The News-Gazette posed questions about school district finance, communication, school facilities and more to the five candidates running for three four-year Champaign school board terms.
Below, you'll find their answers, as well as more information about them.
Incumbents Stig Lanesskog and Ileana Saveley are running for two available two-year school board terms. Because they are running unopposed for those seats, they were not included in the questionnaire.
Name: Chuck Jackson
Address: 514 West Hill Street, Champaign
Occupation: technology consultant
Political experience: Ran for school board in 2007
Why are you running for school board?
There are amazingly great triumphs and scandalous defeats happening every year in Unit 4. I want to put my money where my mouth is and get to work making sure we can multiply the triumphs and decrease the defeats.
State and federal funding for school districts is a constant uncertainty. How should the school district deal with these financial challenges?
The good news is that in terms of operating figures Unit 4 has been operating within our means.
Neither the federal budget nor the state are in any shape to help us at the local level which means we must be ready to manage it ourselves. I am not prepared to sacrifice the quality of education; indeed it must rise, especially for the under—privileged. We need to be wise with local resources and not use the public credit card carelessly.
The Champaign school district is in the middle of a campaign to create a plan for what to do with its aging buildings, including Central High School. In your opinion, how should the school district prioritize these projects?
Everything has to be subject to the mission. We must give the youth of Champaign a foundation strong enough to support their life long success. The priority is the children. Buildings are the context for creating our "product", they are not anywhere close to our core mission. We need buildings that allow us to educate our youth at least as well as any school system, anywhere on earth. The mission is accomplished by our people. We have great teachers and we need to free them to excel, not weigh them down with more administrative overhead. We need social workers and clinical counselors available to our students. Some of the most wonderful buildings in the world are aging; that isn't the issue. We need buildings to complete the mission, period.
Superintendent Judy Wiegand has emphasized that she wants the school district to be transparent and a good communicator. How would you, as a school board member, connect with the community you represent?
I think we need to develop partnerships throughout the community. We need to have the News-Gazette in our corner; we need to have other news outlets "on the team."
Relationships have no analog; there is no replacing them. Learning happens within the context of relationships, so does communication. The school board can make many improvements in how good a communicator it is by simply paying attention. The board needs to listen. The board needs to seek people out, make its meetings more interesting, publish highlights of meetings on-line (similar to SportsCenter!). Communication and relationships are built on trust, and trust is built when people do what they say they will do. This is a goal of mine as a parent and will also be my goal as a board member. Two—way communication is crucial.
Name one other issue that's important to you, and describe how you'd resolve it.
The children of Champaign need to be ready for school when they come. Early childhood education is one of the best, not to mention a very efficient way, to reach children and prepare them for academic (and life) success. All children must have enough experience with text that they are able to recognise their own name in print when they walk through the door for kindergarten. Resources must be freed up to provide classroom space for every and any preschool child whose family would like to come to preschool. Along with that, families need a training center where they can build their own parental abilities and in order to create a rich environment for the children in their lives. This can be done in cooperation with the public library, University of Illinois and other local partnerships.