Three candidates for DACC board

Three candidates are running for two open seats on the Danville Area Community College Board of Trustees in the April 9 consolidated election. The winners will serve a six-year term.

Here's a look at the candidates and their stance on funding and academic issues.

Harry Brockus

43 on Tuesday, Hoopeston

Political experience: None

Occupation: Carle Hoopeston Regional Health Center chief executive officer

Family: Wife, Chrislaine, and two children

Other: Member of local Rotary club and Paul Harris Fellow, the Vermilion Advantage board, the Hoopeston Economic Development Committee and former Little League coach and AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, a weekly Bible ministry for children) leader.

Why are you running for the DACC board, and what will you bring?

I am running for the DACC board to help make a difference in the lives of those seeking higher education. Bettering the overall education level of our communities is the key to their future stability and success. As the leader of the largest employer in Hoopeston, we have committed to furthering the education of our staff through scholarships and job placement. They stay in the community, earn a better living and that is good for the local economy. I will bring healthcare leadership experience to the board, which is the fastest growing job segment in the country.

In light of unstable state funding and declining property tax revenue, what actions should the college district take to remain financially stable? Would you support raising taxes?

Through expanding programs and finding ways to make quality education more accessible to students throughout the district, DACC can achieve revenue growth to offset state funding issues. One example would be the new satellite site in Hoopeston. It will draw folks to DACC who before did not have the means to travel to Danville.

I am not in favor of raising taxes. Focus on making quality education accessible to all will help DACC achieve the growth needed to overcome these issues.

What steps can be taken to ensure that more students complete their educational goals at DACC successfully?

I believe through collaboration with Vermilion Advantage, DACC can tap into local industry leaders and develop a team committed to producing tomorrow's workforce. We need input and partnerships, the days of trying to go it alone have passed.

Appropriate and timely evaluation of staff, which takes into account the feedback from students, is the key to maintaining quality standards.

What other issues would you try to address as a trustee?

Increasing enrollment is the first challenge. With a struggling economy, more folks from all types of backgrounds are going back to school. In some programs, such as radiology and nursing, there are limited slots available due to lack of instructors and resources. It would be my goal to develop better partnerships for these key areas with local industry to improve upon the current number of graduates in these programs.

Also, technology is changing quickly from the equipment our students work on to how they receive their education. We must partner with the local manufacturing industry to make sure we have the right systems to train our students on for future success. At the same time, we need to advance in alternative teaching methods to make education more accessible to all.

Finally, keeping students involved is the other challenge. We need to engage them and see the future possibilities. I started with a community college degree in respiratory therapy, but used it to gain experience. Continuing my education beyond that two years led me to a successful career in health care. I want others to see that possibility.

Ronald Serfoss

69, Danville

Political experience: Danville Area Community College trustee, 2007-present and Blount Township trustee, 1994-1998

Occupation: Chittick Family Eye Care optometrist

Family: Wife, Susan, and two daughters

Other: St. James United Methodist Church member; past member of the Vermilion County Mental Health 708, Center for Children's Services, Provena United Samaritans Medical Center Foundation and Danville Symphony boards; Illinois Optometric Licensing & Disciplinary Committee; Association of Optometry licensing boards; East Central Illinois Health Planning Agency; and Lakeview College of Nursing board of directors.

Why are you running for the DACC board, and what will you bring?

I have participated in many cultural, business, licensing and healthcare organizations on a local and national basis. I believe my varied experiences provide an excellent foundation to serve responsibly. During my six years as a trustee, I have listened and learned. I have worked to preserve the institution, be accountable to taxpayers and provide students with the education and training for advancement, a job, a degree or to transfer to a four-year institution. I am cognizant of the changing nature of education, training and retaining and the changing funding structure, which makes the prudent use of resources more important. I am a thoughtful trustee and believe I can provide responsible leadership for another term.

In light of unstable state funding and declining property tax revenue, what actions should the college district take to remain financial stable? Would you support raising taxes?

There is only one revenue stream we control and that is tuition. The trustees have judiciously raised tuition to fairly reflect the college's needs. Through careful planning, we've been able to update facilities and equipment and maintain a sound financial basis. We haven't reduced courses, training or activities to balance a budget and in fact, have introduced new certificate and degree programs. With tuition raises, we're always cognizant of pricing ourselves out of the market we wish to serve. As the funding picture becomes more stringent, we will have to re-evaluate every project, course and activity and the support for each to maintain the core essentials, below which we would jeopardize the quality of education.

