Deanna Darling, Cary School District 26 Board of Education election questionnaire

Election 2024
Deanna "Dee" Darling

Full Name: Deanna Darling

What office are you seeking? Cary District 26 School Board Member

What is your political party? N/A to this non-partisan position

What is your current age? 57

Occupation and Employer: Operations Manager - Packaging

What offices, if any, have you previously held? Cary District 26 School Board 2019-present Algonquin 12 precinct committee person

Algonquin 57 precinct committee person

City: Cary

Campaign Website: https://www.friendsofdarling.com

Education: Hoffman Estates High School 1983

William Rainey Harper College 1985

Community involvement: - Together we stand McHenry county, Inc - Founder

- McHenry County NOW (National organization for Women)

- Fundraising for animal rescue A Heart for Animals

- Volunteer at Crystal Lake Food Pantry

- Organize community events that are a platform for non-profits in the county doing the good and necessary work year round

- Organizing food drives and other fundraising community events for those that are in immediate need of assistance

Marital status/Immediate family: Married

Why are you running for office?

Public Education has always been extremely important to me. I am the product of a public education and firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child. I also know firsthand what it means to have a teacher that left a lifelong impression by being there for me when I needed their guidance & compassion most. I know there are public school teachers just like mine in our District (and every Public School District) who are making the same lifelong impact on their students when they need it most. I want to do my part to bring respect back to the incredibly important teaching profession, predominantly composed of highly educated women, who care deeply about the successes of their students, and who are impacting the lives of our students every day.

Attacks on public schools and educators have ramped up over the last few years. I feel it is important to do what I can to fight these attacks on Public Education which ensures access to an equal educational opportunity for ALL students in this country.

It is time we highlight the good things that are happening in our public schools every day and celebrate our achievements, because we have plenty of them! I am honored every day to have this awesome responsibility of improving the quality of public education for children of all ages, incomes and backgrounds in my community! I’m running again because the work isn’t done, we’re making great strides, but we need to keep moving the district forward. My job isn’t done!

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

The past 3 years have been unlike any that a School Board member can say they’ve experienced, there is no denying that. In spite of the obstacles though, and without any instruction manuals to guide us, I was able to work together with our board and administration to quickly adapt ways to keep our students, staff & families safe, and transition fully back to in person. I am proud of the work I have done and the votes I have cast over the last 4 years which show I am taking students, staff, taxpayers and the overall community into account in my role on the Board. Being a Board member on the Policy committee & as board President, I have also been part of the strategic planning team, and 2 successful labor contract negotiations. For the first time in several years we were able to reach an agreement with our teachers on a contract not only before school started, but for another full 4 years due to the mutual respect of all parties at the table. I am also constantly involved with my fellow board members in policy discussion, review of state/federal updates, and occasionally new policy creation where the board saw a need for more clearly defined rules. The entire process requires me to respect others’ views and ideas while working to build a consensus. The implementation of a COW meeting (Committee of Whole) vs individual committee meeting was put into place by this acting Board of Education, and has really streamlined the discussion to implementation timeline for our District allowing us to act much more expediently. I take the job of School Board member very seriously and have dedicated countless hours over the past several to research, analyze data, read feedback, etc. I am happy to do so because of how important I feel it is that there is someone level headed and data driven in this position with the power of oversight of programs & services in our District that affect our students, teachers, families and my community.

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

The only training I have received was after I was elected in 2019, through IASB Professional Development & Training: Open Meetings Act Performance Evaluation Reform Act Professional Development Leadership Training The Basic of Governance

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

If you watch our streamed meetings (put into place by the current school board) you are probably aware that I consistently inquire about our District’s need of additional support in the form of staffing or additional curriculum especially for our Dual Language, Special Education, and Intervention programs. Our teachers & paraprofessionals are seeing a growing number of students year over year in their classrooms who need additional support. It’s extremely important that we have these positions properly staffed, trained & curriculum in place that is focused on the specific needs of these students in order to ensure all of our students are able to achieve academic excellence. Also in alignment with our digital citizenship we currently cover with our Technology department, I’d like to see our 3rd-8th grade students taught more in depth on literacy skills teaching them how to determine facts from opinion (perspective/bias) on the internet. I feel this will enable them to learn to be critical thinkers who fact check their work and the works of others prior to the assumption that what is being said/read is truthful information that can be shared with others.

Are LGBTQ students treated fairly in your district?

