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: John A. Williams III
Address: 402 Taylor Thomas Lane, C
Occupation: academic coordinator for the TRIO Academic Talent Search Program at the University of Illinois.
Political experience: Managed his own campaigns when running for high school student council at Althoff High school in Belleville and for senate council at University of Illinois.
Why are you running for school board?
I am running for school board because I feel we need to strengthen our academic structure to ensure all students are equipped with the necessary critical thinking skills they need to succeed upon graduation. Far too many students are left unable to withstand the academic challenges of college, or are left with too few options to pursue careers in the trades when college is not their preference. For us to be able to contribute to our community, this trend cannot continue, and that is why I am running for school board.
State and federal funding for school districts is a constant uncertainty. How should the school district deal with these financial challenges?
Increasing partnership awareness with all sectors whether private, for-profit, non-for-profit, governmental to understand their potential contributions to the school district and community and work to develop collaborative plans that will reduce duplication of services. Adopting a system to assess current programs' ability to produce the desired outcomes and if they are not "making the grade" then either modify or eliminate the allocations for the programs.
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?
The plan should prioritize based on the historical core fundamental needs that the building/area of the community represented to the members of the community. Some buildings may need to be demolished and because of the pride and sense of belonging it created, a new building should be built to replace it; while some buildings may need to be renovated and repaired.
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?
My connectivity plan would include increasing my visibility at many functions within the community. Being available via appropriate social mediums to answer questions, comments and concerns from the community will help the community to embrace the school district, become more aware of the current issues that will ultimately help our students achieve greater success.
Name one other issue that's important to you, and describe how you'd resolve it.
Teacher appreciation is a big issue to me. I work with teachers, who feel underpaid, overworked and out of touch with the increasingly diversified student population. We solve this issue by providing more culturally diverse professional development, providing salary increases for teachers who perform, increasing opportunities to promote best practices among all the schools in the district and the pairing of newer teachers with veteran teachers who can mentor them in the early years. This will increase teacher longevity in the district, decrease the stress of teachers and create more cohesive learning teams at each school.