Meet the applicants for Champaign school board

Meet the applicants for Champaign school board

CHAMPAIGN — Eight people will interview in public Monday for the seat on the Champaign school board left open by the death of Greg Novak.

The school board will conduct its interviews in open session at 6 p.m. Monday at the Mellon Administrative Center, 703 S. New St., C. Interviews will be televised live on Champaign Government Television on Comcast Cable Channel 5 in Champaign.

The school board will allow each candidate to make a one-minute opening and closing statement, and answer the same questions the board developed, said board President Sue Grey earlier this week.

The board will then discuss the candidates in closed session Monday and may even choose the new school board member that night, Grey said.

The school board must choose a new member and notify the Regional Office of Education by April 21, according to board policy, and the new school board member will be sworn in April 23.

The News-Gazette contacted the eight applicants to find out why they applied and why they think they'll do well in the position. You can also see their applications online, by visiting the school district's BoardDocs website at

Laurie Bonnett

Age: 51

What made you apply for the open school board seat? "It came from the encouragement of a few close friends," Bonnett said. She has three students in Champaign schools, and she's familiar with the now-expired consent decree because she worked at the Urban League while the school district was complying with it.

"I've been a PTA parent and president. I actually co-chaired the 1 percent (school facilities sales tax) referendum ... and I led one of the interview teams for the new superintendent.

"I have some good quality time on my hands that I've been looking to give to the community, and this seems like a great way for me to be able to give back."

Why do you think you're the person for the job?

"Because I'm ingrained," Bonnett said, for all the reasons mentioned above. "My kids are in the school system, so I have a vested interest."

In her job working for Sen. Michael Frerichs, she said she deals with everyone from lawmakers to those who come into his office, needing help with their food stamps.

"I'm approachable, I'm easy to talk to and I have the ability to listen to a lot of different levels of constituent layers."

Patricia Brady

Age: 41

What made you apply for the open school board seat?

"I am applying as a mother. My two school-age children attend Unit 4 schools, and my third child will start kindergarten in 2014," Brady said. "I volunteer in my children's schools, and I have been very pleased with my children's education: their teachers and administrators, the district curriculum and the special education services one has received. I want to make sure that all Unit 4 parents are happy with their children's education."

Brady said she's a former teacher, who now works at the University of Illinois as a researcher with a doctorate in education.

"I taught in a high-poverty area in urban Chicago and in a wealthy suburb, and I understand the incredible promise that all children possess. I also understand the challenges that teachers face. ... At the university, I have taught classes for future teachers, including ones focused on diversity. Currently, I work for the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative, an organization which helps support new teachers in their first years in the classroom. As a researcher, I know that decisions cannot only be made from the heart — they must also be made by looking at data, by considering all sides of an issue and by taking into account both present and future impacts of current decisions.

"Most of all, I am applying as a resident of the Champaign community," Brady said. "A city is only as strong as its people, and education is the best way to ensure a qualified workforce and a vibrant and active citizenry. Good schools help attract residents to our community and keep them once they arrive. Being responsive to the Champaign community also requires one to be fiscally responsible, to listen to what the community and parents want from their schools and to ensure that all decisions are made for the best interests of children."

Why do you think you're the person for the job?

"If I am chosen for the position, I will always put the needs of children first," Brady said. "I have spent my career working to improve the lives of children and schools, and would continue to do so on the school board. I believe that my experiences and areas of knowledge would complement those of the current board members.

"I have also spent the last decade working on research teams, which has given me valuable experience in working both productively and collaboratively: setting forth my perspective but also listening, compromising, and valuing the viewpoints of others. On the school board, I will make sure that I seek out the opinions of parents and the general community and make sure that everyone feels that they have a voice."

Anthony "Tony" Bruno

Age: 27

What made you apply for the open school board seat? "I have discovered few things in life more satisfying than laboring toward a common goal," Bruno said. "The Unit 4 Board of Education has worked tirelessly to ensure today's students enjoy a first-class education. Much work awaits us, and I believe my energy, perspective and work ethic would add an important dynamic to the board. This community has given me more than I will ever be able to give back, but I intend to try."