LGBTQIA+ students should be treated with the same standards as all students. If a student or parent feels that is not the case in our District I welcome a conversation with myself and the rest of the board to better understand where the District needs to improve.

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

I’m all for it! It is important to have a district that is equitable and that our teachers have the training, resources, and support that is required to make it so. I have a record of not only supporting DEI initiatives but I’ve also been vocal about the need for students from all backgrounds to be able to learn and have access to different materials & teaching them where THEY are; whether that be providing them with a curriculum in their native language or providing technology to those who otherwise would not have it, putting them at a learning disadvantage. I take DEI into consideration in every discussion I have not only as a Board member, but as a human being. It is ingrained in me to consider how my personal decisions affect every person around me, it has been that way my entire life and always will be.

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

I view DEI as something that we can constantly improve upon. As human beings we should always strive to learn more and do better.

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

I ran in 2019 after I witnessed the impact the 2010 budgetary cuts had on our District. I felt it left our District a shell of its former self, staffed by demoralized, underpaid teachers no longer able to give students the degree of support they would otherwise be providing. We lost top talent for years to surrounding districts because they paid more, earning us the reputation of a “training district”. I felt it was critical we make our staff feel valued and heard, part of a team once again. So over the past 4 years I have worked hard to question & vote down non-essential spending in preparation for contract negotiations and bring our staff’s salaries more in line with our neighboring districts.

Our students deserve stability, and retaining our staff plays a huge part in their success then, now, and in the future.

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

Pay scales are part of a negotiation process between the Board and the Union.

Our board just negotiated and approved a 4-year contract with our Educators in record time, largely due to the mutual respect of one another’s roles, and our desire to have a contract in place prior to the new school year.

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

I would equate the role of a Superintendent as all encompassing as that of a corporate CEO.

Given the scope of responsibility for not only the academic success & safety of every student and staff member in the District, but also for overseeing our financials, our curriculum, our buildings operations, laws, requirements, mandates, the list goes on and on… I assess our Superintendent is compensated adequately when you take into account the longevity of his role as Superintendent and the responsibilities he is tasked with.

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

The Superintendent’s contract is part of a negotiated process between the Superintendent and the board, compensation is discussed as part of that process.

Do you support the current superintendent? Please explain.

I respect the current Superintendent and his longtime dedication to our District. We do not always see eye to eye, but we are always respectful and focused on fulfilling the mission of the District together which is to inspire all students to reach their full academic potential.

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

There is a lot of confusion about this within the community. Our board chose not to adopt NSES and instead to retain the current health curriculum. As always parents are able to review and opt-out their child from any curriculum they choose.

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

I understood the importance of students being in school where we know they learn best, as soon as possible. That was always the goal from day one. Going hand in hand with that need for in person instruction though, was being able to teach & learn in an environment that is safe for students and all staff members, because the feeling & reality of safety is also conducive to learning. I personally couldn’t be more proud of the fact that our District 26 schools remained fully open last year because the District mitigations set up were widely supported by our staff, students & families. It is because of all of our efforts that our District was able to stay fully in person without the constant interruptions to in person learning that outbreaks would have caused (unlike surrounding Districts).

What did you learn from the pandemic?

I think the entire world will be learning from this pandemic for a long time to come.

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

Voters are not the only residents affected by taxes. As a board member I have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure our District is living up to the level of expectations our entire community has for the quality of education, most current curriculum, and providing competitive wages to retain our staff. I would welcome residents to attend a meet and greet to discuss how village TIF’s and State & Federal contributions to public education play the largest role in determining how much of the tax burden falls onto homeowners.

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

There are currently no plans to raise taxes in the District. * However, if the village approves the largely expanded new TIF area they have proposed, it will most certainly affect taxpayers over at least the next 20+ years.

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

There are currently no plans to make tax cuts nor to cut programs or services within the District. Our board did recently vote to lower registration fees in order to provide relief to District families.

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

In no way shape or form am I an election denier… However, in 2019 when I ran as a write-in for D26 Board of education a position that did not even exist appeared on the ballot for our District. In the 2021 consolidated election there was a machine ballot alignment error that forced the county to call for a full recount that delayed the final election results.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

I’m all for it and have been advocating for it for 4 years on the board!

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

I fully support the ability of citizens to see and have access to government records, it all falls under transparency of government. I do not however condone the submission of repetitive group requests for information that ties up staff time and resources which could be better spent on serving the needs of our students & teachers.