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Lisa Messinger, Crystal Lake School District 47 Board of Education election questionnaire

Crystal Lake School District 47 Board of Education election candidate Lisa Messinger

Full Name: Lisa Messinger

What office are you seeking? Crystal Lake District 47 School Board

What is your political party? non-partisan

What is your current age? 52

Occupation and Employer: Pediatrician with Northwestern Medicine

What offices, if any, have you previously held? none

City: Crystal Lake

Campaign Website:

Education: B.A. Biology from Austin College, Sherman, TX

M.D., University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX

Pediatric Residency, University of Illinois, Chicago

Community involvement: Volunteer District 47 schools

Volunteer District 155 schools

Volunteer Scout Troop 347

Member of Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Marital status/Immediate family: I am married with one child

Why are you running for office?

When I decided to become a pediatrician over 20 years ago, it was because I wanted to dedicate my life to improving the health and well-being of children. School is an essential part of the lives of the children in our community and it is imperative that we continue to support our public schools. As a parent of a child who recently graduated from District 47, I have experienced first-hand the hard work that our teachers and staff put into educating our children. The role of a school board member is to represent the community. Thus, school board members should not be beholden to any particular issue or agenda. They must strive to serve the community as a whole. The only driving force behind my campaign is that I want to serve the children in our community by being a positive voice for them on the school board.

What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?

Communication is key to being a board member. When I talk about communication, I am really talking about listening. As a Pediatrician I have spent the last 20 years listening to parents and kids. I often teach medical students that “parental concern” is a symptom. In other words if you really listen to what people are telling you, you can diagnose the problem. I am a woman of science. I understand how to interpret data. I am an expert in child development. I am a parent and have spent time volunteering in District 47 schools. I have been paying attention to what my child has learned over the past 8 years. I will bring a fact based and forward thinking voice to the school board.

Have you sought and/or received any training to run for your local school board? If so, from whom?

I have sought the advice and guidance of several current and former District 47 School Board Members. I also attended online webinars entitled “How to Navigate Running for School Board” provided by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Would you propose any changes to the curriculum? If so, what?

My experience as a parent of a child in the district has left me largely satisfied with the curriculum. As we move forward and work towards more inclusivity in our schools, we must recognize that updating curriculum is imperative to make that happen. I support teaching a full and inclusive history. I support children learning that celebrating diversity makes our community stronger. I also support curriculum that helps our children navigate the world of their emotions. What I noticed during my son’s years in elementary school is that often his work was collaborative. Our children can learn math or science while they also learn how to navigate working as a team. This is the kind of curriculum that I support.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

I have been talking to parents about their experience in our district for many years. Lately, I have been asking specifically how our district can improve. What I have heard is that our LGBTQ students are too often targets of bullying. I do believe that our teachers and administrators strive to treat our LGBTQ students fairly and are working hard to make our schools welcoming. We still have work to do in this area. This is true, not only for LGBTQ students, but students that belong to all marginalized groups.

What is your assessment of how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is handled in your school district?

I believe that celebrating diversity makes our education system stronger.

We can’t have conversations about equity without also thinking about diversity. Both diversity and equity can mean different things to different people. One thing that I learned working in community health centers for the first half of my career is that the first step in developing programs is to seek input from the community. I have asked many members of our community these questions and this is what I have learned. Equity to a parent of a child with disabilities means that their child is treated with the same respect as other students. It also means that their child receives the education that will help them reach their full potential. Equity to many parents is that their children attend a school where different cultures or races are respected and represented in a positive light.

That means ensuring that children find books in the library that have characters and illustrations that are diverse as well as representative of those around them. Equity can also be about economic equity to help students or families who are struggling.

Regardless, the best place to start with discussions about equity is to ask our stakeholders, specifically staff and teachers what they need to best provide the most equitable environment for our students. We have started that process in District 47, but we are still in the beginning stages. We have plenty of room to grow on this issue.

Do you believe the district needs to make any changes to improve DEI in your district?

Yes, we are in the very beginning of developing DEI in our district. We must continue to ask families and students what is required to make certain that all families and students feel welcomed in our schools. We must examine our curriculum and ask our teachers how we can be more inclusive and what resources they can use to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in our school district.

Are teachers in your district paid adequately now and in retirement?

I believe that District 47 has some wonderful and inspiring teachers. Great teachers, not only teach, but they bring out the best in students. The real question is how to adequately compensate someone who inspires and nurtures our children. I am not a teacher in District 47, so I would have to have more conversations with our teacher to better learn about their compensation system and if it is adequate. I can look at the data and numbers and compare teachers salaries to surrounding districts, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into the true experience of our educators.

Would you support changes to teacher pay scales? If so, how?

