What is the importance of the Unit #4 School Board to residents of Champaign?
Alicia Robinson
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Christopher Kloeppel
"The Unit 4 School Board is elected to represent all of the citizens of Champaign, Savoy, and Bondville. It does this via governance through policy. The Board hires and supervises one person, the superintendent, who is tasked with running the district in line with the Boards goals and the districts mission. Simply put, the school board is in charge of everything associated with the school district."
Michael Foellmer
"In addition to the direct influence of school policies and procedures on the students in our schools, all members of the Unit 4 community are affected by the decisions of the School Board. This governing body makes important decisions that have tax implications, impact neighborhoods, and guide the success of our future community leaders. As a board member I am committed to making decisions that will contribute to the success of our students and work with our community to learn how we can better serve all of our families."
Amy Armstrong
"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. "
Kathy Shannon
"Schools are a vital part of our community, and studies have shown a direct link between school board governance and student achievement. If we want our children to be successful in their careers, and also as citizens, we need to support their education."
Sergio Gonzalez
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Jennifer Enoch
"The school board serves the broad public interest in making sure that our public schools reflect community values, that they provide a high-quality education to our community’s children, and that our tax money is used responsibly. Our community is stronger when all kids have equal access to high-quality education. Young people need to graduate school able to write and do math, to read well, and to communicate effectively so that they have the tools they need to earn a good living, to participate as citizens in a democracy, and ultimately to fulfill their potential and realize their dreams. "
Elizabeth Sotiropoulos
"School board members are the final authority on everything related to our public schools. The school board develops a vision for all Unit 4 schools to follow, and it makes hiring decisions for top administrators, who are responsible for executing a plan that aligns with the vision of the school board. In short, the school board employs the administration, the administration hires teachers, and teachers teach children. A strong school board oversees the decisions of the administration, which ultimately makes or breaks the quality of the education that every child in our district receives. In addition to making decisions about how the district will educate children, the school board is also responsible for all of the district's revenue and spending, decisions regarding renovating and building school facilities, decisions regarding student discipline, and many other legislative items. An excellent school board works with other local government bodies, like the Champaign City Council.

