Dist. 301 candidates focus on sports, kindergarten, transparency
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Five candidates are running for three open seats on the Burlington Central Unit District 301 board.
The lone incumbent, Jeff Gorman, will be challenged by retired District 301 teacher Maggie Perry; Rick Pryor, co-founder of the Burlington Blast Girls Basketball League; real estate broker Jeffrey Kellenberger and retired construction superintendent Duane Schmitt.
Gorman, who has served on the board since 2009, names all-day kindergarten as one of his key campaign issues. He said the national focus on early childhood education and a shift to more rigorous Common Core standards support the need for all-day kindergarten in District 301 — a move supported by Perry and Schmitt.
"There's always something that you have to to do to reorganize and shift funds but we're in talks and have some plans in place," Gorman said.
Gorman's oldest son participated in the last full-day kindergarten program District 301 offered. He has been a champion of bringing it back ever since and hopes to be re-elected to continue working on projects like the one he tackled in his first term.
Pryor's campaign is heavily focused on the district's decision to consolidate its two middle schools. He said combining programs has restricted student access to fewer spots on sports teams and other extracurricular activities.
"Academics are important but it's also a well-balanced, diverse education that is important," Pryor said, pointing to physical education, band and chorus as some examples. "It helps you be a well-rounded adult."
Perry, Gorman, Schmitt and Kellenberger say the consolidation was handled well and did not come at the cost of curriculum, including extras like art and music.
Perry said the board, teachers and parents have worked well together over the years but sees a gap in staff involvement in decision making.
"I'd like to see that improved," Perry said. "They are important stakeholders, as are parents."
Kellenberger said District 301 is on the right track, but would like to see the board be more forthcoming with information. After sitting in on board meetings the past few months, Kellenberger said the board should make an effort to inform the audience about their process and rationale for taking action.
"The more open you are the less suspicious people are," Kellenberger said.
Schmitt, who has been involved in the district through various construction projects, said the high school could use an upgrade. It is serving more students than it was built for and while there have been some additions, Kellenberger said the athletic facilities haven't been improved.
"That does need to be addressed, but it does need to be addressed responsibly," Kellenberger said. "We can't spend what we don't have."
All of the candidates are aware of the constraints on school funding across the state, which could be worsened by the state legislature's fix to the public pension crisis. While they agreed District 301 is on mostly steady ground, they all called for fiscal responsibility moving forward.
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