Barbara Diepenbrock, St. Charles School District 303 Board of Education election questionnaire

Election 2024
St. Charles School District 303 Board of Education election candidate Barbara Diepenbrock

Full Name: Barbara Diepenbrock

What office are you seeking? D303 School Board Member

What is your political party? Not Applicable

What is your current age? 46

Occupation and Employer: Promotional Products Coordinator

What offices, if any, have you previously held?

City: Grew up in Arlington Heights Moved from Streamwood to South Elgin 2017

Campaign Website: https://www.facebook.com/Diepenbrock4D303

Education: Western Illinois University Masters in Fine Arts

  • Western Illinois University Bachelor of Communication
  • Western Illinois University Bachelor of Theatre

Community involvement: PTO Lobby Beautification Chair 2021-Present

Citizens Advisory Committee - 2021-2022

BSA Den Leader - 20017-2020

American Cancer Society / Relay for Life - Concession Stand 2008-2018

La Crosse Down Syndrome Awareness Walk (DSAW) 2008-2019

Marital status/Immediate family: Husband and 2 children.

Why are you running for office?

I was moved to run for the school board because education is of the utmost importance to me. I am a parent to a 5th and 7th grader and have seen the importance of our academic “village” being partners in their lives as they have grown emotionally, psychologically and academically. It is a position that is non-partisan and I simply love that is a unique opportunity to serve as an elected official that is not caged inside of a political box. It is a position that represents people and not parties. It is a position that represents a HUGE portion of citizens that cannot vote but NEED representation, the students.

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

I have Bachelor Degrees in Communication and Theater as well as a Master of Fine Arts. I have professional experience that directly connects to my fields of study. This education, as well as my professional and personal experience through the years, has gifted me with the skill of wearing many hats.

I am a mother, wife, professional, partner, PTO committee chair, chauffeur, former BSA den leader, former remote “Classroom” Mom, cook and citizen, to name a few. Switching those hats, depending on the table I am sitting at, is something I feel quite skilled at.

As an Executive Assistant to C-Level professionals for years, I learned how to work calmly in very intense situations. I learned the very real importance of processes, organization, budgets and deadlines.

My theater background (academically and professionally) taught me to empathize intensely. Any given character I took on, whether a “hero” or a “villain”, needed to be understood, rationalized and embraced in order to put forth the most sincere portrayal. It is this character building process that has helped me to listen and understand different perspectives. It is also how I am able to have the appropriate approach depending on the situation. It is not about being someone else but rather having different parts of yourself turned up and other parts turned down depending on the need. My demeanor is very different in a professional setting than it is in, let’s say, on a social media platform.

The ability to perform under pressure is also something that ties into my communication background. Communication is the foundation of everything. It is also an ever evolving tool and strategy in this age of social media, video, texting, etc. I am aware of it’s importance and it is a cornerstone to any successful board, district or other various quorums.

Finally, I would be a board member that would be committed to this position and the non-partisan decisions that are necessary for the job. These decisions have everything to do with safety, curriculum, data and respect and nothing to do with political talking points from any side.

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

No. This question would have confused me a good deal had it not been for someone posting under a video I posted about myself as a candidate asking, ‘where did you do your training?’ This prompted me to look into what that meant. I found it uncomfortable to learn that there is training to win this sort of an election. While I respect that there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with this role the motivations behind such trainings are concerning. It seems that there are groups offering training that have political objectives for our academic community that are one sided. The role of a board member is to represent ALL and not subscribe to any ‘group think’. Long answer, but I wish to be as clear as possible about who I am, where I come from and what I represent.

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

There are current proposals and actions in place for a curriculum shift. Specifically for SEL, ELA and Math. These are the areas that we are seeing specific gaps in performance with our students. Our current admin is focused on all these areas. As an elected board member I will be very careful to hold the admin accountable for the follow through and results currently being projected.

Curriculum is constantly being evaluated. Or perhaps I should say, that it SHOULD be in a constantly evaluated. Our world and what our children are exposed to is changing at a much faster rate then when I was a child. That means how they learn and what they need to learn about also needs to change at the same rate of speed. Proposed changes must depend on accurate data. Our current data points are skewed due to the pandemic and not a true reflection of curriculum as it stands. This is a strain on teachers who are trying to set some sort of a rhythm and the district needs to supply teachers with as many supports as possible as we set our curriculum. Any curriculum change really needs about 5 years to accurately see the results.

As a board member I will be very careful and keen to study the data and see what our trajectory is in the years ahead as a district and be ready to make the pivot necessary based off of the information from the experts and the experiences of our families.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

I can’t speak for LGBTQIA+ students and if they are treated fairly as I am not living their experience. What I DO know is that the rates of suicide for students that identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community is drastically higher. I know that I want every student to have a sense of belonging and that someONE is there for them no matter their situation or identification. If we, as a community, know that there is a more vulnerable segment of students to depression, suicide, poor academic performance, resources, etc. it is our duty to investigate that deficiency and seek to make it better and support the whole student and not just treat them solely as a data point.

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

DEI is not a book, philosophy, political initiative or training method. DEI is a wholistic approach to recognizing WHY gaps may exist. The objective is to help everyone belong and learn as equitably as possible. DEI is in the process of being handled. I appreciate the approach the current admin is taking to implement strategies to deal with the gaps discovered during the Equity audit. Equity of community voice has already been addressed by the administration putting into action the Listen, Learn & Return initiative. We are quickly approaching the “Return” portion of this . We will see how all of the meetings and evaluation has helped.

