The lens through which I view life

A second set of tweets that I made prior to choosing to run for the board were circulating yesterday. These tweets were made in November 2020 during a significant surge of the virus and before I made any decision to run for the school board. School reopenings have been a contentious and complicated topic throughout the pandemic, but especially at the time of these tweets. Many districts went full remote in November as community spread was quite high and many public health departments, including Dupage, requested districts go full remote around this time. Our district did not.

I took my Twitter account private in January because I did not want my candidacy to affect other groups for whom I volunteer as there were some concerning comments and unusual follow requests being made on my account. Harassment of health care professionals is a very real problem right now. I’m not sure when the screenshots of the posts that appeared yesterday were made as I am not connected with anyone who posted them, but I don’t believe the screenshots were made recently.

On social media, different platforms provide different connections. On Facebook, I have spoken as a parent, trained in public health advocating for public health measures in schools and in the community to try and control spread. I know that what is working for some is not working for others. Each family has had to make adjustments and choices and some of those adjustments and choices are not available to all in our community, or in other places for that matter, whether it is the ability to hire a tutor or the ability to choose to have a parent home or something else. I fully understand that within our community we each have different circumstances. On Twitter, I have spoken as a public health professional worrying about all communities, community spread, and decisions that affect all of our interconnectedness. In both forums, my background of how I grew up and how I was trained informs my statements.

A little of my upbringing

I am the oldest of 6 kids and we did not grow up with much money. I was on the free lunch program in 1st through 12th grade. I graduated from a high school with only 58 people in my class. Honors and AP classes did not exist in my high school. I was accepted into my dream school, The University of Chicago. Through grants, scholarships and working my tail off in the summer and when in school (to the detriment of my grades), I somehow afforded it. Yes, I paid for all of my education. I was in no way prepared for the rigor of UofC, but I stuck with it and graduated on the Dean’s List. A lot of my classmates were better prepared academically and did not have to be concerned with working during the school year. I had some key advisors and professors who stood by me and encouraged me even when there were many reasons to transfer or dropout.

A vivid memory from my childhood is going to mass on Christmas Eve and returning home to find presents under the tree that were a complete surprise to even my parents. (No one locked the doors to their houses where I grew up.) It had been an especially hard year for our family. A new outfit and small toy for myself and each of my siblings were under that tree. For 25 years or more, we never knew who put the gifts under the tree. As a child, it truly was a Christmas miracle. The person responsible for this incredible generosity did not want us to know until after he died. It was an act of kindness and caring that to this day stays with my siblings and myself. I cannot even put into words what this person gave us when he did this and it gave even more to us when we later found out who it was.

During my late middle school and high school years, we lived in a house that had been a rural church. At the time my parents bought the building, it had been deserted for 30 years and would probably have never received an occupancy permit in this day and age. We had a port-a-potty in the front yard for 6 months and showered at the campground down the road until my dad could install plumbing. I can tell you stories about overflowing the 5 gallon bucket under the kitchen sink drain when we forgot to empty it! My mom, siblings and I helped my dad remove the lathe and plaster and would blow our noses filled with black dust. Over the years my dad turned that building into our home.

I completed a graduate degree in public health at the University of Illinois. I have worked on violence prevention in Chicago, done interviews with families caring for children on ventilators at home, and managed longitudinal prevention research projects that were done in Baltimore City Public Schools.

I share the above not for sympathy, but for the context of statements I made on Twitter. I know how blessed I am to be where I am right now. Life is complicated. There is so much more to each of our lives than a tweet or post. We don’t know what each of us has gone through or is going through or one another’s perspectives. I have lived at multiple places on the socioeconomic spectrum. I see things through that lens. I know struggle, but I also have seen how to overcome struggle. I honestly want the best not just for our community, but for every community beyond ours as well.

Candidates for public office should be vetted. We should know what they stand for and how they think and their motivations. I do not fault anyone for wanting to know this. All of us running for, or serving, on any of these local positions are your friends and neighbors. Even if you don’t know one of us directly, I’m guessing we are only 2 or 3 degrees of separation from someone you do know. Whether we win or lose, we are still going to live here after the election. I completely understand the passion for wanting to vet candidates, the passion for wanting to understand positions, and the passion for our children and schools.

At the same time, it is a hard life to be a candidate or a board member. There are no easy answers and every decision has consequences that weigh on those making them. I want schools open as safely as possible. As candidates and board members, we have all put ourselves out there in a public forum. Candidates are hoping to have an honest debate on the issues facing the District for which we are running and a discussion of how we can make an impact. Board members are making the best decisions they can based on the information they have. A run for any of these positions is not undertaken lightly as it requires a significant investment of time and mental energy by the individual and their family. I know this from experience having already served 6 years on the board of Queen of Peace High School. Discussing issues and a good debate are great. Some of the other pieces of what is happening in our community to candidates and board members leaves room for improvement.

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