CHAMPAIGN — They told voters they wanted to see the referendum work they started to its finish, and the majority of voters agreed to let them.
Incumbents Chris Kloeppel, Amy Armstrong and Kathy Shannon won back their seats on the Champaign school board Tuesday night, extending each of their stays to two terms. All three incumbents were part of the third and only successful referendum that passed in 2016, in which voters finally approved a $183.4 million facilities improvement package for six Unit 4 schools — one that would, among other things, keep Central High School, central.
On Tuesday, Armstrong collected 4,961 votes; Kloeppel 4,029 votes; Shannon 3,988 and newcomer Elizabeth Sotiropoulos claimed 3,581 votes, making her the newest face to join the board.
Sotiropoulos said she looks forward to joining the incumbents in all of the board's upcoming work, including that of bridging relations with teachers after negotiations last year between the Champaign Federation of Teachers and Unit 4 — one of the factors that had prompted her to join the race. In a statement, she thanked her running mates Jennifer Enoch and Michael Foellmer — and her mother, Linda Berry — and looked to the future.
"I am proud of the campaign I ran with my running mates," she said. "Thank you to everyone who fully supported me, to everyone who believes in the future of our students and our school district. I especially want to thank my husband Taso and my children, who sacrificed so much. I want to thank ... every single person who donated their time, support and dollars to our campaign."
In the next four years, there will be the remainder of referendum projects to finish, of course, but one thing all candidates agreed on going forward was increased policy work, particularly helping the district bridge gaps in achievement and discipline between white students and students of color. It's work Kloeppel said the incumbents are ready to share with Sotiropoulos.
"I think we're ready to hit the ground running," Kloeppel said. "We welcome Elizabeth and look forward to working with her, and we'll sorely miss Kathy Richards. I think we've done a really good job of getting to know each other, and that includes Lee (McDonald), Jennifer, and Michael as well. We spent the last month having conversations and talking; I think we've heard each other. There's things we as a board can continue to grow in including communication with our staff and CFT, and I think that is going to be important. I think we're set up nicely to do that as a cohesive unit."
Armstrong also paid tribute to Richards and reiterated campaign trail promises to craft a new strategic plan in the interests of making the district more equitable and accessible for all students.
"Strong schools create strong communities," Armstrong said in a statement. "The current team has been hard at work for four years. We are sad to see Kathy Richards leave the board, but we are excited for what will come in the future. Our students deserve equity and excellence across settings, and we are looking forward to working with our colleagues and the community to create a new strategic plan that will guide this work."