I bet if I announced that I was running for Unit 4 School Board, most of you would believe me. And why not? It’s not as if this election has garnered much — if any — attention in Champaign. I’ve seen more yard signs for the Township Supervisor election, for goodness sake.
No offense to the Township Supervisor’s office — it serves a very important role in our community — but at this life stage, I am much more concerned about the education of our community’s children (and my own of course!), and those who will guide that process.
This election season, the Unit 4 School Board is on the verge of a fairly substantial shift, adding three new people to a board that only totals seven. In the lone contested race, there are five candidates running for three available four-year terms.
This week, the Champaign Unit 4 Schools PTA Council will sponsor a “School Board Candidate Forum” so that district voters can “hear from the candidates, learn about their views and platforms, and be an informed voter.” The event will be held at the Mellon Administration Building (703 S. New St.) on Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. There are a slew of issues facing our schools: state funding cuts, bullying, safety, class size and increasing enrollment that not all of them could possibly be addressed, but it should be interesting to see them try.
I haven’t thrown my cap into the ring for Unit 4 School Board. But if I did, I would …
- Make altering the kindergarten lottery process a HIGH PRIORITY. Two years ago, I wrote an article about how the “Proximity B” category disenfranchises members of our district — and there are many — who happen to live more than 1.5 miles away from a school. Although there are fewer families in that predicament because of the opening of Carrie Busey’s new building in Savoy, the issue hasn’t disappeared. Don’t just alter the process, but make meaningful change in how the process is presented to incoming families. There are many easy and relatively simple tweaks that could me made that might help change the perception of the lottery and how it is promoted (announcing tours only five days in advance? um, no thank you). Help, don’t hinder, a family’s ability to make an educated decision: provide more and better tools to do so. The kindergarten lottery has a ways to go before it will be considered family-friendly. The bottom line is that by alienating so many parents, the process weakens our schools — and weakens our community.
- Move boldly when it comes to building new facilities, especially a replacement for Central High School. The next board will potentially ask Unit 4 taxpayers for $200 million (or more) in a referendum. Board members should be concerned with putting out the best possible option that voters can get excited about (as much as voters can get excited about higher taxes). Too many of the options we’ve seen in the process thus far are fairly shallow. We have the opportunity to shape the future of education, not just shape a few blueprints. This is also an opportunity to bring people together rather than divide them.
- and most importantly (I say this only partly in jest): I would help create a policy on who can send flyers home with kids in their backpacks. Why in the world are certain for-profit businesses allowed to promote themselves to my family? Since when is the school a marketing opportunity? Oh and I have asked Unit 4 for the policy regarding this very question — and received a response that nobody knew of one.