Unit 4 board candidate has big plans for next four years

Unit 4 board candidate has big plans for next four years

CHAMPAIGN — With a strong focus on addressing achievement gaps and remedial rates in Champaign schools, candidate Bruce Brown has big plans for his term the Unit 4 school board.

As another shoo-in for the job — his race is uncontested — Brown has been an advocate for making sure Unit 4 graduates are college- and career-ready since he graduated from Centennial High School "eons ago" in 1996.

As a high-schooler, Brown decided early on he wanted to study architectural engineering and took advantage of all the career and technical education classes Unit 4 offered in that field.

"But by the time I got to my senior year, I ran out of classes to take, he said. "I would have had to sacrifice three hours in the morning each school day to travel to Urbana because they had a homebuilding project there.

"I would've gotten hands-on experience, but I wouldn't have been able to graduate because of how much time and credits I would have sacrificed to do that," he said, adding he had to travel from Centennial to Central two hours a day just to take some of the architectural classes.

Brown doesn't want to see that happen to any more students.

"From a community aspect, I'd like to see some greater partnerships with the trade unions in town and make sure we have facilities that could actually prepare kids, if they don't choose a college route, that they have adequate facilities to pursue a trade career," he said. "With Central and Centennial getting revamped, I want to make sure we do what we can to put those programs in place."

As a graduate of Centennial, who also attended Carrie Busey Elementary and Jefferson Middle School, Brown has been a fan of Unit 4 his whole life. He taught English at Centennial from 2008 to 2012, and he sends both his kids to Champaign schools today.

So, in his second bid for a seat on the school board — he interviewed for the one vacated by Laurie Bonnett last year — he's not complaining that Tuesday's election will be unopposed.

Brown has been campaigning on two main ideas: reducing the number of repeat classes Unit 4 students have to take when they get to college — the local and national remedial rates are "unacceptably high," he says — and closing the achievement gap, an issue Brown believes should be addressed at an early age.

"Seeing my own kids struggling in math, they had access to programs all the way up to third grade, but I noticed there weren't any programs for fourth and fifth grade, and I'd like to see that expanded. I feel like closing the achievement gap in the earlier years is a lot easier to handle down the road," he said. "If a student is behind in fourth or fifth grade, it just compounds their achievement in middle and high school."

Brown said he believes in everything Unit 4 has done so far to keep students from falling behind, but said there are "still some areas that need improvement."

He works as the administrative assistant for the Graduate Employees Organization and assistant minister at Center of Hope Church in Champaign, which he says gives him a unique perspective to bring to the school board.

"I would say I can speak from the blue-collar, lower-income, African-American community perspective," he said. "Considering what I do with ministry, at our church we do monthly food giveaways, and we have a weekly produce giveaway every Thursday; we see a number of people come through on a regular basis. Most of our congregation are middle to lower income, and they have had different issues with the schools or teachers. So, being close to those people and having those conversations and being a teacher, I've been on both sides."

As a husband and father of two, Brown may be extra busy the next four years, but he has his family's full support, he said.

"(My wife's) schedule can be very hectic, but at the same time, I spoke with her about this before applying and asked if this was going to interfere with anything we're doing for our kids," he said. "If she thought it was going to be an issue, I wouldn't have pursued it, but we came to a consensus.

"We put together a game plan to help each other out to make sure it's not too invasive, or when it is, we will have the right pieces in place to help us both maintain our responsibilities."

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
babrown78 wrote on March 30, 2017 at 10:03 am

As a point of clarity, my MBA coursework is not with the University of Illinois though an application for transfer is under consideration.

mstook423 wrote on March 30, 2017 at 12:03 pm

This is my favorite quote from the article.  He seems to get it that not everyone should go to college.

"From a community aspect, I'd like to see some greater partnerships with the trade unions in town and make sure we have facilities that could actually prepare kids, if they don't choose a college route, that they have adequate facilities to pursue a trade career,"

I think the board and the counselors at the high school should think this way.