Why do you think you're the person for the job? The right person for this job was Greg Novak, and no one is going to replace him," Bruno said. "But I am heartened to know we live in a community of talented, interested people who care about the academic experience of our youth. I am the best candidate for this position because of the unique combination of talents, experiences and personality I would bring to the board. It wasn't so long ago I was a senior at Central giving our commencement address. I haven't forgotten what it feels like to be a Unit 4 student."

Bruno said he knows the school district faces tough decisions now that will influence coming decades.

"I am excited and ready to meet those challenges," Bruno said. "My ability to critically analyze information and experience making tough, forward-thinking decisions make me the best candidate to fill this vacancy."

G. David Frye

Age: 56

What made you apply for the open school board seat?

Why do you think you're the person for the job? "Our three children have been students of Unit 4 since kindergarten. The eldest graduated from Central High School two years ago and the other two are currently at Edison and Central," Frye said. "We have supported our children, schools and teachers with our time and resources throughout that period. Serving on the board seems to me to be a more direct way to give back to the district. The mid-term appointment is a opportune way to do so."

Why do you think you're the person for the job?

"I think I understand Unit 4 and its needs very well," Frye said. "On the facilities side, I'm someone who likes to dig into the details of things, and I've paid close attention to the discussions about dealing with our aging schools. I know three of the oldest schools well enough to find my way around them in the dark. I want to help the board move forward in its efforts to replace Central High School and complete the upgrades to the other schools.

"On the education side, I work with Illinois' outgoing learning standards and the new Common Core education standards daily in my job as a software developer for the College of Education. Unit 4 has work to do to bring the new standards fully online. I believe I can help the board and district staff with that process.

"Lastly, I'm a big believer in parent involvement in their children's education. Kids that are getting help, encouragement, and a set of expectations at home are going to do better in their classes. Even just a nudge out the door at the right time each morning helps. Doing better in school translates to greater opportunities later on. We need to find ways to promote that."

Carolyn Savage

Age: senior citizen

What made you apply for the open school board seat? "I attended one of their meetings and I saw what some of their plans were and I had some input at the time concerning the students," Savage said. She's especially concerned about the dropout rates of minority students. "I'd like to know how this can be prevented and what kind of program and I work on to (help)."

Why do you think you're the person for the job?

Savage said she's interested in the welfare of the children in the Champaign schools and the staff members who work for them. Her application for the board position also said she's worked in the school district as an office manager, secretary and substitute.

"My experience (is) first as a mother, grandmother and as a pastor's wife for many years," Savage wrote on her application. "I have worked (with) and directed youth groups, young mothers and young girls. I would hope to bring to the table not only availability but also capability to serve wherever needed."

Ileana Saveley

Age: 33

What made you apply for the open school board seat? Saveley said she wants to take a proactive role in Champaign schools. "I believe that as parents and community members, we need to accept greater involvement and take on more responsibility in our children's education," she said. "I have two children in the Unit 4 school district and believe that our school district has our children's best interest in mind; I believe that we need strong leaders who share a common goal, which is to see children succeed and grow into good citizens. I know there is a lot of room for growth and there are issues that need to be addressed.

"It is easy to sit back and complain, but if we do not actively seek to improve our schools, we should not complain. As a responsible community member, I want to lead by example and help communicate the message that we as a community must work together and have joint accountability in our children's education and their growth.

Why do you think you're the person for the job? "I think that I am the best person for the job because I value our public school education," Saveley said. "I also desire to serve our community and children with an open mind, and a go-getter personality. I have been a member of the Champaign community for 16 years. I am committed to public service. I understand the importance of working as a team, being open-minded and being able to engage in a give and take discussions to come up with innovate ideas and solutions to problems. I know that it will take time to become a productive board member but I am willing to invest the time to become an informed and effective school board member.

"Also, I feel that my diverse background and bilingual skills can help reach our growing Hispanic population. Children of immigrants and their families are very vulnerable, and are at a high risk of getting lost in our school systems. For many immigrant parents and their children this is their first interaction with our school systems. Due to cultural differences and language barriers, parent involvement is very limited. I have had the pleasure to interact and work with individual members of our Hispanic community and have helped provide guidance in navigating through our school system. I would like to reach more families and help serve their needs; so that all children regardless of race, and socioeconomic status can be successful."

