Exam Cram: 2015 school board candidates

I know many of you are suffering withdrawal because Early voting is closed today; have no fear, you can get your fix here and learn all about the school board candidates. Recently I added Nicole Lafond’s News-Gazette interviews of each school board candidate:

https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/2015-board-candidates/#lafond

There are eight folks vying for four 4-year seats, and Jonathan Westfield is the sole runner for the 2-year seat. How to decide? Who are you going to vote for? With the two current board members in the middle of their own 4-year terms (Laurie Bonnett and Lynn Stuckey), plus Jonathan, there are 70 total unique combinations:

potential_school_board_combinations (excel spreadsheet)

Will you vote based on a single (big) issue like the $144 million referendum? Will you vote based on how well you know each candidate? How many yard signs you have seen?

I suggest you to think about what kind of board you want as a whole; what qualities and characteristics of a school board do you value the most? For myself, I am pushing for a board that adheres strongly and visibly to the Illinois Association of School Board’s “Foundational Principles of Effective Governance“.

After talking to many candidates and reflecting on the marathon of forums and other encounters with the public, I am very encouraged to hear that most candidates have already formed a strong rapport with each other; that even though they definitely do not agree on everything, they have already started to exercise respectful deliberation. One of the “Big Ideas” I am hoping shakes out of the new board are more informal “gatherings” where folks can simply hang out with board members and have agenda-less conversations, maybe even to the point of doing so with more than two board members. We shall see.

April 7th quickly approaches. While I encourage you to vote, I think it may be more important to be an informed voter. If you have questions, please ask.

Referendum discussions; candidate endorsements

The Young Dems North End Breakfast Club and NAACP have called a Town Hall Meeting this coming Sunday (March 15); the first item on the agenda is about an hour of moderated discussions on the Unit 4 $144 bond issue referendum item (2:30 – 3:45, moderated by Imani Bazzell and Patricia Avery). The meeting will take place at the Douglas Community Center.

 

There is a fair amount of confusion surrounding another potential forum on the referendum; board member John Bambenek tells me that Unit 4 actually did respond to the initial email from the League of Women’s Voters, but only to say that they had a conflict on the suggested night. I expect that within the next day or two, we will have more information that will clear this up, and perhaps another (third?) forum.

 

UPDATE: Nicole Lafond has a late-night response to the KCC invitation:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-03-09/champaign-school-board-will-respond-deadline-forum-request.html

 

Lastly, I have compiled endorsements for school board candidates into a table for easy cross-reference; I hope to add a couple more soon.

School board candidate forums

Chris Kloeppel informed me of four (count ’em) opportunities for you all to get out and meet the 2015 school board candidates. I have updated my candidate page to reflect these forums:

Candidate forums (nifty facebook page)

  • PTA Council: March 11, 7:00 pm, Mellon Center
  • Candidate Breakfast (Champaign County Chamber of Commerce): March 12, 7:30 am – 9:00 am, Hilton Garden Inn ($10 for breakfast)
  • Champaign County League of Women Voters, the News-Gazette, and NAACP: March 12, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, Champaign City Building (102 N Neil St.)
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church: March 19, 6:00 – 9:30 pm, Mount Olive Church (808 East Bradley Avenue)

Additionally, I have included links to campaign websites for Chris Kloeppel and Kathy Richards.

UPDATE: added facebook campaign pages for Kathy Shannon and Alissia Young.

UPDATE (17-Feb): added questionnaire and resume for Kerris

Most of the groups hosting forums have also conducted interviews and/or submitted questionnaires to candidates, some of which will be published in the near future (keep your eyes open).

Seeing the trees, or a forest?

The “Keep Central Central” group, formerly known as “REWIND” (and with slightly different leadership), is making a push to argue for a site for the “new” Central to be almost anywhere except Interstate Drive. Well, anywhere south of I-74. There is a press conference advertised this coming Saturday (Jan 31) at 10:00 am at the Champaign Public Library; the doors will open at 9:15 am for the room for people to gather and mingle. And this morning, Bruce Hannon has a letter to the editor in the NG.

Even though these conversations are happening WAY TOO LATE in the game, I am glad that they are finally happening. Moreover, I wish more people were involved in those conversations, especially new voices.

But here is where I have a problem – I will use a quote from Mr. Hannon’s letter to make an example:

“Only a no vote will cause this board to work with our citizenry toward the best solution, a central city location.”

