District 150 Candidate Profiles

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

Ernestive Jackson

Age: 69

Profession: Equal Opportunity Associate — City of Bloomington

Years of education experience: I graduated Manual Training High School. I have taken courses at ICC and at Parkland in Champaign.

Employment Experience: Youth Supervisor III with the State Department of Corrections — 3 years

Personnel Officer non-academic personnel University of Illinois – 2.5 years

Director of Equal Opportunity – City of Peoria – 8 years

Project Target – 2 years

Assistant to the city manager for community relations – 9 years

Director of Diversity – CILCO – 3 years

Equal Opportunity Associate – City of Bloomington – 8 years

Political experience: While I have never held an elective office, I have been active in the political arena all of my adult life. I have been active in city, state and national campaigns working in every area imaginable.

What do you see as the biggest educational issue in District 150 and how do you propose to address it: I believe that the biggest educational issues within District 150 are the budget deficit, the achievement gap and discipline.

There needs to be fiscal responsibility brought back to the district. As a member of the board, I will deliver accurate and honest information to the community, in doing so I will work to rebuild trust and increase public confidence with parents, community members, business leaders and the city.

When elected to the board, I intend to push to review each and every contract that does not have a direct impact on the education of students with the intent to eliminate excessive spending. This includes doing away with the notion that we must hire a consultant to study every issue confronting the district.

In 2006, there were 15,000 students registered in District 150 schools. As of 2009, there was a significant decrease of student and the registered population is now at 13,500 students. However, the administrative staff has not only remained the same, but the District continued to hire retired employees back into the system for as much as $350 to $400 a day.

In order to bring the budget in line, I will scrutinize every suggested hire, rehire, or promotion.

As student population continues to decrease, there will be a need to look at other schools for closure. However, those decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. The board must begin to include all stakeholders in the process. This would include the city council, business leaders, parents and teachers.

As to the achievement gap, I would push the board to develop a strategy to aggressively pursue a reduction in the educational gap. It is important that more emphasis is put on early childhood education. Statistics show that we begin to lose children at the 5th grade level. Because of that, there is a need to look at the structure of our schools and develop the K-8 model for our schools so there is continuity in the educational process.

The core business of District 150 is the education of our children. This Board has gotten away from their purpose, and that purpose is simply educating our children.

Discipline continues to be a problem in all of the District 150 schools. There is enough finger pointing on this issue. Everyone is responsible for what is happening in the schools regarding discipline. Everyone needs to be held accountable.

However, parents are ultimately responsible for the behavior of their children. Parents need to understand and take responsibility for their role in the educational process.

Why are you running: For years I, along with other community leaders, have attended school board meetings for the purpose of discussing the budget deficit, student achievement and discipline.

I decided that if I was going to stand up and continue to complain about issues regarding the education of our children, why not make a difference by being on the inside so I could have the ability to really work to bring about a positive change within our school system.

I am also running because I believe that the school board has not included all of the stakeholders in their decisions, and has continued to work in a vacuum. There is a need to include the city administration, businesses, community and parents in this process. I believe that I have the ability to bring people together for common goal.

What do you bring to the race your opponents do not: Our schools are in crisis. If the city is to grow and prosper, we must restore trust and accountability to our community regarding our school system. Without strong schools, we will not have strong and viable neighborhoods.

Schools are a reflection of our city. As a community activist and as a professional, I have extensive experience in forging partnerships, and providing leadership on my job as well as in the community.

As a parent of children and now grandchildren that went through and presently

attend District 150 Schools, I know there are success stories happening in our schools every day that are not being shared. I also know there are challenges we need to immediately address and resolve. As a school board member I would; provide strong leadership, a commitment to implementing a strategic plan fully focused on the academic success of all children, and ensure that our district is accountable to the citizens of Peoria as it relates to fiscal responsibility.

I would also bring to this race the ability to listen and understand the frustrations of the students, teachers, parents and community.

Why are you the best candidate: As a product of District 150 and an active community activist within School District 150, I believe that I have the ability to begin an open and honest dialogue with all of the stakeholders. It is equally important that the board restore fiscal responsibility and accountability to the district. I believe that I am the one that can rebuild that trust, strengthen our educational system and improve the responsiveness of the board.

I understand that in order for the City of Peoria to be a strong and vibrant community, the health and well being of our public school system must be our highest priority. I believe in the public school system and believe that I am the best candidate to:

• Deliver honest and accurate information to parents and the public.

• Ensure our schools are safe, offer rigorous academic opportunities, and aredependable partners in our community.

• Promote and inform the community about our academic successes.

• Aggressively and visibly respond to challenges with in the District.

• Effectively manage the district’s funds and resources to maximize academic success.

I have been active in the school system on all levels. I made it a point to review, with other community leaders, and analyze the budget so that I understood all areas of the school budget.

I have worked with state legislators on all levels. Because of my on going work with elected officials, I will be able to strengthen community connections and forge partnerships to increase resources and investments for our schools. I believe that I can best bring legislators and the school board together to discuss the long term goal of looking at alternative ways to fund the public school system.

