Who's on your ballot? Meet Gerri Songer
Updated: Mar 25
In this series, we introduce you to the candidates running for election April 6 who share our democratic values. Please make your plan to VOTE in this election... by mail, early, in-person... it all counts.
Gerri Songer currently serves as Trustee for the College of Lake County and Legislative Director for the Northwest Suburban Teachers' Union, Local 1211. Read her bio here.
1) Why are you running for this office?
Looking at the politics going on in this nation right now, if we want anything good in our future, we have to start taking responsibility for it at all levels of government. Community college is our best avenue to affordable higher education, and we need to keep quality programs accessible for all of our communities.
As an educator with over 30 years of experience, and as a Legislative Director for the Northwest Suburban Teachers’ Union, Local 1211, I’ll be able to address issues associated with reopening CLC campuses and working to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff.
It’s important that we focus on raising admission rates. Millions of tax dollars have already been spent on new construction to expand CLC campuses. Now we need to bring in the students who can benefit from all of these new education opportunities.
I’ll work with the Board to enforce responsible bidding. Responsible bidding sets minimal requirements for all contractors and subcontractors bidding on publicly funded projects. A little work on the front end saves taxpayers money from costly mistakes at the back end.
2) What do you believe is the most important issue facing the organization you’d be serving, and what should be considered when addressing it?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a historically unprecedented and extraordinarily trying time for our educators, administrators, and school board members. We’ve worked to balance education needs with the implementation of extensive safety measures. The CLC community has worked tirelessly to develop policy, maintain operations, and adapt to alternative models of delivery and flexible learning formats. They’ve done all of this under the weight of a global pandemic while struggling to meet the needs of their profession along with those of their own personal and family situations.
The effects of this pandemic have redefined our roles as board members, educators, and students not only in how we teach and learn but also in the increased risk we now face each day. As an essential worker standing on the frontline, I’ve experienced several models of reentry.
Reentry and adaptive pause models address class size, social distancing requirements, PPE availability, access to technology, and etc. CLC may consider a variety of student rotation models in response to changing CDC guidelines and geographic trends in COVID cases. Temperature checks, use of hand sanitizer, distribution of disinfecting spray and wipes, identification of touch points, and contact tracing will be ongoing.
The most significant issue related to reentry is minimizing confusion for students, parents, and educators. Communication and ongoing feedback are needed prior to rollout and throughout implementation. Changes in routine aren’t easy, so conversations at all levels are critical, particularly when adaptations are needed to accommodate quickly changing variables.
3) Historically, voter turnout in local elections is very low. What would you say to community members to encourage them to get out to vote April 6?
Those elected to local office can drastically alter our schools, community, and work environment. Good leadership starts with an engaged community - we get what we vote for. We need to know our candidates and to make sure our values are reflected in their agenda. Voting is easier now than ever - we can even do our civic duty from the comfort of our home.
I understand elections can be overwhelming for voters. There are many candidates, and community members are bombarded with walk cards, mailers, and yard signs - but this is a small price to pay for our democracy. It’s easy to focus on the seedy, corrupt side of politics and to want nothing to do with elections. But, if we choose not to act, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.
When we decide to not participate in our government, those with the wrong motivations will. It’s up to each and every one of us, as citizens of this country, to be responsible for the quality of our future. We need to stop expecting our government to take care of us - we’re adults. It’s time for us to take care of our government. There are good candidates out there, and they can make a difference when elected.
I’m very hopeful for our future because I see more and more people each election stepping up and doing their part!
4) What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or watched recently and why?
Something I’ve read recently that I find particularly concerning is, “House Republicans think school reopenings may be their winning issue in key races in the 2022 midterm elections that could help them recapture the chamber.” Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, asserts, “As soon as we started last month, I made a big deal out of the fact that messaging has to be about schools as we go forward. It's the teachers unions that want to keep the schools closed. Democrats are ignoring the science, and they're standing with their special-interest donors instead of the students.”
Republicans have politicized the reopening of schools while accusing Democrats of doing exactly what it is that they, themselves, are doing, “ignoring the science.” Fortunately for our students, the public is much smarter than the GOP gives them credit for, and most parents haven’t been swayed by politically induced accusations. District 214 students were able to attend their classes in person shortly after returning from winter break, but most parents are keeping them home. I’ve only had about 3-4 students in my classes.
Community members need to be more diligent now than ever regarding their local school board races - there’s much more on the line this time around.
5) Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?
In addition to teaching, I serve as a Legislative Director for the Northwest Suburban Teachers’ Union, Local 1211 and as Legislative Chair for the D214 Education Association. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, posted several of my articles on standardized assessments written while serving as D214 Education Chair.
I was appointed a Delegate for the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and have written resolutions to benefit students and staff. For example, a resolution I drafted and worked on with Senators Julie Morrison and Laura Murphy, SR0982 Hazardous Material Near School, was adopted by the Illinois Senate in February 2020. Also, I facilitated communication between students, staff, and Senator Laura Murphy that resulted in the Library Cards for Kids Act, which allows low income students living in unincorporated areas library access without having to pay expensive nonresident fees.
This work makes me a strong candidate because of the experience gained from involvement in the legislative process along with a deep understanding of the importance in having a support system in place that can be leveraged when needed in the service of others - in particular, our youth. I've been extremely fortunate to have gained familiarity with elected officials who care about the people they represent and who I’ve had the opportunity to learn from. These experiences and supports will help me serve well in the capacity of CLC Trustee.