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.
Randal Ashton, 60, Danville
Political experience: Danville school board member, 2005-present
Family: Wife, Starr, and two children
Other: Illinois Academy of General Dentistry president; St. James United Methodist Church's Passionate Worship Committee chairman; Vermilion Area Health Center advocacy board; past Illinois State Dental Society trustee and Danville Chamber and Vermilion Advantage board member; and past parent-teacher association, North Ridge Music Booster and District 118 MATS president.
Why are you running for school board, and what will you bring?
Student achievement, fiscal challenges, employee retirements, contract negotiations, building projects — this is definitely a critical time for our district. I want to help successfully steer our district through these challenging waters. I listen well, evaluate fairly and then vote. I sincerely care for the well-being and education of each and every student in our district, and I make my decisions with the student always first on my mind.
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?
First of all, the school district should be extremely judicious with the funds that the district has currently. All stakeholders should participate at controlling costs for the district. All non-essential projects should be postponed until finances are more favorable. I would not like to see our taxes increase since they are already unfairly burdensome; however, the reality is that the future may get very bleak, and a tax increase may be necessary as a last resort to keep our district solvent.
What steps can be taken to ensure that more students meet/exceed learning standards and graduate?
Provide as favorable of an environment as possible for each and every student to succeed regardless of their personal background. Continue to provide a proactive differentiated approach to each student's education. If a student shows a deficiency at any point in their educational career, our district should provide support for that student to overcome their difficulties. We need to constantly keep students on track for high school graduation.
Superintendent Mark Denman is retiring in June 2015. What qualities should the next superintendent have, and what should his/her priorities be?
The next superintendent should be a great leader as well as a creative thinker. Strengths and knowledge should be in motivation, organization, finance, curriculum, and buildings and grounds. Their top priority will be to navigate the district through rough financial times while assuring to not adversely affect student learning.
How can the district attract and retain top-notch staff?
To attract and retain quality staff the district should first provide a collegial and challenging workplace. This would include training, support, materials, facilities and leadership. And of course, compensation needs to be fair.
If a parent or community member came to you with a concern, what should your role be in resolving the issue?
The first thing the board member should do is listen carefully. The path of resolution depends on the concern. If the problem should be solved at the board level, it would be relayed to the superintendent and the rest of the board for consideration. If the concern is not a matter of the board, the board member should ascertain the facts and refer the party to the proper authority for resolution. The superintendent should be informed of the concern if he is not already directly involved.