Champaign school board chooses Blank and Van Ness as new members

Updated: 10:05 p.m.

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school board has appointed Arlene Blank and Phil Van Ness as its two new short-term members.

Both are former school board members, which factored in to why they were chosen, said school board president Stig Lanesskog.

The school board interviewed Blank, Van Ness, Josh Beardall and Laurie Bonnett, said school district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart.

Thirteen people applied to be appointed to the seats.

Lanesskog said the board felt comfortable with Blank and Van Ness, especially as it considers options for what to do with its facilities, including Central High School. The board also decided not to choose any candidates running for the board in April, Lanesskog said.

The board is filling the two seats after the December resignations of Tommy Lockman and Sue Grey. Lockman's seat is open in the April election, as are the last two years of Grey's term.

Also Monday, the school board voted 5-0 to create a self-contained program next year for high school students with emotional disabilities.

It will serve students who attend both Central and Centennial high schools but will be located at Central.

The school district currently doesn't have such a program and must place them in alternative programs, said Elizabeth deGruy, Champaign's director of special education.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires the school district to provide "a continuum of care," said Superintendent Judy Wiegand.

"This is a priority in that we simply do not provide these services," she said.

The program is expected to cost $92,000, which includes a $50,000 annual salary for a teacher and $21,000 annual salaries for two assistants next year. Professional development for the program's faculty and staff will be paid for with money from special-education grants.

The board also approved an agreement with Cannon Design for architectural services for renovating and adding onto Kenwood Elementary School. The agreement includes "basic services, cost estimating, landscape design, hardware design and renderings," according to information posted on the school district's BoardDocs website.

The school district is budgeting the Kenwood project to cost about $4.4 million, and it's expected to be complete in the fall of 2015. The renovation is one of several the school district promised to do with money from the school facilities sales tax.

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