ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign school board: Kathy Shannon

ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign school board: Kathy Shannon

1. What prompted you to run for another term on the board?

"I'm running for re-election because I want to continue the work we started four years ago.

"We are now two years into overseeing design and construction of facilities, which will result in our buildings being more equitable and accessible than ever before. I'm proud of what we've done so far, and looking forward to continuing that work.

"I'm also running to continue to be a part of equity work in the district. Like districts across the country, we struggle with achievement and discipline gaps. Unit 4 is working on those gaps from multiple angles, and it's vital for our community that we continue to focus on giving every child the opportunity to succeed to their fullest potential.

"Finally, I'm running because the board of education has struggled with turnover. In the last seven years, there have been 23 different board members. Research shows that board turnover negatively impacts student achievement. Being a board member isn't easy, and there's a real learning curve. It takes staff time and energy to bring new members up to speed, and it takes board members time and energy to gel as a team. All of that is time and energy that can't be spent on the work of improving our schools. Experience matters, for board members as well as teachers. I'm hoping to use my four years of experience to continue to benefit the community."

2. What makes you most qualified to serve on the board?

"I've been on the Unit 4 school board since May of 2015. I'm a member of the CFT Areas of Consultation Committee, the Discipline Equity Advisory Committee and the Education Equity Excellence Committee. I've earned Master Board Member certification through attending conferences and professional development classes. I've attended every regular and special Unit 4 board meeting over the last four years.

"During my time on the board, we created a comprehensive facilities plan by engaging community stakeholders, presenting information and holding conversations. Together with the community, we created a plan to update and rebuild our aging facilities.

"After the previous board's two referendums failed, our plan passed decisively. This remarkable turnaround proved that the voters care deeply about our schools, but want to be engaged in the planning process. I've shown that I can be a part of that process."

3. What, to you, is the school district's single-greatest strength?

"Unit 4 has many strengths, but I think the thing that stands out most for me is our diversity. I am so happy that my children were able to attend school with people of different races and religions and countries of origin.

"Our students come from 80 different countries and speak 77 different languages. That's a wonderful learning experience for all of us, and those perspectives give our kids a view into a future that will see a more diverse country than ever before.

"More than ever, we need to understand and work with people who have very different perspectives. The wonderful range of students in our district is invaluable for preparing them for that future."

4. What issue would you like to see get more attention than it has from the board or district?

"Long-range planning/strategic plan that addresses facilities, equity, community, university and governmental unit partnerships, relationship building, all in light of the fact that we have a lot of turnover on the board, and a mobile community."

5. How big a concern is the size of classrooms, particularly at the lower levels, in Unit 4?

"I prefer to see small class sizes when possible, although it can be hard to plan for. This year, we had a substantial and unforeseen increase in our kindergarten class, so it was difficult to hire enough staff so late in the hiring season.

"Now that we have class size caps in our teacher contract, we will be able to evaluate how these limits affect achievement in our own district, and can decide whether these caps are worth expanding to first grade."

6. How do you feel about armed, uniformed police officers in the schools?

"When we've surveyed parents, we've consistently seen very high support for retaining the resource officers in our middle and high schools. That support has been high among white and African-American parents.

"As long as we continue to have strong community support, I believe we should continue the program. It's important to note that our school resource officers are there to provide for a positive law enforcement presence, and are not intended to enforce school discipline policies."

7. What are your ideas for how to keep district spending in check?

"The most efficient way to spend money is to keep the long term in mind. When we defer maintenance or otherwise try to cut costs in the short term, we usually end up spending more in later years."If we build solid foundations — both in terms of our physical structures and our relationships with students, families and employees — we end up with better results and less wasted spending."

8. Would the district benefit from a charter school that serves low-income students, like the one (North Champaign Academy) proposed a year ago?

"I voted to deny that charter school application because the application was legally incomplete, but I don't support charter schools in general.

"They take much-needed money away from public schools, often with little or no oversight. They circumvent the voters' ability to create change, because they are often overseen by a state-appointed commission rather than a locally elected school board. Teachers generally don't have the strong voice that they do in public schools, so charter schools lose both a vital perspective and another potential means of oversight.

"There is no evidence that charter schools create any better outcome than public schools, and even the NAACP has called for a moratorium on their expansion until there is more accountability and transparency in their operations."

9. What would be in your plan to recruit and retain high-quality teaching staff?

"We need to continue to partner with the University of Illinois and other state schools for student teaching and education research. We also need to continue and expand our efforts to recruit minority staff, because we know how vital it is that we have teachers that reflect the diversity of our students.

"It's also important for teachers to know they are valued and respected, so they will want to remain with Unit 4."

10. Do you believe there is too much money being spent on administrators?

"I do not. One of the things I heard over and over again when I was running for the board in 2015 was that our administrative systems were not where they needed to be. I heard that our payroll and accounting systems were stressed to the breaking point.

"An independent audit showed that we weren't communicating internally or externally as well as we needed to. I heard that we needed to update our administrative policies and procedures, and that there weren't enough people to do it.

"I believe we are in a much better position on all those fronts than we were four years ago."

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