Photo source: Kristin Fitzgerald
Introduce yourself. What do you do?
I am a former education and health policy advisor. I am currently not working and am dedicating my time as a school board member and just as a community volunteer. I’m a widow; my husband passed away from cancer. Something that I have been very involved with is advocating for congressional funding for very underfunded cancer.
What prior experience do you have on the Board of Education?
I am very proud that we are the community unit school district with the highest number of exemplary schools in the state of Illinois. I think a huge part of that is the work that we’ve done to close achievement gaps. The board and the district committed to a $2 million annual investment in closing achievement gaps, which has made great progress. We have increased the number of students served by our early childhood program, increased the students served by our summer school program and invested in ensuring that students who are low income have the resources to go to summer school.
What do you hope is accomplished by the board if you’re elected?
We are prioritizing [executing] our Return to Learn safely. We continue to really focus on developing $5 million dollars in extra programming that will assist students with academic, social and emotional needs resulting from the pandemic. We’re looking at potential summer boot camps or a jumpstart program right before school.
What are your thoughts on the current district COVID-19 response? What is going well? What would you change?
As we were starting “Return to Learn,” there was very little data; as we were making those initial decisions, our community transmission rates were unpredictable. I think we’ve done the best job that we can to prioritize returning to learn safely for our students and staff, [and ensure] that we’re able to implement [state and local health department] guidance. An area where we’re really wanting to work is to communicate our message, whether it’s the factors in our decision making or ensuring that our families, parents, educators and students understand how much their incredibly hard work in this pandemic is valued.
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?)
In terms of the vaccine, the authority that mandates is the state. In terms of testing we have about 53% who have signed up for the testing.* One of the things we’re looking at is our rates. How successful are we being in terms of positivity and spread? I think we’ll continue to navigate those circumstances as they come.
*Editor’s note: reflects surveillance test participation rates as of the Feb. 1 Board meeting. Between Feb. 1 and Feb. 22, the number of individuals who participated in the district fell from 2514 to 1723.
If elected, how do you think the board would address issues with teacher fatigue and excess teacher turnover?
Part of that is professional learning, ensuring that you are offering the support that people need. We’ll continue to meet those challenges as they come. If there’s a need for additional support, [we’re] committed to meeting those needs.
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?
The superintendent, being the operational leader, is able to make timely decisions. When he is working through plans, programs and procedures specifically recognized in our policy, he and his qualified staff are the ones developing those plans. It was perceived as a departure from normal procedure, rather than an affirmation of normal procedure. The board always retains the authority and responsibility to evaluate the superintendent. The resolution doesn’t change that.
How can we as a district address issues regarding racism, bias, diversity, equity and inclusion?
[Over the summer], we passed a board and district resolution reaffirming our commitment to overcoming systemic racism and achieving equity for all students. That resolution was lauded by our state superintendent of schools, not just for the work that we’ve done on closing achievement gaps, looking at equity issues and making these commitments, but also for recognizing we have a lot of areas where we need to make progress. For efforts to be anti-racist, we need to hear students’ voices. We have been working with the Midwest Center for Equity in looking at our curriculum, working with our teachers to say, ‘how do we look at it with all these different lenses, and have a curricular product that is representative?’
One last thing: why should people vote for you?
My goals were to help our students achieve, to really prioritize that aspect of closing achievement gaps and helping all students achieve their potential as well as responsibly looking at our budget to ensure that we can best serve our students but keep our taxpayer burden low. I am hopeful that I am able to continue advocating on behalf of our students, and as we come out of the pandemic, keep making progress.
Find out more about Kristin Fitzgerald
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