Champaign residents of all family situations, all neighborhoods, and all income levels are impacted by the decisions of our school board. If you have a child in Unit 4, you should vote for school board candidates that you think will make the best decisions for your child's education. If you don't have children in Unit 4, your vote is just as critical - K-12 students who have access to a great education, social services, and afterschool activities provided by the district are more likely to stay out of trouble, contribute to our community in a meaningful way, and become our community's future workforce, parents, and decision-makers. All taxpayers should care about the decisions the school board will make that could impact their tax rates and how their tax dollars are spent. All homeowners should make an informed vote for Unit 4 school board candidates because strong school districts increase property values - young families want to move to areas that have excellent public schools. Businesses and public schools can have excellent relationships that benefit each other, so business and economic leaders should be motivated to vote for Unit 4 school board candidates that will make our public schools better for our students, teachers, and entire community."
Lee McDonald
"I see Unit 4 as a business providing a service to their customers who are the tax payers and parents/guardians of our students. Our students are the product we produce. Any successful business must act as a team if they are going to be successful. Certainly, there can be many disagreements within a business but good companies will work through those issues with an open dialogue. Every member of the company is a valued part of the whole. Also, a good school board will ask questions and ask questions and ask questions. Did I say, ask questions? Take a look at this link describing the eight characteristics of effective school boards. “Effective school boards have a collaborative relationship with staff and the community and establish a strong communications structure to inform and engage both internal and external stakeholders in setting and achieving district goals.” Also, “Embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.”"
Why are you qualified to be on the School Board?
Alicia Robinson
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Christopher Kloeppel
"For the past 4 years I have not only served as a Unit 4 Board of Education member but also as its president. During that time we have accomplished many things. After bringing the community together in the form of a Tier 2 committee to build consensus, the board proposed and passed a $183.4 million referendum in November of 2016 that passed by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. We've successfully negotiated 4 contracts with our staff. We've hired a Superintendent, and we navigated a charter school proposal, among many other accomplishments. I am both a licensed plumber and realtor in the state of Illinois, which has given me insight into construction and real estate issues as the board has navigated and continues forward with its referendum work. I have achieved status of Master Board Member level one through the Illinois Association of School Boards. I’m a member of Central Illinois Business Magazine’s Forty Under 40 (class of 2016), and in 2017 I won a Those Who Excel Merit award for school board members from the Illinois State Board of Education. I am a member and have been for 12+ years of Local 149 Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, where I have served as a union officer add as delegate to the AFL-CIO. I have served since October 2015 as a member of the Board of Directors for Champaign County United Way."
Michael Foellmer
"As the child of two retired school teachers and a past and current labor activist, I understand the challenges and opportunities of our schools' teachers. I am also a Master of Education student at the University of Illinois in the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership department and thus I am familiar with the research around innovative K-12 programs throughout the country. I am deeply committed to listening to teachers, students, families, and school administrators to better serve EVERY student in our district. I understand that our community is a reflection of our schools and our schools are a reflection of our community."
Amy Armstrong
"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. "
Kathy Shannon
"I’ve been on the Unit 4 school board since May of 2015. During that time, we as a board created a comprehensive facilities plan by engaging community stakeholders, presenting information, and holding conversations. Together with the community, we created a plan to update and rebuild our aging facilities. After a previous board’s referendum failed by a 70-30 margin, our plan passed by almost the same margin. This remarkable turnaround proved that the voters care deeply about our schools, but want to be engaged in the planning process. I’ve shown that I can be a part of that process."
Sergio Gonzalez
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Jennifer Enoch
"I have been volunteering in Unit 4 schools for the past several years, I serve on the schools district’s Gifted Task Force and Education Excellence Equity Committee, and I was co-chair of the BTW Parent Equity Committee. As a parent, I have been deeply interested in education. During my time volunteering I saw some amazing teachers create excellent conditions for learning in their classrooms, and I saw their students thrive. I’ve also noticed a lot of problems. I feel that we can solve these problems and I’m willing to work hard to improve our schools."
Elizabeth Sotiropoulos
"I attended Carrie Busey, Franklin, and Centennial as a young student. I graduated with distinction from the University of Illinois with a degree in Molecular & Cellular Biology. I own a business that serves hundreds of Unit 4 middle and high schoolers each year, and I personally teach high school math and science in a one-on-one setting. I have 9 years of one-on-one teaching experience, along with my volunteering and leadership experiences with local organizations that serve families experiencing poverty and violence. I've also worked with many students and parents who have IEP's and 504 accommodations. This means I've had the opportunity to form relationships with thousands of Unit 4 students, parents, and teachers with a very diverse set of needs, so I bring a perspective to the school board that's been impacted by the experiences of many people in Champaign.

I also have two children who are in Unit 4. My daughter is a 1st grader at Bottenfield, and my son is a preschooler at CECC. My son was diagnosed with verbal apraxia, so we have learned first-hand what it is like to have a child with an IEP and who needs additional support to learn successfully in school."
Lee McDonald
"I have worked in the business world for over 36 years starting with my family’s small firm in St. Louis followed by thirteen years with W.W. Grainger and sixteen years with FedEx Services. While my positions were with the sales divisions for all, I have had training/classes in negotiation, finance, technology, cost analysis, internal culture, etc. My wife worked for almost 20 years as a teacher’s aide in a Unit 4 middle school. I am now retired and have the time to give back to the community by working on issues within Unit 4 that have continued for several years. "
If elected, what is something you want to accomplish on the School Board, and how long will it take?
Alicia Robinson
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Christopher Kloeppel
"If elected to a second term I am passionate about seeing the referendum projects successfully completed while establishing a Facilities and Capitol Projects Plan that can carry the district’s operations forward for years to come. With consistent oversight we as a board should be able to accomplish this by Fall 2022."
Michael Foellmer
"There are two key issues I would like to address. The first is the relationship between the Board/Administration and the teachers. A suffering relationship between these two groups affects our whole community. I believe that an open line of communication between the Board and the community will allow all members of the community, particularly our teachers, the opportunity to offer ideas and opinions that will generate new and innovative paths to success. Our students will always gain if we provide outlets for everyone in our community to give input and be a part of the knowledge-building process. Opening lines of communication is a goal that I have already begun to address by meeting with individual teachers, the CFT president, and community leaders. I look forward to continuing this work and will ensure positive relationships are built for future success.

