Champaign school board rejects resolutions on arming teachers

Champaign school board rejects resolutions on arming teachers

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CHAMPAIGN — The Unit 4 school board formalized its stance against armed teachers in its schools Monday night when it rejected multiple resolutions recommended for adoption by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

"I vote that we do not support this," board President Chris Kloeppel said before all other members present agreed.

Although some smaller, more rural districts like DeLand-Weldon and Bement — both of which co-sponsored one of those resolutions — have argued that the choice to arm teachers should be made at a local level, Champaign board members felt either that such resolutions were inappropriate for a district staffed with school-resource officers and proximity to local police or that the idea itself needed more fleshing out.

Either way, the vote resulted in the room at the Mellon Administration Building bursting into applause. Centennial teacher Lindsay Aikman was one of several relieved community members, including students, who came to urge the board to vote against the resolutions, but amended her statement.

"Thank you so much for your no vote — I can't tell you how much this means to me," she said. "You sided with common sense."

Two days before the next scheduled bargaining session between the Champaign Federation of Teachers and Unit 4, person after person used public comment to encourage both parties to seek compromises and solutions in the face of a potential teacher strike.

Craig Ward, whose children teach in the district, said his family was prepared to be "an outpost for those on the picket lines" to be "supportive of ... those who were willing to picket in the cold winter months."

"I'm asking both CFT and the board to assume the best of each other in negotiations," he said. "I believe one of you needs to start speaking the other's language. I believe it is incumbent on those in power to speak the other's language — ultimately who is in control of the money has the power so far."

Others voiced support for teachers, with parents naming specific individuals who had helped their kids and some teachers speaking in support of each other. At one point, someone in the back held up a sign with a saying now familiar to many in the district: "We need a fair contract."

In other board news, construction bids for referendum-related work at South Side Elementary came in under budget at $919,214 — about $23,000 less than expected. That money will go toward relocating utilities as well as the cost of creating precast walls as part of the school's expansion, which the district said is intended to eliminate the use of trailers or "portable classrooms."