School board candidate Armstrong: Trust has collapsed

School board candidate Armstrong: Trust has collapsed

CHAMPAIGN — She's a mother of four, a business manager for a family-focused website and an accountant for her family's 63-year-old local lumber company.

And that's just the pace Amy Armstrong prefers.

"You don't want me sitting around with time to spare," she said. "I'm not someone who can sit on the sidelines and watch things happen. I like to get involved."

In less than two weeks, Armstrong will learn whether she has another role to add to her busy life. She is among eight candidates for four four-year seats on the Champaign school board.

Although this is her first Unit 4 bid, Armstrong serves on the Champaign YMCA board and has been a regular at school board meetings for the past eight years. She has been publicly critical of the way the current school board has handled the $144 million facilities proposal that will appear on next month's ballot and believes she's highly qualified to help fix it.

"I really care about our district. I care about the teachers and our leadership, and what I'm seeing at board meetings now is not helpful for our community," she said. "The trust has collapsed, the communication has collapsed, the respectfulness is gone on every side and I can't take it anymore. We have to return to the servant leadership model of how things are supposed to run."

Her goals include reconnecting the school district and the business community, rebuilding the trust between the community and the school board and refocusing the conversation on celebrating education.

"I want to see collaboration between the school board, district leadership and then back into the community, that is respectful," she said.

Of the divisive decision facing voters next month — whether to approve $94.5 million for a new Champaign Central High School at Interstate Drive — she says: "There's not reason to be finger pointing at this point; we've got to find a solution and stick with that solution. It doesn't matter how long it took us to get to this point. We're here now. We're in it, let's fix it. And that takes building collaborative relationships with community stakeholders. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to build bridges back into the community."

When it comes to tackling the construction of new facilities, Armstrong knows exactly where to start. The business manager of Armstrong Lumber played a major role during construction of the Stephens Family YMCA with Larkin's Place, which is named after her daughter.

"I was involved in building a project on the edge of town that many thought wouldn't thrive — and it is thriving," she said. "The decisions we made at that time as a board at the YMCA were based on history and maybe the public didn't necessarily understand the process, but there were always reasons why we did things. If Unit 4 could get back to doing things like this, we could turn the ship around."

When it comes to Unit 4's facilities package and her vote, Armstrong says she'll hate to check "no" but would like to see a fresh school board come in and tackle it.

"The whole thing has gotten so convoluted at this point, I'm not sure taxpayers know what to do or how to vote," she said. "I don't think we can have these conversations about location or anything until we get a new board in there and have conversations based on trust."

Also high on Armstrong's to-do list: celebrating and expanding the top-notch academic programming already in place in Unit 4 schools. She speaks from experience, as the mother of a third grader with disabilities.

"We're doing awesome things in our schools. We have great teachers. My daughter, Larkin, is severely and profoundly delayed and our schools have helped her tremendously," she said. "This is a girl who entered school nonverbal, medically fragile and today she has a social network at her school. The janitors even know her and high-five her. She is safe and loved and learning.

"Why are we not singing the praises of that? Why can't that be the headline? Things have turned so negative. Those teachers and that school are such a gift, why wouldn't I want to support that? Let's turn things around and make Champaign the model to follow, not the school district to talk about."

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):2015 election

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SuzieD wrote on March 25, 2015 at 1:03 pm

"has been a regular at school board meetings for the past eight years." Well that's a lie. Unless you call regular showing up once you've announced your candidacy. Oh wait, you were talking about Champaign school board meetings, right? Talk about trust .... not even elected and already telling mis-truths. Shame on you Mrs. Armstrong.

mikeyy wrote on March 25, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Anyone that still uses the term " Janitor" that changed back in the '80's has no real connection with the district's or business outlook's

SuzieD wrote on March 27, 2015 at 11:03 am

And now Mrs. Armstrong tweets that watching online or streaming is the same as attending a public school board meeting. If this chick wins we are going to need a translation dictionary for everything she says. Mercy sakes alive. I will not be voting for her.