Last night the League of Women Voters of Naperville hosted a candidate forum for the four school board seats up for grabs at Indian Prairie School District 204.
The forum was co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Parents’ Council and featured 11 candidates.
Marina Kosak, Saba Haider, Allison Fosdick, Kader Sakkaria, Supna C. Jain, Shannon Adcock, Rajesh Narayan, Yanmei May Liang, Robert O. Harris, and incumbents Laurie Donahue, and Susan Taylor-Demming participated in the event.
One of the questions asked to the group was what factors and metrics the district should use when transforming into full-time in-person instruction, and if they would follow CDC and DuPage County Health Department Guidelines (DCHD).
Incumbent Laurie Donahue said the district is currently looking at guidelines and metrics from the CDC, DCHD, and Northwestern University when making the decision on how to re-open schools, and added she would continue to follow them.
Plans For Reopening Schools
“I very much support using the health department’s recommendations to guide our district’s decisions,” said Donahue. “As they lighten up the guidance we’ll also look at doing that within our district.”
Fosdick, a part-time English Professor at Aurora University and the former vice-president of Neuqua Valley’s Orchestra Parent Association said she also supports the district’s current metrics.
“This year is almost this generation’s world war,” said Fosdick. “We are all suffering, we are all challenged, and we can all get through this together. I think patience, a commitment to understanding, and communication are key to doing that.”
Haider, a small business owner and consultant, echoed Donahue and Fosdick’s thoughts on the current metrics, and added she would look at new data.
“We need to make sure that we follow the scientific data and make decisions that allow for our students to be able to go back school full-time as soon as possible,” said Haider.
Harris, who has over 20 years of education experience, said he would follow the metrics, and would also listen to parents’ input when making the decision to transition into full-time in-person learning.
“Listening to some of the parents who have special need students absolutely want their kids back in school as soon as possible,” said Harris. “They just feel like there’s no other substitute.”
May Liang, a nurse in Will County, said she agrees with the district’s measures and has a plan for getting back to full-time in-person learning.
“As soon as the teachers complete their COVID-19 vaccinations in the spring, [and] further down the line I will plan full return to school as long the herd immunity is reached in the area,” said May Liang.
Kosak, who has 25 years of public education experience, said the safety of staff and students is important to her, and the district needs to provide a five-day option to families.
“We do not know what ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) is going to require of us in the fall,” said Kosak. “But there does need to be a focus on a reintegration plan that focuses on five full day in-person learning as an option.”
All candidates agreed that in-person learning, when safe, is the best option for students.
Thoughts on Redistricting
Candidates were also asked if they would be in favor of addressing overcrowded schools with boundary changes.
Jain, a Professor in the Communication Department at North Central College said redistricting is inevitable in any district.
“I now it’s dreaded by many,” said Jain. “I tend to look at it in a more optimistic way and see it as a chance to foster diversity. I believe the current board is looking into an expert in demographics to assess our district and what’s the best way to go about that when the time comes.”
Incumbent Taylor-Demming said the district does have a demographer that is currently assessing potential redistricting. If changes are required she said public input would be needed.
“It will critical to listen to what parents and students feel,” said Taylor-Demming. “But at the same time we know that any decision that’s made will be a very difficult one and we’re going to have to be ready to make that decision.”
Narayan, who has a master in Economics and is a small business owner, said redistricting would happen on the district’s north side.
“What I would do is hire a third party consulting company to make a neutral unbiased redistricting decisions,” said Narayan. “The mandate would be that redistricting would have to take care of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Sakkaria, the Chief Technology and Data Officer at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, said the district should continue to have redistricting as an option going forward.
“There’s crowding on the north [side] specifically because of developments, but we also need to make sure we build equitable zoning that helps students and parents as well,” said Sakkaria.
Adcock, who has volunteered with PTA’s and has served on church councils, said she would be transparent about any plans of redistricting because it’s likely to happen.
“We need to keep our quality of schools competitive and class sizes are a big part of that,” said Adcock. “We can’t have 40 kids in a class. Teachers need to be empowered to bring quality education to our students.”
The full forum can be viewed on the Naperville League of Women Voters’ Facebook or YouTube page.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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