Nine candidates are running for four seats on the Danville school board in the April 9 consolidated election. Here's a look at the candidates and the six questions The News-Gazette asked them.
Lon Henderson, 59, Danville
Political experience: None
Occupation: Part-time staff with the University of Illinois's Office of Clinical Experiences; retired D118 special education teacher, coordinator and administrator.
Family: wife, Nancy, and two sons.
Other: Danville Library Foundation vice president; Member of AMBUCS, Danville Noon Rotary, Danville Public School Foundation 365 Club, St. James United Methodist Church, United Methodist Men, Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education and Vermilion County Retired Teachers; and past Danville Light Opera president and member of Danville High and North Ridge music and athletic booster clubs.
Why are you running for school board, and what will you bring?
I value education and the access that it provides children for their future success. I know that a strong educational program is necessary for our community to thrive. As a member of the board, I will continue to work towards assuring that the policies of the board will provide students the opportunities for a quality education which will prepare them for a successful future. I will work towards maintaining the excellent education provided by our valued staff, while being fiscally conscious. I have knowledge of school funding mechanisms and have experience in budgeting, grant writing, evaluation of programs and determining appropriate expenditures. My background in educational administration will assist in the selection process for the next superintendent.
What actions should the district take to remain financially stable in light of unstable state funding and declining property tax revenues? Would you support raising taxes?
Funding of our schools comes from three areas — local, state and federal — and the board needs to work with the administration to stay within the approved budget. At this time, I would not advocate for a tax increase. Prior to any discussions, a thorough study must be completed by a group of stakeholders to determine the financial needs. As a board member, my goal would be to see that the needs of our students were being met with the resources that are available.
What steps can be taken to ensure that more students meet/exceed learning standards and graduate?
It is important that a comprehensive curriculum be put in place and that the staff has the appropriate materials and aids available. This includes current technology, a curriculum that correlates with the common core standards and professional development for all staff.
Superintendent Mark Denman is retiring in June 2015. What qualities should the next superintendent have, and what should his/her priorities be?
The superintendent for the school system should have a variety of experiences as an educator at the various grade levels, the person needs to be a collaborator and communicator, able to work with both the staff in the district and the leaders of the community and have the interest of children in mind. The person needs to be visible and be able to recognize strengths of their team members and rely on the expertise that they bring to the district. In addition, the superintendent must be open to ideas that are brought to them, and willing to investigate the merits of those ideas, to determine if they will ultimately make the district stronger and more effective in meeting the mission statement. The priorities of the superintendent must be to maintain a safe school environment, maintain a strong and rigorous curriculum, recruit a strong and diverse staff, and be mindful of the finances of the district.
How can the district attract and retain top-notch staff?
It is important that the district reach individuals from the area and those that are not. The idea of supporting our own students and encouraging them to return is imperative. We also need to look for ways to encourage those from outside this area to consider our community and schools. Working with other local agencies to provide an orientation to the benefits of our area may assist in the recruiting process. To retain the staff, it is important that a supportive workplace be provided. This includes providing a strong mentoring and induction program, the necessary tools for the staff member to be effective, a competitive salary package and to recognition of staff for the efforts they make on behalf of the boys and girls.
If a parent or community member came to you with a concern, what should your role be in resolving the issue?
The role of a school board member is to develop policy and hire/evaluate the superintendent. If a concern is brought regarding a school issue, I would direct them to their child's school or to the individual in the school setting that had oversight of the particular issue.