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

Yes. Too often students hear, “Meet me half way.” from adults that are not apart of the student’s personal life. How can we expect a child who is not aware of your culture, socioeconomic background and years of experience to possibly “meet [you] halfway”. They don’t have any frame of reference for where that destination is. We need to realize that, as adults and mentors, we need to work harder at meeting the students were THEY are and navigating THEM to were they want to be. To do this we have to accept that this means that in a predominately middle class multigenerational American Caucasian area we need to meet the other significant portion of the community of students where they are. Our district is currently taking steps to understand why gaps exist and as a board member I would be careful to keep on top of the changes needed to improve DEI in the district.

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

No. Teacher’s are not scaling proportionately to CPI (Consumer Price Index). A lot of the time all we hear in the public is X% pay increase and that can cause a murmur of concern because it seems like a large jump. What we don’t often realize is teachers are proportionately getting paid less then they were 10 years ago when we take inflation into consideration. The national average pay for teachers starting salary is approximately $66,000. D303 teachers starting salary is approximately $51,000. I would not be upset to see that bumped up a bit and by proxy, retirement scale to that. It is not acceptable to have teacher’s nationwide getting paid almost 4% less proportionately then they were a decade ago.

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

Yes. Although, I’m not sure that what I believe will be of any great impact since contract negotiations are happening this year. As stated in my previous answer, teacher pay is not scaling with CPI. If we don’t change the scale now, we will have to later. No one is asking for anything other than fair scaling in proportion to the economic trends.

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

It’s above average. The superintendent is definitely doing a good deal better then the rest of the employees in the district in scaling to CPI. He is making more than the average superintendent within the area and across Illinois. This said, you get what you pay for most times (which harkens back to why pay scaling for our teachers is also key) Dr. Gordon has been boots on the ground and constantly visible and involved since starting. Our previous superintendent was paid less when he left the district and his involvement was drastically less then what has been seen from Dr. Gordon.

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

No, not at this time. The superintendent is the CEO of a large academic community with a huge amount of responsibility.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.

I do currently support Dr. Paul Gordon. However, I believe a healthy discourse is necessary to have all decisions vetted well. I was very concerned with how the last two years unfolded. It felt as though things were crumbling and that we were not only going to have to dig out of the ruble but with a “partner” we didn’t know or understand. I am happy to say that my concern seems to have been unfounded, so far. Our new admin seems to be firm, friendly & fair. The sense of community the admin is fostering is wonderful to see and this “boots on the ground” approach is a winner.

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

Most people I speak to would like to take on the need to discuss these sensitive subjects with their children themselves. The National Sex Education Standards are great, I would say it is how we handle conversations with our children within our home. I think that our world is changing quickly and there is a lot more our kids now know due to the internet and social media. This input is a lot for our kids and so in order to keep up with that the NSES were updated. I think what we currently have in place is good with an option to opt out but we should be making material available to our families to use in their home at their discretion. I would love to be given the material and the suggestions and to take steps to discuss things with my children per the recommendations. Let’s make it available to our families so that if they DO opt out, they can still consider the material for themselves to share with their children. I DO think that consent, good touch vs. bad touch, what is sexual harassment and other sexually abusive or combative subjects should be mandatory and taught according to age.

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

The district did what was required by law. I support following the law and if one disagrees with the law for steps to be taken to have that law reevaluated and changed. Although the mask mandate was found to be unlawful by one judge the district should have kept it in place until the end of the school year. The abrupt shift was scary to many children and there was no regard for how difficult that transition would be on their anxiety and mental health overall. When the lower court judge made this ruling about the mask mandate I believe the appropriate approach would have still been a strong encouragement for the use of masks and for SHEILD testing to continue to be used in order to catch COVID early and have quarantines start prior to symptoms that assist the virus in spreading.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

I am actually disappointed to see that not more has been learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am curious to know WHY we have not maintained some of what was learned by the district. We need better systems in place to remind and encourage our academic community to mask up if there is illness in their home. Just as we encourage and push our schools to have hand washing be the norm. We need to have better “at home” learning options for kids who are out sick. The amount of information missed out on as an elementary student is astounding from just 3 days out of school. This can set a child up for anxiety from falling behind and even make a real academic dent in their progress. This information deficiency, from time missed, becomes more severe in Middle School and High School. I would like to see some things that were learned implemented and other things, such as masks, encouraged as a new social norm. If a mandate is instated, I will follow that law.

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

Yes, they are. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful resources available to us and a district that is careful with their spending. D303 spends just under the average spend nationally per student and just about on par with what the spend is per student across the state. That indicates that our district is being taxed at an appropriate level.

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

Raising taxes and my support depends on the ‘why’. If we are simply scaling to keep up with the economic trend then yes, I would support that. If the board decides to raise taxes the revenue would have to be spent on facilities. We currently don’t have buildings that allow all areas to be accessibly to some folks with a disability. We have teacher’s on carts that need classrooms in order to teach the special classes offered. We have school staff working in closets as an office. If there is a decision to raise taxes, it MUST go toward updating the facilities.

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

There is no way that I can see that the district could lower taxes. Taxes in this area are keeping up with the CPI. The costs of services and living is simply more now than it was a decade ago and we must scale with the curve of that in order to continue to provide the same quality of education that this district aspires to.

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


What is your position on open, transparent government?

It is of the utmost importance to be honest and transparent in order to maintain a unified and productive community. There can be no real accountability or productivity if we are not aspiring for governmental transparency.

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

Absolutely. We must allow citizens the right to access governmental records because those records are the PEOPLE”S records.