On Tuesday, voters from a 12-county area will fill two seats on the Parkland College board.
There are three candidates competing for two spots on the Parkland board in the April 9 election, and voters can't go wrong with any of them.
They are longtime incumbents James Ayers, a former Monticello mayor who has been a Parkland board member since 1989, and Tom Bennett, the current board chairman and a board member since 1996. Sam McGrew of Champaign, a former school superintendent and state legislator who ran unsuccessfully for the board two years ago, is the challenger.
This is a tough choice because Parkland is a well-run institution that provides educational opportunities to a wide variety of students. Some attend Parkland as a prelude to going to a four-year school, like the University of Illinois. Some attend Parkland to participate in what essentially are job-training programs. Some attend Parkland to pursue a special academic interest or pick up a course or two that can be transferred to another institution.
Parkland's board members and administrators are constantly looking for things they can do better or differently to meet the changing needs of students from East Central Illinois.
Over the years, the Parkland board hasn't changed much. Trustees tend to stay a long time, and their dedication is laudable. But sometimes boards need fresh blood, and that's why The News-Gazette, as it did two years ago, endorses McGrew.
As a lifelong school teacher and administrator and former legislator, he would bring a unique set of skills to the board. He knows people, knows institutions and knows how to work with both.
That leaves two remaining candidates for one available seat.
Both Ayers and Bennett are solid board members who've shown tremendous dedication to serving students. We are not troubled by their decisions to run as a team. As like-minded incumbents, they are a team, and it's less expensive to combine resources.
The News-Gazette, however, endorses Bennett — a former teacher, an information technology systems manager at State Farm Insurance and the holder of a doctoral degree — for the second seat.
Our endorsements are not meant to denigrate Ayers' tenure in any way. But he has been on the board for 24 years, and that's long enough. Further, as president of the board of the Parkland College Foundation, Ayers will continue to play an integral role in the life of the college.
Because of its excellent leadership over the years, Parkland has served the public well, giving thousands of students a friendly push in right direction. However the board race turns out, The News-Gazette is confident it will continue that same effective course for years to come.