A sizable crowd showed up Tuesday night at the Fieldrest High School gymnasium in Minonk to attend the Fieldcrest "Meet the Candidates Night". The event was moderated by Fieldcrest East teacher Ryan Koehler. The night started out with each candidate giving a short speech on their reasons for running for the Fieldcrest Board of Education.
Kimberly Schmitt is a Minonk resident and a substitute teacher who said she was concerned about the school's issues. She felt that the drive for new construction is premature. She said based on the current financial of the district the school should be in survival mode. She also questioned why maintenance on the school buildings has been put off for so long to allow the buildings to become in such bad shape.
Elizabeth Palm has 3 chidren at Fieldcrest East and one at Fieldcrest West and lives between Toluca and Minonk. She said it is necessary to take a serious look at the building issue and to do what is financially appropriate. She said her experience as a bookkeeper will serve here well in addressing the financial problems of the school district.
Danielle Reichman is an incumbent board member and a resident of Toluca and has worked in a school environment for 17 years. She said she wants to make sure the school is financially solvent for the next 30 years as the school's finances will continue to be a challenge given the current financial condition of the State of Illinois. She wants to lower operation costs in the district.
Mykin Bernardi, who lives in a rural area of Toluca, said she the future of Fieldcrest is important to her. She said she wanted to keep students and buildings in each community.
Charles Lohr, who lives in Wenona, said taxes are too high and indicated he is pro-employee and pro-union. He said the taxpayers are the one's who will be paying for a new building. He questioned the school's engineering firm's opinion on the need for a new building. He thinks they padded the figures and we are being led down the wrong path.
Hollie Kearfott lives in Minonk and is a graduate of Fieldcrest and ISU and has 2 children in school. She wants to see more community spirit. She also didn't trust the school's engineering costs adding that we need to assess what the risks are for waiting on fixing the school's buildings. She said Fieldcrest's academics have declined since Fieldcrest South was honored as one of the best schools in the country several years ago.
Kimberly McKay has lived in Minonk for 15 years and has worked at State Farm for 20 years. She has one daughter at Fieldcrest West. She said from the experience she had in losing her twin boys, she realized the importance of community support. She said she wants to give back not just to the Minonk community but to the Fieldcrest community. She wants students to have the best possible education. She said she was on the building committee for the school and has attended all school board meetings since 2015.
After opening statements from the candidates, each were asked to respond to questions submitted by the audience.
Question 1: What are your thoughts on attendance centers.
Elizabeth Palm said she could not find any studies that showed any benefit from the use of attendance centers. She also said the benefit was less for younger students. She said it is costing us more money without getting any benefits.
Danielle Reichman disagreed saying that she thinks attendance centers are great. She mentioned that Fieldcrest already has attendance centers for grades 5 through 8. She thinks collaboration from attendance centers are the greatest benefit.
Mykin Bernardi said she attendance centers do keep students in the same class together but is the cost of busing children worth it?
Charles Lohr said he agreed that attendance centers are too costly.
Hollie Kearfoot said there are benefits to attendance centers but there are also inconveniences for the parents. She thinks it best to explore it for one year and then decide on its effectiveness.
Kimblerly McKay thinks the collaboration among teachers is a great benefit from attendance centers.
KImberly Schmitt said she doesn't like to see young kids being bused around but then she realized that kids from the country have been bused for years. She also thinks collaboration among teachers are the greatest benefit of attendance centers.
Question 2: How many school board meetings have you attended?
Danielle Reichman - 30
Mykin Bernardi - 2
Charles Lohr - 1
Hollie Kearfott - 2
Kimberly McKay - All since 2015
KImberly Schmitt - 3
Elizabeth Palm - 6
Question 3: Would you close a building in your community?
Charles Lohr said he doesn't want any buildings closed.
Hollie Kearfott said she would close a building if it is the best options based on the facts.
Kimberly McKay said she would approve closing a building only if it is necessary and the community supported it.
Kimberly Schmitt said she was against closing Fieldcrest South because she felt it was the best maintained building in the district. However, she said if it is fiscally responsible, she would support closing a building.
Elizabeth Palm said the school will need to make some hard decisions and if attendance continues to decline she would approve a new building.
Danielle Reichman said she doesn't want to close any buildings but thinks the best option is one central building with updated facilities.
Mykin Bernardi said it is important for each community to have a school building but if it is financially important she would support a new building.
Question 4: Can you separate community interests from school interests
Hollie Kearfott said she would put the school's interest first.
Kimberly McKay said you have to cut ties with the community and do what is right for the school.
Kimberly Schmitt said attendance centers will make it easier for communities to come together.
Elizabeth Palm she will represent the district, not just the community.
Danielle Reichman said it irks her that people have community interest over the school. She said we need to put community interests aside and work together.
Mykin Bernardi said it is the adults more than the kids who put community interests first.
Charles Lohr said as Mayor of Wenona he has brought the city to a sound financial condition and he will do the same for the school district.
Question 5: What has Fieldcrest done well and what has it done poorly?
Kimberly Schmitt said the school board managed to keep things rolling in spite of adverse financial conditions. She said the district has very little communication with new parents in the community and there needs to be more communication.
Elizabeth Palm said the school has been good on keeping up with technology. She said there is a need for a program for gifted children.
Danielle Reichman said the technology program has been very successful. She said the communities don't support each other like they should.
Mykin Bernadi agreed that the school's technology has been successful and said the communities need to be more open minded.
Charles Lohr said his grandkids are getting a good education at Fieldcrest and added that we need to question more things.
Hollie Kearfott said the kids are getting a good education with lots of scholarships being awarded to graduates. She said there is a lack of communication.
Kimberly McKay said the school has done a good job of keeping the budget under control.