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Four candidates running for school board

Arthur Graphic-Clarion of Arthur, Illinois

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Four seats are up for election on the Arthur Community Unit School District 305 Board of Education in the April 7 Consolidated Election. Four candidates are running for the positions, three incumbents and one newcomer.

Incumbents seeking another term are Jake Kamm of Lovington, Edward A. Miller of Arthur, and Beth Wiley of Arthur.

Todd Wellbaum of Atwood, who served as a member and president of the Atwood-Hammond School District prior to annexation, is seeking a first term on the Arthur school board.

All seats carry four-year terms.

Jake Kamm

Jake Kamm, one of three incumbents seeking re-election, was appointed to the Arthur-Lovington board in 2013. Prior to annexation, he served on the Lovington School Board.

He is credit manager for the grain and transportation groups at Archer Daniels Midland Company. Kamm earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Illinois.

What accomplishments are you most proud to have participated in?

I'm proud that the district has expanded academic offerings for all of our students and continues to investigate new educational opportunities. And we've been able to do this while maintaining the financial strength of the district.

We hired Kenny Schwengel as superintendent, and that continues the trend of leadership and stability in that position. I think the Arthur Lovington Atwood Hammond district has many positive elements and has a bright future.

Why are you running?

I'm a lifelong resident of the district, growing up in Atwood, graduating from Atwood-Hammond, and now living outside Lovington.

I know that the education the school district provides helps mold our students into successful citizens, which creates multiple benefits throughout the area.

We have a great school district with outstanding students and staff. I feel that I have the experience and knowledge to help not only maintain the district but to look for improvement in the challenging times in the future.

List three issues facing the board of education and how you would resolve each.

I believe that there is one main overriding challenge for the district: to provide the best possible education for all of our students during the current state budget problems. Education opportunities are directly affected by the financial condition of the State of Illinois.

Not only has the state reduced funding to the district, but actual payments are increasingly inconsistent. Payments that have been promised are sometimes delayed by months. The state is forcing the district to increase its' reliance on local resources.

We do know the state's problems will get worse before getting better. It is difficult to make plans for an upcoming year when we are unable to know how the state's actions will affect the district in the current year.

Most people don't like to talk about the fiscal operations of a school district, but fiscal health affects any plan going forward. The current board has been proactive in taking steps to ensure the fiscal stability of the district, and the future board will need to be vigilant in reviewing actions to maintain the district's financial health.

Why should voters elect you?

I have the experience and training to help the district provide the best opportunities for students. I know how to analyze a situation to arrive at the best decision. And I know that as a board, the decisions we make may be unpopular or unpleasant, but the best interests of the students and the entire district need to be kept in focus.

Edward A. Miller

Ed Miller of rural Arthur is seeking his second term on the school board. He did not respond to the Graphic-Clarion's questionnaire.

Todd Wellbaum

Todd Tyler Wellbaum of Atwood is a former member and president of the Atwood - Hammond Board of Education He is maintenance manager for Lyondell basell in rural Tuscola.

Wellbaum has an AAS in Civil Engineering and a BS in Organizational Leadership.

Why are you running?

I am running for election to the school board to be part of the team that determines the best education possible for all the students in our district to prepare them for the next level in their lives.

List three issues facing your board and how you would resolve each:

1. Public Education Funding. State funding continues to be a challenge for all school districts in down-state Illinois. It is important that we continue to keep our district leaders represented in the events taking place in the state government so we can be active in supporting the message to improve school funding today and in the future.

As a school board we need to be good stewards of the funding provided by the taxpayers in our district to allocate and utilize funding to maximize the return on our investments.

2. Continuous Improvement. We should leverage the educational opportunities for all students to provide them with a well-balanced learning experience.

The recent annexation has brought several communities into one new district. We should continue to evaluate the additional opportunities that have been created and provide continuous improvement and positive change as new ideas and advances are identified by all levels of our district professionals.

3. Positive and Safe Learning Environment. Communication in our district is very important and is one of the best ways to provide a positive and safe learning environment.

We need to listen to teachers, students, administrators, and other district employees to capture their ideas on how to improve in all areas.

We need to continue to look for ways to keep the community involved to be a part of the learning experience for the students. While we currently have strong support groups, we should continue to look for avenues to engage the community to be part of the education process for our future leaders and citizens in the workplace for years to come.

Why should voters elect you?

I am running for the position of school board to be a part of the leadership team that sets direction for the district in providing a positive learning environment for the students.

Education has changed over the past few years with all the advances in technology and it is important to implement changes that will engage the students so they want to learn and advance.

I also want to make sure we have a very well-rounded educational process. We need to prepare our students for the next level in their lives after high school which means providing higher level education opportunities along with skills to prepare them for the workforce.

I have been involved in public service organizations in the past including Chamber of Commerce, Little League, and Atwood-Hammond school board which has helped me understand that communication is very important to the success of all public positions.

My desire is to be part of the board that continuously improves the educational process and learning environment for the district and all its employees.

Beth Wiley

Wiley is an incumbent seeking re-election to the Arthur Lovington Atwood Hammond Board of Education. She is office manager at The Great Pumpkin Patch.

Wiley earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Economics at the University of Illinois.

She has served on the school board for four years.

Why are you running?

Ultimately, I am running for re-election to give something back to the school district that gave me so much. I want to help continue the board's hard work of being good stewards of taxpayer money, to ensure that Arthur Community Unit School District 305 continues to be the best district possible and always do what's best for the students in our district.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

The annexations of Lovington (this happened at the same time as I was previously elected) and the annexation of Atwood-Hammond, the implementation of the 1:1 device initiative, and the building addition of the junior high wing at Arthur Grade School.

List three issues facing the board:

The majority of issues facing the district involve money, and there are no simple solutions. As the state continues to fall short of its commitments and makes further cuts in our funding, our focus has to continue to be on how we do the best for the students in our district.

We need to be creative in finding alternative revenue sources, and we absolutely have to be fiscally responsible in spending taxpayer money.

Fortunately, we live in a district with communities that understand the needs of the schools and our reliance on local funding. Local funding far out-weighs what we receive from the state of Illinois.

Why should voters elect you?

I have a vested interest in the school district: my children, ages 9, 5 and 2 attend school here and will continue to.

My past service experience includes member of Arthur Woman's Club, 15 years, past president and past vice president; lifetime member of Arthur United Methodist Church, past Youth Group leader for 13 years, past member of various committees, current media director; college chapter director, Delta Zeta Sorority, Eastern Illinois University, 14 years; and Arthur Community Foundation, board member for 3 years, since its inception.

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Original Publication Date: March 25, 2015

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