Property taxes as a whole are already high. I would not favor a tax increase without referendum, and I would only favor a referendum if the lack of financial support jeopardized DACC's viability to continue to serve our community.

What steps can be taken to ensure that more students complete their educational goals at DACC successfully?

The new paradigm in post secondary education and training is to measure student success and completion. Student enrollment is still the basis for funding. However, there is increasing emphasis on outcomes to be the basis for future funding. At DACC, there is increasing monitoring with student success services and the Achieve the Dream program to assist students who may find it difficult to complete a program of education or training. These services and studies are important for traditional students and non-traditional students who return for retraining, skill enhancement or degree completion.

What other issues would you try to address as a trustee?

One of the challenging aspects of being a trustee is to maintain and improve facilities and programs while keeping tuition costs and expenses affordable. At DACC, College Express offers students the opportunity to have skill training before graduating from high school and with dual credits, students have the opportunity to complete many college credits before graduating from high school. The Job Training Partnership offers retraining for displaced workers. I want to continue to reach out to the many communities we serve to increase awareness of the opportunities for job training, college degree programs and college transfer credits available at DACC and at a reasonable cost. At DACC, your tax dollars work.

Greg Wolfe

53, Oakwood

Political experience: Oakwood school board member, 2001-13, including the last 10 years as president.

Occupation: Pitney Bowes, Inc. senior sales executive

Family: Wife, Beth; four daughters; and five grandchildren

Other: Oakwood Community Education Foundation board member, Oakwood United Methodist Church trustee, DACC Foundation's "Endless Opportunities" Oakwood Scholarship captain; Vermilion County Fair Queen Pageant Committee; and past Provena United Samaritans Medical Center Foundation's Festival of Trees steering committee member, United Way team captain, Oakwood Mens Club president, Illinois State University parents board member, Vermilion Advantage Education Stakeholders Committee member and church Pastor Parish Relations Committee chairman.

Why are you running for the DACC board, and what will you bring?

Danville Area Community College is a tremendous asset to our community. I have seen hundreds of lives improved because of their experiences at DACC, and I want to make sure the college is here to help many more. I feel that change and fresh ideas are healthy in organizations, so I will bring my experiences and offer some new thoughts to the board.

I will give the time necessary, and I will participate in professional development to make me a better informed trustee. I understand the importance of establishing key initiatives involving management and training, development and relationship building. I am collaborative and respect others' points of view. I want to continue to serve my community, and serving as a DACC trustee would be an honor.

In light of unstable state funding and declining property tax revenue, what actions should the college district take to remain financial stable? Would you support raising taxes?

The challenge for DACC is to continue to navigate the budget crisis during these tough economic times by finding ways to do more with less. We must continue to regularly communicate with our local, state and federal leaders and legislators, and I will continue to study, stay informed and advocate for funding issues that impact the college and our community.

I would have to weigh all the factors at the time a tax increase was being considered. I am not opposed to asking for a tax increase, if it will sustain and/or enhance the educational experiences for students, but only after all other options and revenue sources have been explored. I believe we must be fiscally responsible and continue to make the tough decisions based on the state's current pension and general budget and funding situation.

What steps can be taken to ensure that more students complete their educational goals at DACC successfully?

Helping students become more successful in their community college programs is an ongoing challenge. Currently DACC provides many remedial options for instruction and help with study skills. Working closely with area high schools to give students more ways to interact with the community college while still in high school will increase their chances of a successful outcome once enrolled. We can help our students succeed by encouraging them to take rigorous course work in high school and bring their skills — especially in English and math — up to the level expected for success in college.

What other issues would you try to address as a trustee?

Keeping pace with cutting-edge technology in the classroom is a top priority of mine. I see technology as being a game changer for community college business models. Integrating more online learning into the curriculum using technology is critical. The "Millennials" and "Gen Xers" are walking around campus communicating back and forth. We must make sure that we have the appropriate communication skills and the delivery-of-instruction skills to meet their needs and the way they learn.

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