The second issue I will focus on is addressing the inequitable access to education for many students in our schools. There is a widening disparity between students of varying marginalized groups and I believe we can do better to address these inequities as a board and as a community. It will be critical to work with individual community groups and schools to better understand and address these concerns. This is a long term goal but I believe we can begin to close the knowledge gap during my first term."
Amy Armstrong
"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."
Kathy Shannon
"I want to continue our equity work, reducing achievement and discipline disparities within our schools. This is an issue that diverse districts around the country struggle with, and there are no easy answers. This work won’t be finished at the end of another 4-year term, no matter who gets elected. Until we eliminate disparities in employment and housing, we will continue to have disparities in education outcomes.

But it is essential for the prosperity of everyone in our community that we make real progress on this issue. One of my favorite quotes is from the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.” Nowhere is that more true than in education."
Sergio Gonzalez
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Jennifer Enoch
"I want to improve the quality of the education our children receive in Champaign’s public schools. Our overall educational outcomes are dismal, as evidenced by standardized test scores and two-thirds of graduates needing remedial classes in community college. For low-income kids and African-American kids, the situation is particularly dire. Only 6% of black children are proficient (at or above grade level) in math. According to ProPublica, the average black child in Unit 4 schools is 3.4 grade levels behind the average same-age white child. We must ensure that every child in our community has equal access to a high-quality public school education. I believe that we have what it takes to remedy these problems: we have a community that values equal opportunity and wants every child to have a fair chance at a great education; our teachers care deeply and work hard; our school system is relatively well-funded compared to many in the state; and we also have particular teachers who excel at doing just the thing Unit 4 as a whole struggles with: educating low-income and African-American kids. We have teachers who are able to help all their students move from at or below grade level at the beginning of the school year to above grade level by the end. They know how they get their great results and can share their strategies with other teachers. I believe that the school board should make it a priority to improve student achievement, and in particular should work on making sure that our low-income and African-American children get a fair shot at a great public education. "
Elizabeth Sotiropoulos
"If I am elected to Unit 4 school board, I want to close the achievement gap that exists between our most successful students and students who face barriers to academic success, such as racism, poverty, and disability. Unit 4 has many initiatives to address these problems, but most of our students are still not meeting their educational goals. Students of color and students experiencing poverty are very disproportionately impacted by this inequity in education. I first want to understand the initiatives already in place, what progress has already been made, and how these initiatives are still failing our students. I also want to do everything in my power to reduce classroom sizes in the lower grade levels, as our classroom sizes are substantially larger than the state average and the teacher-recommended classroom sizes. Creating a healthier, more supportive working environment for our teachers that emphasizes strong communication with the school board is also a priority of mine. These actions will close the achievement gap in our district, and though it will certainly take years for all students to benefit, we will see immediate results by providing adequate trauma-informed training for district faculty, reducing classroom size, improving communication, and establishing policies that prioritize the health, safety, and academic success of our students."
Lee McDonald
"One of my “hot buttons” has always been how do we break the cycle of poverty? It is a big question that involves society, culture, and a lot more than school. The best way out of poverty is via education and what education leads to. Every study agrees that if a student is not at needed levels for English language arts (ELA) and math by the third grade that they generally stay behind throughout school. Students who do not read at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. 54.1% of Unit 4 students are considered low income. Over the last four years the Unit 4 report card on third grade students for ELA and math has been declining. Per the ISBE report card, Unit 4 is underperforming compared to the state of Illinois for low income third graders. It has actually been getting worse from 2015 through 2018. In 2018 only 12% of low income 3rd graders were at required levels for ELA, and only 14 % for math. (Illinois Report Card)

Multiple studies show that class size, especially in K-3 grades, is key to improving scores. For grades K-4, and 6-7, Unit 4 average class sizes are above the Illinois state average. Grades 5 and 8 are the same as the state and grades 9-12 are below the state average for class size.

