Election 2013: Catlin school candidates

Election 2013: Catlin school candidates

CATLIN — School officials will have to deal with financial and personnel issues in the upcoming year.

Five candidates will run for four seats on the Catlin School Board in the April 9 election.

Incumbents Jim Chandler and Tricia Keith will run against challengers Dale Dutton, Travis Pearman and Andrea Van Leer for the four seats.

Board members Perry Dable and Shane Meade are not running for re-election.

The $4.5 million 2012-13 budget, which was adopted by the board in September, includes a $570,000 deficit in the education fund alone, which would reduce the reserves in that fund to under $400,000.

Superintendent Gary Lewis has said that the equalized assessment of property in the district is fairly flat, so local property taxes are not generating much additional money for the district.

Lewis estimates that the state has underpaid the district by about $273,000 in general state aid in the past two years, and by about $46,000 in transportation funding.

Lewis said his goal is to cut $300,000 to $350,000 in expenses this year, and that he approached the board about restructuring the administrative positions.

Starting with the 2013-14 school year, Superintendent Gary Lewis will also take over the duties as principal of Catlin High School and its 169 students. Kevin Thomas has served as the principal of Catlin High since the 2005-06 school year.

In December, school officials approved a one-year deal with the 44 members of the Catlin Faculty Organization which will expire on June 30.

The agreement ended a prolonged and sometimes tense negotiation that involved multiple meetings, the involvement of a federal mediator and the filing of an intent-to-strike vote by the union members. The two sides met seven times since July to work out the one-year deal.

Lewis said that under the terms of the new agreement, an additional $44,000 will be distributed among the 44 teachers, and that many of the teachers will see a 2.4 percent salary increase with the additional money.

School officials are considering pulling the Catlin school district out of the National School Lunch Program in order to gain more freedom in lunch offerings.

Here is a look at the candidates:

James Chandler

Age: 47

Occupation: president of the First National Bank of Ogden

Incumbent: yes, since August 2010

Other political experience: none

What experience makes you a good candidate: The best experience making me a good candidate is the time I have spent serving on the school board. A great deal of training comes on the job. I have learned a lot over the previous two and a half years. Secondly, my experience as president of The First National Bank of Ogden. Specifically, my experience in budgeting and serving on the bank board.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: Obviously the most important issue facing the board today is money. The failings of the State of Illinois have caused the district's budget to become tighter and tighter. The board will continue to be faced with difficult financial decisions. The current budget constraints will affect programs offered, curriculum, staffing, and improvements needed to an aging high school building.

Andrea Venters Van Leer

Age: 44

Occupation: high school teacher

Are you an incumbent: no

Other political experience: none

What experience makes you a good candidate: I have been a teacher for 23 years. Both of my parents were teachers, so I have been around education all my life. Because of my experience with education, I have seen the inner workings of a school and have both a connection with and an understanding of teachers, parents, and students.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: The most important issues facing our school district are funding, school organization, college preparedness of students, and physical upkeep of buildings.

Travis Pearman

Age: 33

Occupation : owner of Travis Pearman Plumbing

Are you an incumbent: no

Other political experience: none

What experience makes you a good candidate: My 15 years in the U.S. Army have tested my leadership skills and have helped me to make well-considered, timely decisions. As a business owner, I have had to balance different factors and choose the best fiscal course of action for success.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: I believe the most important issue facing the district is the same issue this district and others have been facing: where to spend what limited money is available.

Tricia Keith

Age: 37

Occupation: Vermilion County truant officer and homeless coordinator

Are you an incumbent: yes, since May 2008, vice president since 2010

Other political experience: none

What experience makes you a good candidate: As the truant officer, I am in every school in the county. I see things that school districts are doing that work well, and then I see some things that need improvement. I am able to bring these observations to the boardroom to generate discussion to help ensure we have the best schools possible. I am active and vested in our community. I attend school board meetings and trainings, volunteer to help with extracurricular activities, and serve as a Senior Service Project advisor. I have not been afraid to voice my opinion and above everything else, I am here for the best interests of the students.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: With the failure of our state to properly fund school districts, balancing a budget is the hardest thing right now. This is forcing us to become very creative with how we can still offer the very best education to our students. We continue to strive to offer the best curriculum to our students as well as retain quality teachers. It is important that our community is kept fully aware of what the school district budget is and what options are out there for our future.

Dave Dutton

Age: 46

Occupation : mathematics teacher at Urbana High School

Are you an incumbent: no

Other political experience: none

What experience makes you a good candidate: My entire adult professional life has been spent in education as a teacher and administrator in various positions from kindergarten through college. I have had two sons educated in the Catlin schools. I believe this gives me an understanding of what works, what can be improved, and what is on the horizon as we move forward to provide Catlin's students the best opportunities for their futures.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: We cannot rely on our state and federal governments to properly support public education. Therefore, our citizens need to be involved in a public discussion about the short term goals (5 years) and long term goals (30-50 years) for not only Catlin schools, but for education throughout this region. Although the current situation is challenging, we need to envision and analyze all of the possibilities which will create an improved system for our children. It will take strong and honest leadership to accomplish this and I look forward to being a part of the solution.

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