Unit 4 School Board Bonam

Newly hired Bottenfield Elementary Principal Kendra Bonam speaks at Monday's Unit 4 School Board meeting as newly-hired Novak Academy administrator Christina Mables looks on.

CHAMPAIGN — When President Amy Armstrong called for a motion Monday night to approve Kendra Bonam as the next principal at Bottenfield Elementary, Unit 4 school board members Bruce Brown and Elizabeth Sotiropoulos both leaned into their microphones and said “second” as quickly as they could.

Board members were enthusiastic as they unanimously approved the former associate and assistant principal at Centennial.

In addition to her seven years at the high school, Bonam also served as a fourth-grade teacher at Kenwood Elementary from 2005 to 2014.

Said Bonam, who recently retired from the Illinois Air National Guard: “I’m excited. It’s been awhile since I was in elementary, but I’m excited to be back.”

The district also hired Christina Mables as administrator at Novak Academy, Mia Lavizzo as an assistant principal at Centennial, Daniel Nock as an assistant principal at Westview Elementary, Nathan Lyons as an assistant principal at Barkstall Elementary, Sabrina Hull as director of Kids Plus and Gillian Seals as dean of students at Franklin Middle School.

Also Monday night:

The board voted to issue $20 million in debt certificates to cover a $19.1 million shortfall in its projects related to its referendum projects. The district will repay the $20 million over 10 years at a rate of 1.51 percent.

Shortfalls included issues with acoustic tiles in the Edison Middle School gym; needed improvements to the existing International Prep Academy building, which will host middle school students after becoming a K-8 school; and cleanup at Spaulding Park.

The district will spend $2.2 million each year, which will be folded into its annual budget.

Monday’s meeting began with a moment of silence for former school board member Jonathan Westfield, who died at the age of 54 on June 5.

After the moment of silence, members of the board spoke fondly of their experiences with Mr. Westfield, who served on the board from 2015 to 2017.

Board member Bruce Brown spoke about how he knew Mr. Westfield as a mentor, when both went to high school together and when both were on the school board. He said he was surprised when Mr. Westfield told him he planned to become a police officer, but Brown said his mentor never lost his connection to the community.

“To see him over the years really maintain the camaraderie, to maintain the passion for us, and then here on the board, he returned into my life as a mentor again,” Brown said.

“What I’ll miss most is the candor. We were able to have really serious conversations. He did not hold back. He had very strong opinions about pretty much everything.

“And I really appreciate that he helped me through some pretty tough years as far as understanding the board and acclimating to this role. I’m definitely going to miss him and our conversations.”

Kathy Shannon spoke about how Mr. Westfield came to public forums when he was up for a two-year slot on the school board, even though he was running unopposed.

Heather Vazquez spoke about his character as a baseball coach, how he’d coach kids on both teams during some games.

The most common thread between the comments, though, was how strong of an advocate Mr. Westfield was for the issues that mattered to him.

“He never, ever, ever stopped pushing back or pushing us to be better or think differently or have a different lens,” Armstrong said.

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