Charles Schultz

Age: 37

What made you apply for the open school board seat? "This is a very exciting time to be involved with the school district — with a new superintendent and a board of education that is ready to move in several directions, I would love to bring my strengths to aid the members of the board in their current endeavors.," Schultz said.

He believes he could help enhance three areas as a school board member: communication, trust and climate.

"In terms of communication, I have a strong desire to bring the board and the community closer together. I see the board expending a lot of energy to propagate information via board meetings and in various smaller settings via individual board members; to this I would like to help make the board's message even more available to the public by sharing additional information online (with a blog, tweets and the like) and continuing to network with various interest groups.

"At the same time, I wish to extend the board's efforts to collect input from the community by holding open 'listening' meetings and providing a written account of ideas that have been shared. I believe these efforts of transparency will further bankroll the commodity of trust between the school board and the community.

"Lastly, it is my hope that ever-increasing trust will also give rise to greater numbers of safe environments, not only between the board and the community, but also the administration, the building-level staff, students and parents. These safe environments allow true conversations to address ongoing difficulties found in the current climate.

"I see Dr. Wiegand and the Board of Education already striving in these areas — it is my desire to accelerate that which is in motion by continuing to seek out relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders, listen to all types of critique, comments and suggestions, and integrating into the board's current efforts to build bridges with the community."

Why do you think you're the person for the job?

"Since launching my blog in 2008, I have slowly established not only trust and a reputation of listening and conversing with visitors, but have also provided a medium in which the community can interact with the board in a very public, courteous and open manner," Schultz said. "Yet my efforts on the Internet are only a facet of how I engage others in communication; I also co-host weekly open meetings and seek out conversations with teachers, PTA members, administrators, board members, parents and residents. When I see a challenge opportunity within the school district (like the Kindergarten School Assignment Process), I pour my energy into finding the facts, learning what the involved parties desire and persistently making humble suggestions and offering my help in any way I can. I listen actively and with a sincere, earnest goal to understand. I collaborate with others and because of my transparency, am a known quantity. I am driven by the observation that sound, healthy relationships, as messy and as difficult as they can be, are one of the key elements of a thriving community.

"I have been involved in school district issues since 2006, four years before my daughter started kindergarten. My passion to uplift and bolster education as the centerpiece of our society has only grown stronger; I am in this for the long haul."

Alissia Young

Age: 44

What made you apply for the open school board seat? "There were several things that made me apply for the school board seat. For instance, I am a Champaign native, I attended Champaign schools myself through the beginning of sixth grade and my three children are all graduates of Central High School. I currently serve as the youth director at my church and feel that I have a vested interest in the well-being of our youth and families in the community. ...

"I was moved to apply because I am a firm believer that nothing gets done by simply sitting by the wayside and looking at issues in the community, one must be an active participant in the solution."

Why do you think you're the person for the job?

"I think I am the person for the job because I believe in our community, children and staff," Young said. "I believe that I have the resources to help make things better in our schools and would focus on achieving equality in our educational system, making our children and staff feel safe while at school and would work at building a network and support system for our children and families in the community.

"For example, we know that statistically crimes are perpetrated by youth during off hours from school, it is my belief that if we can provide children and families with affordable resources and worthwhile programming after school, this would help curb some of the negative activity that youth engage in. Also, we realize that our community has made great strides in trying to combat this issue, however, there is always room for more and I think that this would be a perfect opportunity for the Champaign Board of Education to show our support and help wrap services around the youth and families in this community."

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sacrophyte wrote on April 14, 2012 at 9:04 am

Meg, thanks for compling these vignettes to help us all get to know these energetic and concerned community members; it is really exciting to see people wanting to make a positive impact for their school district. We could almost use our own Parent Advisory Council with so many involved parents. :)


-- charles schultz

ajbuckle wrote on April 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm

No mention of improving academics?


For a district that is currently in the lowest tier in academics, I find this to be troubling.


Are we accepting failure now?

sacrophyte wrote on April 15, 2012 at 7:04 am



I certainly agree that improving academics is worthy of our attention, and in fact I think (I could be wrong) that Dr. Wiegand has academics squarley in the cross-hairs when she talks about the initiaitves with Literacy and Common Core (two completely different things).


May I ask what you were looking for specifically? In regards to the "lowest tier", are you referring to AYP or something else?