Retiring Urbana schools official hailed as 'legend'
Board urged to consider naming facility after Superintendent Williams
URBANA — Several community members attended Urbana's Tuesday night school board meeting, thanking retiring Superintendent Preston Williams and asking the board to considering naming a facility for him in the future.
Patricia Avery, president of the Champaign County NAACP, compared Williams with Booker T. Washington in his dedication to education.
Janice Mitchell, who is the district's parent and community outreach liaison and the director of the Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center, called Williams "a living legend" and spoke of all the students' and parents' lives he has touched during his tenure in Urbana.
"Dr. Williams, I know what your reach has been," Mitchell said. "I know your impact."
Tracy Parsons also encouraged the board to name a "significant and prominent" facility after Williams and urged incoming Superintendent Don Owen to create a committee to start the process of doing so. He said it's "embarrassing" that the district hasn't yet celebrated the African-Americans who have contributed to it by naming a facility.
"That's important, that our kids (see) we have respect for the contributions of African-Americans across our district," Parsons said.
Former Urbana music teacher Willie Summerville thanked Williams for his service.
"Urbana is so dear to me. Preston Williams falls in line with the other great leaders who have been my superiors in this district," Summerville told the board. "There's just something about saying thank you to a real gentleman."
Owen said he'll convene a committee to discuss naming a facility in the near future.
Williams said he was surprised by their comments to the board.
"I didn't know I was going to have a crowd here advocating for me, but I appreciate the sentiment," Williams said.
He said for him, it was always about doing his job, supporting and encouraging kids, throughout his career.
"It's been a great pleasure," he said. "I've enjoyed it."
Several board members also thanked Williams for his service at Tuesday's meeting.
Williams will be honored at an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 30, at Stone Creek Banquet Center in Urbana. The public is invited, and there will be a program at 3 p.m.
The school board also Tuesday approved a tentative budget for next school year, which at this point shows the school district expects to receive about $61.7 million in revenue and spend about $67.4 million.
The budget is tentative because the district is still waiting on information about federal sequestration, state funding, how quickly property tax revenue comes in from the county treasurer and expiring tax increment finance districts.
Director of Business Carol Baker said she would present a final budget in September, when the district has more information.