Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, Angelica Franklin, the new assistant superintendent of human resources for the Urbana school district, chats with staff writer Paul Wood. Before this position, she was across Wright Street in leadership roles for Unit 4 schools. Before that, she was the principal at Jefferson Middle School principal.
Where did you come from and what brought you here?
I moved here in 1996 to attend the University of Illinois School of Music. I was the first in my family to attend a four-year university, so it was both exciting and expensive. I lived at Hendrick House during my freshman year. I received my first teaching position at Urbana Middle School in the fall of 2000, teaching chorus and general music. I’ve been here ever since teaching in Champaign and Urbana public schools. I love this community and have a family of my own here now. Quite a change from Farmington, graduating class of 1996 with a class of 106.
Growing up, did you want to work in education?
I wanted to study law and be a high-profile lawyer and eventually a judge — probably similar to someone with Judge Judy’s personality. My high school French teacher (who was the smartest person I knew at the time) said the world was full of crooked lawyers and that would be a waste for me. She said I needed to be a teacher. I said, “but they don’t make any money,” and she said, “that’s not what matters in life.” So, I decided that I agreed and I should be a teacher. When I was in middle school or early high school, I thought I’d be singing in musicals on Broadway or living in Europe, so I’ve always had big dreams. I’ve never been one to let someone else determine what I can or can’t do. I was a Rotary exchange student in high school, so I started college as a double major in both music and French. After two years, I dropped the French part of it.
You taught choir at Urbana High. Do you miss that?
Absolutely. But, I’m happy that I moved on when I did and had the experiences I did when I did. Deacon Willie Summerville and Brother Todd Taylor were family to me. When they passed years ago, a part of me passed on. I stopped teaching choir in 2010. It’s a good thing they can’t make me sing or direct the choir on the fly, because they like to pull that nonsense on me. We had great jokes back in the day. I can’t think of anyone stronger than Becky Park to lead the program now, so Urbana is lucky she is with the choir.
What do you love most about working with kids?
They keep you young and they are our future. We have to hire the best for every position we have because our kids deserve the best. Every position in Urbana matters.
Where on Earth are you dying to go?
I like to travel a lot, but it’s hard to be away from work and of course, the expense. I think it would be cool to ultimately visit all 50 states and somewhere on all of the continents before I die.
I just purchased tickets to see the Indigo Girls at the Virginia Theatre this fall.
Best piece of advice?
One of my besties, Danielle Cook, always says “less is more.” I’ve learned to be a better listener as time goes on and to be a better listener “less is more.”
What was your first job and what did you get paid?
Technically it was babysitting, which was $2 an hour, and there was no limit on how many kids you could have. I learned a lesson on this because I had some families combining together and paying me $1 an hour each and going out for the night. But my first real job was when I was 14 years old. I got a work permit, which you could do in Farmington. I worked a few jobs in the summer (Tastee Freeze, Hallmark, busing tables at a bar/grill), and I think minimum wage was about $4 an hour. I was thrilled remembering I was making $1 every 15 minutes. I’ve always liked working and making money. I’m also good at spending money. Just ask my husband, Wade.
What was a pivotal decision in your career?
About seven years ago, I made the choice to leave Urbana because I really admired and respected Laura Taylor’s leadership. She was leaving Urbana, so I decided I was going to leave and go to Champaign, too. I didn’t know if it was the right call or not, but looking back, it was. I met a lot of great people and had many experiences to prepare me for this new position as assistant superintendent in Urbana. I was privileged to lead Jefferson Middle School for five years; the students and staff there are my family.
Any regrets in life?
Nothing worth noting. In the grand scheme of things, I have a full and blessed life. I give back as much as I can to others because my life is so full.
Tell us what you’d do for your last supper.
I would invite all my family, friends, colleagues and haters to help me eat all this food. All I would care about is the menu. I need to die on a Monday morning because my big meal happens every Sunday night in our neighborhood.
And who would be the supper personnel?
Cara Bane from Hamilton Walker’s would make all the cocktails. Matt Fejes would be in charge of many parts of the appetizers and main course, including but not limited to: shrimp cocktail with his special horseradish sauce, beef Wellington, lasagna with tomatoes from Ann Fejes’ garden, caprese salad with Ann’s tomatoes, Katie Fejes Schroeder’s Caesar salad, Cord Schroeder’s cheese selection, Matt and Katie’s wine selection, Cord’s street corn, Matt’s shrimp scampi, Ann’s kahlua cheescake, and we can do Papa Del’s if I’m still hungry.
And for desert?
Krissy Brown’s cakes, Nuria Arwari’s tiramisu and Patti Swim’s rocky-road brownies.