Election 2013: Urbana school candidates

Because the Urbana school board last year adjusted the boundaries of the subdistricts from which board members are elected, all seven school board members are up for re-election April 9.

All seven incumbents are running, but only one race is contested, as Regina Parnell takes on incumbent Ruth Ann Fisher.

Here are Parnell and Fisher's responses to several questions from The News-Gazette.

Regina Parnell

702 MacArthur Drive, U

Age: 42

Occupation: Social worker

Political experience: None

Why are you running for the school board?

Advocacy has always been a strong passion for me. I have a keen interest in the welfare of children and families. My son has matriculated through Prairie Elementary, Urbana Middle School and Urbana High School. I want to ensure that all parts of the Urbana community have a voice. My desire will be that the entire Urbana community believe in our school system, to keep the district focused on learning and achievement for all students, help plan the education of the children in the community and continue to maintain high standards in both learning and conduct.

State and federal funding for school districts is a constant uncertainty. How should the school district deal with these financial challenges?

It is important to analyze the entire budget, and no definite decision should be made without conversation and/or discussion with all parties involved. As a board member, I will look at all aspects and work with the board to come up with a solution.

How will you, as a school board member, connect with the citizens you represent?

I have lived in Urbana, particularly the Prairie School neighborhood, for 15 years. I have conducted wrap-around services for the last five years to students and their families in the neighborhood to assist in providing tutoring, mentoring, clothes, food, household supplies, after-school programming as well as summer programming opportunities. For the last 13 years, I served as a foster parent for teenage girls and their children. I volunteer, coaching Little League basketball and T-ball. I will continue to have a presence within my community that will allow me to continue to keep the connections and communication open with all community members.

Name one other issue that's important to you and describe how you'd resolve it?

My only focus is to ensure all students receive a just opportunity to be successful within the Urbana Schools. I will not be able to resolve this alone. It will have to be a team effort within the board.

Ruth Ann Fisher

1214 Lanore Drive, U

Age: 56

Occupation: administrative assistant at Heel to Toe Inc., Urbana

Political experience: village trustee of Ellsworth, member of the Board of Education Urbana School District 116 since 1999

Why are you running for school board?

I completely find the work of the school board to be exciting and challenging, whichever way it tips the scale. I am not the success story. My school district is. The focus is not on me and I do not seek the spotlight. The focus is on the students that we serve. I have never run on a platform nor am I tied to the strings of any special interest group. Those things have no place on a school board, in my opinion. There are seven of us who will collectively seek out knowledge of the staff and administrators in this district and will, to the best of our ability, set policy which will address all issues.

State and federal funding for school districts is a constant uncertainty. How should the school district deal with these financial challenges?

By not using a knee-jerk reaction. The Urbana way is to always be thoughtful and thorough with each issue as it comes before this district, and by placing faith in each and every member of this school district that we will work together for the best interests of each student.

How will you, as a school board member, connect with the citizens you represent?

I connect as a working parent, as a divorced parent, a property owner, a landlord, a taxpayer, and a voter in this community. I'm just me. I have always been available and have spent numerous hours on the phone late at night over the years listening and communicating with concerned and troubled parents.

Name one other issue that's important to you, and describe how you'd resolve it.

Whatever comes before us is important, regardless of how big or small. We won't know how to resolve anything until it presents itself and we work together as a district in the best interest of all students.

Comments

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Watching Urbana wrote on March 21, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Way to be, Mrs. Fisher. You know how it really works. One for all and all for one. It takes all seven of you board members to do the work. It's not about just one person and their special interest. All the schools have the voice of all seven board members. It would be wrong if a board member only focused on just one school like it was a pet project. It's not about pitting one school against the others. Shame on anyone who think that or wants it that way. Every child in this town has a voice through every member. But it's not up to the board to fix problems. It has to start with the chain of command. At the schools and then up to the superintendent. If the schools are having a problem then they need to voice that to the administators that RUN the district. The board members DO NOT run the district. Their roll is to see that the tax payers money is managed well and to set the policies in place to make sure that happens. The board members are not supposed to be in the schools throwing their weight around. That is not their job. Mrs. Fisher has shown that she knows where her roll is for all these years and she hardly ever misses a meeting. That's dedication and it shows. She is passionate for the schools. When she speaks she chooses her words wisely and speaks to everybody not just certain people in this school district. My vote will be for four more years for Mrs. Fisher to help the other six members of the board to light the way for Urbana schools. Vote FISHER!!!!!