I support listening to our teachers and finding ways to recruit and retain our teachers. My understanding of the current pay scale is that it is based on years of experience and level of education. If there is a way to adjust pay to better recognize our outstanding teachers that could benefit our district as well.

What is your assessment of the district superintendent’s compensation?

A strong school district relies on the expertise and problem solving abilities of qualified administration. In order to retain knowledgeable and qualified administration, compensation must be adequate. According to what I have read, our superintendent’s salary is slightly above average for the state of Illinois.

Would you make any changes to how the district superintendent is compensated?

One of the roles of the school board is to evaluate the superintendent’s performance. It follows that a superintendent’s compensation would relate to that evaluation. It is difficult to say without having knowledge of our superintendent’s contract, if changes need to be made. I am always open to listening and learning more.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.

These past several years presented challenges to our schools that most of us never even imagined. I believe that our superintendent did her very best during the pandemic to keep our schools providing services. A superior superintendent should be willing to listen without bias to recommendations of the teacher and staff. Lines of communication must remain open in order for a district to perform it’s best. Overall, as a community member and a parent of a child in the school district, I have been pleased with our superintendent. I am open and interested in hearing others view points and experiences on this subject.

Should schools in your district adopt and teach sex education according to the National Sex Education Standards? Please explain.

First and foremost, every parent has the option to opt their child out of sex education. I support parents, teachers and the community as a whole understanding what these standards are recommending and why. I have examined the National Sex Education Standards and also looked at some of the suggested lesson plans. I support teaching children how to avoid becoming victims of sexual abuse as young as kindergarten. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports children learning appropriate terms for anatomy starting at 3 years old. I support inclusive curriculum that teaches about different types of families. I also support middle schoolers learning about sex and sexually transmitted diseases. I understand why some parents may feel uncomfortable with these topics. That is why it is so very important that these subjects be taught in our schools. Again, if parents object to these lessons or other sex education lessons, they can simply opt their children out. The standards and the curriculum are available to review online.

What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?

The Covid-19 pandemic presented a multitude of challenges to our communities. It is easy to look back and criticize past decisions based on the information that is now currently available, but that is neither fair nor productive. I believe that our health department and school district did the best job they could with the information and resources available to them at that time. We were essentially building the plane in midflight in so many ways. As a Pediatrician I was on the front lines caring for patients during this time so I am painfully aware of how difficult this time was for so many families. Recommendations changed daily as we gathered more information and developed more tools to use. Our community came together to help each other in many ways, but still there were many who suffered. There are no easy answers to dealing with a pandemic, but I hope in the future that we can move together as a caring and compassionate community both in and outside of our schools.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

I could write over 1000 pages about what we have learned from the pandemic. As a Pediatrician and a parent of a child attending D47 during the pandemic I understand how difficult the past couple of years have been. We coped with the social isolation and challenges of remote learning as parents. I supported my patients through the multiple surges while coping multiple stressors brought on by the pandemic. What I have done as a physician is to follow the science and stay current on what is happening.

I worked hard communicating this information with my patients as well as family and friends. The trouble with infectious diseases and pandemics is that the situation is never static. It is constantly changing and evolving as we learn more.

Here are a few lessons that I would carry onto the school board. Most children did not do well with remote learning. If faced with another epidemic or pandemic ideally a plan to cohort students and apply mitigation plans to limit spread would be most desirable. The goal, of course being to contain an outbreak, while maintaining in person learning. Communication and transparency is extremely important and ideal. Misinformation and disinformation kills.

Are voters that support your district taxed at an appropriate level?

Taxes are dependent on property values. It follows that in an area with higher property values, taxes will be higher. It also follows that in a high quality school district, property is more desirable. While we may be paying high taxes to maintain our good schools, the result is that our properties remain desirable for families looking to raise their children is a superior school district.

Would you support any plans to raise taxes in the district? If so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?

Most people would prefer not to see their taxes increase. Unfortunately costs rarely decrease. I do not anticipate having an excess in the budget, but if it was available the first item that needs to be examined is how to retain and attract more educators and staff. It is also very important to consider maintaining and updating our school buildings. Many of the building are not designed to provide the best safety in our modern world. One of the things that we have learned from the pandemic is that indoor air quality and air circulation and exchange is important for the health of our students. Taking a closer look at indoor air quality could even improve the health and learning of our students.

Would you support lowering taxes in the district? If so, what programs or services in the district would you cut?

I would not support cutting programs or services to the children in our community. If the state provided an increase in funding to our district, it is possible that we could decrease taxes in the district without cutting programs.

Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?

Absolutely. We have free and fair elections.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

I support the current policies that exist to allow for transparency.

Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?

I support the laws and policies that require compliance with FOIA requests. I would like our district to consider adding the cost in both dollars and time spent to the FOIA documents so that the public can understand how FOIA requests also cost tax payer dollars and divert money away from programs for children.

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