CHAMPAIGN - Candidates for Champaign school board seats in April's election say the issues at stake have sparked a lot of interest in the races.
In Champaign, eight candidates are running to fill four seats. They include only one incumbent, board President Scott Anderson. Members Phillip Van Ness, Mark Klaus and James Butler are not seeking re-election.
Contentious equity problems have focused scrutiny on school board action, and the election is shaping up along those lines. Four candidates for the four open seats - Champaign candidates are elected at large - are black, most of them known for their community involvement. They are as follows:
- Charles Dunnum Sr., a UI information technology systems support analyst who's involved with the PTSA at Bottenfield Elementary School.
- Nathaniel Banks, an assistant UI dean of students for minority affairs and former chairman of the failed Charter School Initiative.
- Norman Lambert, a retired Air Force officer who' s now a counselor at Parkland College.
- Charles Young, a Savoy resident who's employed by the UI's Housing Division as a building service worker.
The four remaining candidates are:
- Anderson, a dentist who's now board president.
- Former board member Margie Skirvin, who regularly attends district meetings.
- Former city council candidate Doug Hurst, a property owner who has ongoing issues with the city for building code violations.
- Jim McGuire, who's been involved with school committees and PTSA and ran unsuccessfully for a board seat in 2001.
Skirvin served one term on the board and was defeated for re-election two years ago. She said the competition, especially from the black community, is a telling sign.
"It's a sign there are issues people are worried about," she said.
"There are people of color running this time who are all strong candidates involved in community affairs, who have done a lot and are well-known."
Most school board members in Urbana seeking re-election
URBANA - All seven Urbana school board seats are up for election every 10 years because they are tied to geographic "subdistricts" and are redrawn after every census.
This is one of those years. And most incumbents are in the running to be re-elected to their seats, although Laura Haber has chosen not to seek re-election.
In Urbana, there are new names in the candidate mix, including Carol George, who has become an advocate for equity in both Champaign and Urbana and is running for Haber's seat representing the northwest subdistrict.
A second newcomer running for election is Zernial Bogan, a minister who recently joined the district's equity audit steering committee. Bogan has a criminal record that includes a felony conviction for burglary and prior convictions for theft, burglary and possession of a controlled substance.
However, district officials say Bogan is eligible to run for the board because after he served a five-year prison sentence that dates from 1997, when he was 44, he again became eligible to vote. Board members must be eligible voters. He is also eligible to serve on the school board although his record would disqualify him for some public jobs and from being hired as a bus driver or an employee of the district.
Bogan is running against Ruth Ann Fisher, who has served on the board since 1999, for the East Urbana subdistrict seat.
Bogan, who's an associate minister at Champaign's Salem Baptist Church, said he doesn't think the felony conviction has anything to do with his plans to get involved with Urbana schools. He said the experience taught him some important lessons.
Bogan's six stepchildren attended Urbana schools, and he said grandchildren are now enrolled.
George and Bogan are the only two blacks on Urbana's list of candidates, most of whom are familiar faces.
Tina Gunsalus, who was first elected to the board in 1991, now serves as its president. Gunsalus represents the West Central Urbana subdistrict, and she's being challenged by a third newcomer to school board elections, Cope Cumpston, who, like Gunsalus, works for the University of Illinois.
Cumpston, a UI Press art director, also serves on Urbana's Human Relations Commission.
John Dimit, board vice president, was first elected in 1987. He is running unopposed for re-election to his seat representing the southeast subdistrict.
Dimit is executive director of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.
Also unopposed are Steve Summers, a contractor who represents the southwest subdistrict; Mark Netter, a UI facility management director who represents the west subdistrict; and Joyce Hudson, a Supervalu employee who represents the rural subdistrict.