building administration review each threat actively. Have every staff member go though and complete CPI training. Biggest threat in high schools today is drug use. Continue with the goal of bringing down suspensions by 15 percent each year.

Smith. I believe our response to Sandy Hook was appropriate. Our District Safety Coordinator, John Heiderscheidt, was aware of and following this very closely, keeping in mind procedures we have in place and if any additional security could have prevented or lessened the tragedy of that day. He was also in contact with our buildings in case any extra support may have been needed. …