No, Mr. Hannon, I think you missed the bigger picture.

 

Rather than direct my arguments against Mr. Hannon, with whom I have never spoken nor communicated, I will address this as an open letter for all of us to consider.

First and foremost, there is an even bigger vote that just happens to be on the same day (April 7th) – voting for 4 school board members (there is one more seat that is uncontested). If the citizenry were truly earnest in wanting a board to work with them, they would be very mindful about whom they elect to represent them, and then hold those elected agents accountable. Voting “NO” on the referendum and also not focusing on new board members is a complete waste of time, energy and votes.

Second, stop being so passive aggressive! I have heard quite a few members of the “citizenry” complain about the board, but leave out the most crucial aspect of having a voice – they do not offer constructive criticism or viable alternatives for the board to address such complaints. If you think the board is not working with the stakeholders or “owners”, how do you suggest they do so? Believe you me, I have already made my own suggestions, and have been talking with board member candidates about changes I would like to see (see my IASB post).

 

So in my opinion, we have spent way too much time focusing on the “trees” of a high school site. Yes, it is an important issue, and obviously a lot of people feel passionate about it; it is not my intent to mitigate that. However, we must keep in mind the whole forest – what is it that the Champaign Community Unit School District #4 does? You could answer that question by looking at the Mission Statement, crafted quite a long time ago and tweaked over the years. More specifically, what do you want our fine school district to do? What does Unit 4 produce or provide?

 

In our community of some 80,000 odd people, we have 80,000 different ways to answer those questions. I believe that is a problem. So why not have passionate discussions about this root issue? Why not form citizen groups around this topic?

 

One way or another, the “tree” of a new high school site will pass away in a few years, and will be replaced by other “trees”. If we do not contemplate the gestalt of public education, we will forever be bickering about which tree to tackle next.

 

So here is your homework. Figure out what you want public schools to do. From there, determine which school board candidates are willing to make that an Ends for Unit 4, or persuasively convince them – it is the job of the elected school board members to exercise governance over the school district. Period. Take this conversation to existing school board members as well – we already know that two of them are in the middle of four-year terms.

Your homework is due on April 7th. Turn it in at the County Clerk’s office.

 

PS – one final note. The NG tells us that recently in Danville the public had an opportunity to “meet and greet” two of the seven school board candidates. I am calling on the nine Champaign school board candidates to hold open “meet and greet” times as well. Kerris already has semi-regular “office hours”, take advantage of it! I collected their contact information on a separate page if you want to reach out to them; most, if not all, are more than happy to meet and talk with members of the community.

Started a new page on the board candidates

re: https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/2015-board-candidates/

 

I don’t have much, yet, but I will be adding more content in the near future. Some candidates I have had the opportunity to communicate with a lot, others not so much.

 

I also added this as a “navigation menu” at the top of each page (navbar).

WCIA Channel 3 interviews board candidates, 10:00 pm

I was just informed that WCIA 3 will be running a segment on the 10:00 news focusing on the board candidates. And to air again tomorrow morning. Most likely it will be on the wcia website after 10 tonight.

 

UPDATE: Here is the WCIA online spot:

http://www.illinoishomepage.net/story/d/story/fresh-faces-vying-for-school-board-seats/32651/_5KmvjsOfkuw_HKQLnh2DQ

Posted in Community. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

School Board Candidate filings

Per the News-Gazette and Gordy’s tweet this evening, here are all 10 candidates for the April 7th elections (the number following the name indicates either a 2-year seat or a 4-year seat):

  • Amy Armstrong (4)
  • Jamar Brown (4)
  • Azark David Cobbs (4)
  • Christopher James Kloeppel (4)
  • Kerris Lee (4)
  • Kathy Richards (4)
  • Prudence Runkle (2)
  • Kathy Shannon (4)
  • Jonathan Westfield (2)
  • Alissia Young (4)

 

I will be seeking out more information on each of these individuals; I am told that the media has already started to reach out to them as well, and I know the REWIND citizens group is contacting candidates. From memory, Cobbs, Westfield and Young have all tried for seats in the past. Brown and Lee are currently board members.

 

I am sure there will be candidate questions, forums (the PTA Council already has plans for one in April) and more media spotlights for each of them. Feel free to submit your own questions/thoughts here. I’ll publish what I have gathered soon.