Budgets are tight. How will you go about meeting the educational needs of District 150 students with less money: Understanding that education is the core business of District 150, after I am elected, I will begin the process of reviewing each and every contract the Board presently has with the intent to eliminate excessive spending. This includes doing away with the notion that we must hire a consultant to study every issue confronting the District.

I would have the Superintendent review all of the administrative positions with the understanding that as the student body decreases, so will the administrative positions. In the past the administrative and administrative staff positions continued to stay in place even though schools were closed and programs combined.

There has to be an assurance that teachers will have all of the necessary materials and equipment to do what they are hired to do, educate children. Therefore, I will make every conceivable effort to eliminate excessive spending so that teachers will have whatever is needed to do their job.

Also, while the Board closed schools, there has been no mention of the savings that has occurred by the closures. I will make sure the community knows what savings have occurred.

Blaine Sumner was closed but was remodeled and air conditioned to be used for administrative offices. Blaine should be closed immediately and the staff moved back to the administrative building. This will save precious dollars that the District cannot afford. Those dollars can be used in a much productive way.

Jeff Lickiss

Age:     49

Profession: Registered Nurse, Medical Intensive Care Unit, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

Critical Care RN/Paramedic, Advanced Medical Transport

Education: Graduate; RN program, Illinois Central College, Graduate; EMS Services Program, Memorial Medical Center,     Springfield, IL

Political experience: Peoria County Board, 1996 – 2004 served as Chairman of Health Services Committee 2002-2004

Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau 2004-2006

What do you see as the biggest educational issue in District 150 and how do you propose to address it: The biggest issue in District 150 is failure to adequately address multiple problems. The district is financially in disarray. It took 6 months and two deadlines to get a fiscal report full of surprises.

There should have been no surprises if the district had been properly monitoring its fiscal reports. Academic achievement continues to fall with no solid solutions. The district needs an aggressive long-term strategic plan for building utilization and education model changes. It then needs to stick with the plan.

Why are you running: I am seeking this office because I am dedicated to this community and my daughters plan to raise their children here. I believe many in the community have the perception that the current school board operates in a vacuum and is not communicating well with the community and other education partners.

As a previously elected official I have seen and addressed problems similar to those District 150 faces today.

What do you bring to the race your opponents do not: I believe my previous experience on a governing body gives me the background to hit the ground running. I know the process and the players and will be an effective member starting on the first day. Additionally, I am known as a person with the tenacity to ask the touch questions and demand factual information.

My daughters graduated from District 150 within the last few years and I have 16-years experience as a District 150 parent with all the pleasures and frustrations of other District 150 parents. Finally, I have no allegiance to a particular special interest group other than the taxpayers, parents and students. I was not recruited to run by a special interest group.

Why are you the best candidate:  I have lived in the heart of Peoria for 20-years. I have been an elected official and during that service I had many successes.

I am not naïve and I understand the social economic issues of the community. I was not recruited to run by a special interest group. I will be a vocal board member and will not conduct the business of the school district behind closed doors.I am known as a person with the tenacity to ask the touch questions and demand factual information.

Budgets are tight. How will you go about meeting the educational needs of District 150 students with less money: Simple, spend the district’s money on education. The school district’s budget has many non-educational indirect costs that can be cut. The district needs to focus on its core responsibilities, develop a long term strategic plan and stick to it.

There has been irresponsible spending in previous years that needs to be corrected. Schools have been closed then refurbished and reopened as air conditioned administrative offices.

Property has been bought before decisions made on building utilization. The district’s consultant spending is out of control. The money to run this district is there, it needs to stop being wasted.

Christopher Crawford

Age: 37

Profession: Attorney

Political experience: No political experience.

What do you see as the biggest educational issue in District 150 and how do you propose to address it: The biggest educational issue in district 150 is failing student achievement.  I believe the core philosophy of the district should be that all students can achieve excellence. We should reach to the top and not for the bottom in fear that other students might fall behind.  Students that have trouble keeping up should be given access to immediate remediation. I favor year round school to achieve these educational goals.

Why are you running: I am running for school board because I want to help build Peoria’s future and that all starts with improving the schools.  I have a one year old daughter so I have a vested interest in seeing that the schools thrive as she is a future student.

Why are you the best candidate: I am the best candidate because, as an attorney, I am able to assemble complex information, identify the important details, develop a big picture focus and ask the right quetions. The district needs someone who will be able to understand budgets and help follow a strategic plan. I believe my experience as an attorney serves that need.

I also stand out from my opponents in that I bring a fresh perspective to the school board. I am a native Peorian, but lived in Chicago for 9 years. I returned 2 and a half years ago. I am familiar with past issues, but I do not have hardedened positions. That gives me an opportunity to be forward looking which is what the district needs.

Budgets are tight. How will you go about meeting the educational needs of District 150 students with less money: I understand that budgets are tight.  The first step is to review our administrative positions and contracts with outside vendors. Looking for cuts in those areas are more removed from the students. Theredafter, I will ask the board to follow the master facilities plan. School closings and staff reductions must be given thoughtful consideration.