So how do you start? More pre-school. Too many kids are not ready for Kindergarten at age 5 and struggle in a structured classroom. Take a look at what Montgomery County did near Dayton, OH. (Strive Together) I would like to see a pilot program with a limited group of future students who are considered low income. Start with two years of pre-school prior Kindergarten. Then track the student performance on several levels including ELA and math; discipline issues; parent/guardian involvement; social interaction with other students, etc. Assess their progress yearly at every grade level until they take the PARCC testing in the 3rd grade. If there is a positive causal/effectual outcome then consider how to expand the program and to what degree.

Also, I would like to see more options and training for students who won’t get to college, specifically in the trades like electrical, plumbing, general construction, truck driving, etc. There is currently a nationwide shortage of truck drivers, electricians, welders, and plumbers. Create more partnerships with Parkland and local businesses to explore apprenticeships for students. (Center for Public Education) and (Center for Public Education)

Any new programs will have to be revenue neutral. After passing the 2016 Tax Referendum for brick and mortar construction the customers of Unit 4 would not stand for another tax increase. Create a cross section of parents, civic leaders, business, etc. to find any required revenue from existing channels and other options other than a tax increase. One possibility is to explore options for the 80 acres on Olympian Drive which cost the district $3.2M. Could they be sold to raise revenue? "
Is there anything else you would like to say to an undecided voter?
Alicia Robinson
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Christopher Kloeppel
"Serving these last 4 years as a member of the Board of Education has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. I would be humbled and honored to serve this community for another 4 years in this roll."
Michael Foellmer
"I hope any undecided voters will ask me anything they think might be relevant. I am always willing to lend an ear and I think this is a key component of being a member of the school board. Listening to constituents and the willingness to bring concerns and solutions to the table are the only way we can move forward as a community and a district. As a board member, I will be standing up for what I believe is right for EVERY student, not just a select few. Please reach out if you ever want to talk, I can be reached through my website at foellmer4unit4.com"
Amy Armstrong
"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. "
Kathy Shannon
"The 7 member Unit #4 School Board has been through tremendous upheaval, with 23 different board members serving over the last 6 years. Turnover on the board takes a toll on administration, teachers, and ultimately, student achievement. Stability allows us to focus on our goals. I believe the most important goals are finishing this round of facilities work, and making real progress on our achievement and discipline disparities. I ask that you vote for the incumbents running for re-election, and send a message that these goals are vital for our community’s future."
Sergio Gonzalez
No answer from candidate after multiple attempts to contact.
Jennifer Enoch
"When my child started kindergarten, I began to volunteer several hours a week in the classroom. What I observed in the school moved me deeply. I saw the incredible brilliance of little kids who started kindergarten not yet knowing the alphabet (in education parlance, not “ready” for kindergarten), many of whom told me about serious stressors in their personal lives. My instinct was to try to coddle these children and protect their self-esteem by over-praising them for doing simple tasks, but I noticed that their fantastic kindergarten teacher had very high expectations of them. She asked them difficult questions about math and about books she read aloud, about the nature of heroism during a unit on Martin Luther King and Ruby Bridges, and about friction months after they finished a unit on ramps and balls. I realized that despite many stressors and despite starting kindergarten unfamiliar with the alphabet, these kids were brimming with intelligence, curiosity, and intellectual passions. The same kids who struggled to learn the letters were just as likely as their peers from affluent families to answer the hard questions, to quickly grasp new concepts in math or science, to make up creative stories with an impressive command of language, and to offer deep insights in discussions about books the teacher read to them. Their teacher believed in their enormous intellectual potential and they loved school and thrived. Similarly, most teachers she mentors rapidly become excellent. One of her mentees has won national awards for excellence in teaching science. Two of her mentees consistently moved their low-income black students from below grade level at the beginning of the school year to well above grade level at the end of the school year. If only every child could have teachers like this every year. Providing high-quality, effective, gap-closing education to children who live in poverty is not a mystery, and we can do it!"
Elizabeth Sotiropoulos
"Across the United States, school board members are the largest number of elected officials. We all know that high-quality public education is powerful and important, but many voters don't understand just how relevant school board decisions are to their everyday lives.

