Photo courtesy of Amanda McMillen
Introduce yourself. What do you do?
I’m a social worker. I work in nonprofit management and have for the past 15 years. The nonprofit I work for is Illinois Collaboration on Youth. We are a statewide policy and advocacy organization for youth in child welfare, juvenile justice and homeless youth. I’ve been on a board of directors before for my kids’ preschool. I was head of the finance committee and vice president of that board of directors.
What do you hope is accomplished by the board if you’re elected?
As part of the board, it’s really important that we understand and anticipate the needs of the community and have resources in place so that our kids are able to focus, learn and thrive.
We’re going to start seeing the effects of what COVID-19 has meant for families and children learning at home, in regards to mass unemployment and also the housing crisis, with people not being able to pay their mortgages. When those things happen, the place that most people turn for resources, whether it’s mental health services, social emotional services [or] food, is the school system. We have to understand, [for] those youth that maybe haven’t been able to engage electronically, how can we re-engage them? Those are some of the things that we have to plan strategically as a board by setting priorities and goals.
What are your thoughts on the current district COVID-19 response? What is going well? What would you change?
I think that they’re doing the best that they can, and this is the first time we’ve ever gone through something like this. I have respect for the fact that they are really trying to put the safety of children and families and teachers and staff first. However, I also am a mom of three kids who are working remotely, and I also work. It is really challenging as a parent, and I understand how it impacts our kids.They’re depressed; they’re isolated. I think it’s important that parents have a choice [to have their children] stay remote, or if they choose, to come back. I wish they could have done a little bit earlier. But I definitely understand that these decisions aren’t made lightly.
Are you in support of mandatory COVID testing or a mandatory COVID vaccine requirement from the state for students to learn in-person next fall? (Aside from medical or other exemptions?)
I am opposed to making any medical decisions mandatory. I believe this is a very important tool to ensure that all students and staff are safe within the in-school environment to help us return to full-time in-person faster; however, we have to respect peoples’ right to make the best medical choices for themselves and their families.
If elected, how do you think the board would address issues with teacher fatigue and excess teacher turnover?
I would like to have an opportunity to speak directly with the teachers and/or review anonymous survey information regarding the contributions to teacher fatigue. In my professional experience, providing appropriate supervision and support is one of the biggest contributors to staff retention. When staff feel heard and valued for their opinion, they are more likely to stay. I think this year has been especially difficult for teachers because they have been pulled in many directions with teaching both remotely and in-person, and I would explore options to have teachers focused on one or the other modalities as one example of support.
During the Aug. 17 meeting, the current board passed “Resolution affirming the authority of the superintendent to implement Return to Learn plan for 2020-2021 school year.” Any thoughts?
I am going to compare this situation to nonprofits, which is my world. Nonprofits are also run by boards. The board’s responsibility is to hire a CEO, approve and select a budget and set strategic plans and visions for the nonprofit. It is then up to the board to hold the CEO accountable for all the decisions in regards to who they hire. In this case, it parallels exactly. The role of the board [is] to hire the superintendent, trust that he is going to, with his team, make the best decisions, and help guide us through this unprecedented time of a global pandemic. At the time, from what we knew, I probably would have fallen in line with the same decision. Now in regards to all the decisions after that, I think that there are some things [that have] been done well, and I think there’s things that we could do better, but that is why we have to learn and grow and revise.
How can we as a district address issues regarding racism, bias, diversity, equity and inclusion?
I know that the board has done some initiatives and around integrating a very intentional diversity and equity inclusion policy, which I think is a great step. They’ve hired Dr. Rakeda Leaks, who I think is a wonderful leader that this district desperately needs. I know that the teachers have gone through implicit bias training along substitutes. But I’m a firm believer that really being able to address the issues of racism [and] inclusion [has] to be done at every single level. If it’s seen as a very normal part of our culture, of our education, how we talk about history, what kind of books we are reading to the kids in school, we know how to address [issues of race] and be able to stand up for what’s right.
One last thing: why should people vote for you?
I have the personal connection and professional experience, and I understand the issues. I’m a strategic thinker, and I know how to make things happen—get things done. In nonprofit management, I literally get paid to solve community issues, I’ve helped support organizations through state budget impasse, and now through COVID-19. I’ve had a lot of systemic training and insight. When it comes to supporting communities, schools and organizations, I understand how they work. I’m excited to take on this adventure, and I really hope that I get selected and [am] able to really serve this community through this major transition we’re going through.
Find out more about Amanda McMillen:
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