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May 11, 2015

New Changes to the Board of Education

by Ginny Martinez

The Champaign Education Board has been making significant changes, one of them being the addition of four new board members. Every four years, registered school district voters choose 7 individuals they trust to make necessary changes and policies to make the Champaign Unit 4 school district a more safe, efficient, and productive learning environment that is beneficial to all impacted. Amy Armstrong, Jonathan Westfield, Kathy Richards, and Chris Kloeppel will all be joining the board this year.
The Board meets privately at the Melon building monthly (at minimum) with additional meetings open to the public. During these times, the board works on committees ranging from facilities, finances, to reviewing of contracts and strategic planning. “It is the job of a board member to be open to healthy democracy and conversation, but remembering to be professional and engaging,” says Amy Armstrong. With all the debate surrounding the referendum and other new school improvements being judged by Champaign voters, there is no denying that the School Board has a lot on their plates, and a great deal to talk about. Amy Armstrong tells The Centinal she did not run to be on the Board for just the issue of the new high school.
Armstrong, while she is in fact a new board member, she is not new to the Champaign Unit 4 School System. She has two twin girls starting kintergarden at the International Prep Academy, a third grader at Barkstall, and a son who graduated at Centennial through The Novak Academy. With a steady at home life, and a passion for public schooling, Armstrong wishes to represent the communities needs through the policies and procedures implemented. With this in mind, she believes that this will help sufficiently support the Superintendent and the staff in carrying out the vision and mission in mind.
“I am not thrilled with the location so far out of town.” Armstrong admits when asked about her opinion on the referendum. “I am concerned about the students who may miss the bus or walk out of necessity.” The intended new school would cause some kids to have to navigate their way crossing the interstate, and Armstrong believes this could raise potential dangerous problems.
In addition to speaking with Armstrong, The Centinal spoke with Jonathan Westfield via email about his interest within the board. He, like Armstrong, has three children in the Unit 4 school system, and was inspired by his own teachers to run for the board. “I would not have been able to accomplish all that I have in my life. I felt obligated to return that debt to them,” says Westfield. When asked what he wishes to improve within the school system Westfield replies that he would like to see the district develop different long-term sustainable education goals.
“We have to recognize that not everyone learns in the same way.” Westfield sees that each individual student is different in their learning type, some working the best with hands-on work, others benefitting simply cerebrally. “Not everyone wants to go to college, but they do want to be successful.” While Westfield was not in favor of the April referendum, he is in favor of having a new high school, but in a three high school system, each high school built to house the students and different interests. He mentions his hope to see a high school devoted to STEM, and a high school with a Performing/Creative Arts and Vocational Education. “We should stress the importance of teaching basic skills and providing practical and functional education, one that allows students to apply what they learn to their daily lives.” When students are learning about things that are relevant, they apply themselves a great deal more than those who think what they are learning will not benefit them in the long run.
The Centinal is interested to see what each new member will bring to the table for the Board of Education, especially Amy Armstrong and Jonathan Westfield. All four members were inducted last Monday, May 4th.

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