To the undecided voter, I encourage you to consider the qualifications of all Unit 4 school board candidates. You should vote for the top 4 candidates who are committed to meaningful action to improve the lives and education of our local students. You should vote for the top 4 candidates who prioritize our students, which includes supporting our teachers and negotiating contracts in good faith. No political candidate is perfect, and you won't agree with any candidate on every single issue. But you should vote for the candidates who have a track record of forming relationships with people of many backgrounds and needs in our community, and vote for candidates who aren't afraid to speak out when they see injustice. If elected to school board, I will represent the needs of our students with honesty, transparency, and fairness."
Lee McDonald
"There is too much “rubber stamping” with a lack of transparency by the current board. This is especially evident when discussing and voting on financial issues. The following is an example: During the school board meeting on 12/10/18, at the request of the director of operations and the director of transportation, the board unanimously approved a motion to move $500,000 from a contingency transportation fund into a transportation capital outlay fund. These funds would then be used to replace 17 of 78 school buses in the current fleet. Prior to the vote the board asked the following: Would some buses be leased considering the high cost to purchase? When would they be purchased? Would there be both “long and short” buses? What “bells and whistles” would be included? There will several comments which I will paraphrase: This will help to reduce the number of late school bus stops; The transportation department does a great job; Some of the school buses have hard frame backs on the seats and the seats smell bad. On 12/18/18 the director of accounting services issued a bid letter for 10 seventy-one passenger buses with delivery by 1/25/19. The bid was awarded in early January at a figure of $810,770 and was approved with a consent vote with no discussion during the 1/14/19 board meeting. While the safety of our students and personnel while on our buses is a major priority, if I was on the board in December, I counted a list of 15 questions I would have asked. A summary of those is as follows:

 What line item in the 9/24/18 FY2019 budget shows the $500,000 contingency funds? (answer: page 2, line 18)
 What line item in the 9/24/2018 FY2019 budget shows the capital outlay for transportation and how many dollars are currently there? (answer: page 3, line 91, and $122,000)
 How much will you need to make these purchases?
 Guessing that a new bus purchase is in the range of $70-$80,000 how many buses will you purchase and how many will be leased?
 What are the financial implications, both short term and long term, for making a purchase versus a lease? Have you done an analysis on which path to ownership is best?
 What is the average life expectancy of a bus? A yearly range would be fine.
 What is the age range of the remaining 61 buses in the fleet?
 Do you anticipate (best guess is fine) that you will need to make more replacements in FY2020 and/or FY2021?

Too often teachers are forced to deal with discipline issues resulting in a lack of teaching the students who want to learn. Stop the random application of discipline rules. Implement and enforce a rule that cell phones remain in lockers all day and are never allowed in classrooms. We need an open dialogue on how to deal with discipline issues. Hopefully discipline issues are a sporadic situation and exist in only one or two schools. However, they can’t be allowed to exist if we are going to be successful. See these comments from a former teacher. I have far more detail but will try to consolidate.

“Here are some behaviors that I experienced in my class DAILY. I had kids who would steal from me and their peers. I had kids who would attack me and other students both verbally and physically. I did not feel like a teacher. I felt like a guard that was trying to make sure that no one got into fights. I had students who would break things in the room, throw things across the room, slam the door, run out of the room and all around the school, hide in the bathroom, etc. I can't even count how many times my students got into fist fights. I once had a group of over 5 students hold down another student with a chair while other students pulled her hair and kicked her. I once had a student lash out at me and cuss me out and hit me…………I also had an extremely small group of kids who were none of these things. They were kind, respectful, and wanted to learn. I was most heartbroken for them because I wanted to give them the education they deserved, but it was impossible. Unfortunately, they were stuck in a room where they just had to sit quietly and forfeit their education because the majority of the kids made it absolutely impossible for me to teach or for anyone to learn……”

Lastly, remember one of the components of a good school board: “Embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.” Don’t be afraid to try something new. If it does not work, change it. If you win enough of the small battles, you will win the war. "