Questions & Answers
|For the April 2019 Election|
What is the importance of the Unit #4 School Board to residents of Champaign?
The school board is one of the most important boards in our community. Strong schools attract families and businesses to Champaign, one of the fastest growing cities in Illinois. The schools are a major gateway of attraction to the community, from new business to families determining where to buy or rent a home. Our growing district is a testament to the key role schools play in growing and shaping Champaign, Savoy, and Bondville. Unit 4 schools help develop relationships that create strong family ties and a healthy, cohesive community. Schools are the place our children from diverse backgrounds and experiences come together to learn to from one another.
Effective governance is critical to ensuring the long term success of the community’s public schools. Long term fiscal responsibility and collaborative planning has allowed Unit 4 to make a substantial investment in its school facilities, through approval of school facility bonds and an ability to utilize fund balance to ensure the district has skin in the game. One of the most important school board responsibilities is overseeing the largest public discretionary budget outside of the University of Illinois in our community. Taxpayers must have members on the Board of Education who are committed to integrity, transparency, and building trust with the community.
Why are you qualified to be on the School Board?
I served on the Excellence and Equality in Education (EEE) committee in Unit 4 for two years before being elected to the Board of Education in 2015. Through that committee work I learned about our student demographics, scores, issues, curriculum, and staff at Unit 4. My prior experience, including founding the Stephens Family YMCA with Larkin's Place, service on other community boards, and having four students in Unit 4, gives me a broad view of needs and issues in our community and schools.
Over the past four years I have been working tirelessly as the school board Vice President to build bridges in the community for the betterment of our schools. The Board of Education has built close working relationships with the City of Champaign, Champaign Park District, and Village of Savoy Trustees, leading the way to Intergovernmental Agreements and initiatives that best serve all students and taxpayers. During my first term, I worked to conceptualize and bring together a diverse group of community leaders to discuss the district’s facility needs and formulate a path forward, called the Tier 2 Committee for Facility Planning. It was this collaboration, the efforts of my fellow board members and administration, and continual engagement with diverse stakeholders, that the district was able to pass a $183.4 million school facilities referendum in 2016 with nearly 70% approval to make the community’s plan a reality. I firmly believe upon completion the projects will change the landscape of education in our community and move our campuses into 21st century learning.
I co-chaired three successful labor agreement negotiations with two different unions. We completed a search and hire for a new Superintendent. Currently, I co-chair the Referendum Oversight Committee, charged with connecting the community to the construction projects and budget oversight.
If elected, what is something you want to accomplish on the School Board, and how long will it take?
I would like to see the district complete a new strategic plan. The current plan is over 10 years old and has served the community well. Just as we did for the Tier 2 Committee we created for facility planning, we must create a collaborative process community, parents, students, and citizens to create a shared mission and vision for education and operations in the next decade. This would likely take at least two or three years to create and roll out a comprehensive plan, as a true strategic plan is a compass for the District and each of its schools. The strategic plan will guide policy, process, and procedure for years to come and push the District forward with work around equity and excellent educational outcomes for all students.
Is there anything else you would like to say to an undecided voter?
Research shows that turnover on a Board of Education negatively impacts student achievement. This has been widely documented, both locally and nationally, through a number of articles and studies. Continuity and stability on the Board of Education is paramount to the success of all students and healthy public schools.
I am proud to team up with Chris Kloeppel and Kathy Shannon. As the three incumbents running in this election, we are the most well prepared candidates to move the district forward on creating a strategic plan and implementing equity goals.
During this unique time period where the District is, quite literally, under construction, our students, families, and taxpayers deserve stability in leadership. They need knowledgeable board members who have rolled up their sleeves on behalf of students and families over the past four years and are prepared to do so for the next four.
I am prepared to serve and am deeply committed to completing the work we started.