School board candidate cites construction knowledge, wants more trades training

School board candidate cites construction knowledge, wants more trades training

CHAMPAIGN — For Carrie Busey Elementary father Chris Kloeppel, the future belongs to his two girls — Molly and Madison.

"They can't help build their own future right now," he said, "but I can."

Kloeppel, who works as a plumber and pipe fitter for United Association Local 149, hopes to bring his trade expertise to the Champaign Unit 4 school board in a few months.

He's running for one of four open four-year terms on two ideas: he wants to bring his construction knowledge to the district's new facilities discussion and also plans to push for more career and trade skill training opportunities at the middle and high school levels.

Kloeppel said he already has a "long-term investment" in Unit 4, not only because his kindergartner and fifth-grader attend Carrie Busey, but also because he has been involved in a couple of different building projects at Booker T. Washington and his daughters' elementary school.

"Bigger construction projects are definitely within my realm of expertise. I've done work on Carle, Unit 4 schools and am in the Facilities and Services Department at the UI right now," he said. "I feel like I can really bring my knowledge of facilities, building and construction to the board and help facilitate some of that work and discussion."

When it comes to building a new Central High School, Kloeppel is not a fan of the Interstate Drive location, but said he voted "yes" on the $149 million ballot question in November because addressing capacity issues are a "real need moving forward."

As for the $144 million proposal the school board has placed on the April 7 ballot, Kloeppel said he's happy with it and stands in support of nearly all of the board's ideas.

"I wholeheartedly support a new Central High School, and while I'm not crazy about the location that's not enough for me to vote no. I am extremely hopeful that something can be worked out with Dodds (Park) between the board and the Champaign Park District, and will continue pushing for that conversation to happen," he said. "I am not opposed to the north Interstate Drive location as long as the board has done its due diligence, which I feel they have done."

Regardless of what April's outcome is concerning school facilities, Kloeppel said he plans to help bring more voices to the conversation regarding costs and land possibilities for Unit 4 construction projects both now and in the future.

The second leg of his campaign also stems from his perspective as a skilled trade worker. He wants to help develop programs that would give students more concrete options when it comes to career and technical training.

"I'm someone who sees the benefits of higher education, but also someone who sees the benefits of not going on to college. There's a STEM program and other cool opportunities at our elementary schools that aren't being moved forward to the middle and high school level," he said. "With the rising cost of college, not everyone can afford to go. I'd love to see more energy focused on those alternative blue-collar job and skilled trade careers.

"There are so many different opportunities in this community. It would be great to help explore and expand different career skills for a wider, more diverse group of students."

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rsp wrote on February 06, 2015 at 12:02 pm

If you start with where to put the kids you end up with a big building. If you start with what kind of education they need to succeed, it might not be a big building. A big building may prevent them from getting where they need to go. It may tie up so much of our money that we can't keep roofs over their heads.