ROCK ISLAND — Candidates seeking the four open seats on the Rock Island-Milan school board addressed a variety of topics Thursday night.|
All but one have board experience. David K. Rockwell, James E. Bishop, James E. Veasey are current board members and Earl Strupp Jr. is a past member. Kevin R. Matter Jr. is a newcomer to the field.
All but Mr. Matter attended Thursday's forum, addressing everything from improving elementary school test scores to funding and charter schools.
Most of the four candidates attending have children who went through or now attend Rock Island schools. They all stressed the importance of education and said the district provides a good one. They also praised the faculty, staff and administration, stating, generally, the district is striving in the right direction.
But they also said there was more to be done. An achievement gap remains between minority students and others, and late state funding is requiring regular cuts of school budgets.
"We're never at a point where we should be satisfied with what we're doing," Mr. Rockwell said. The achievement gap has been a persistent problem, he said. Among the things that need to be done is to show students and their families that education is important.
Mr. Strupp stressed the importance of instilling a love of learning in the students, saying it was part of the answer to many issues.He asked the audience to think of the teacher who most engaged them.
"It's the teacher; that's the key to it," he said.
Mr. Veasey said he believed it is possible to meet the challenges faced by the Rock Island schools. He said parents need to be more involved and the district needs to provide tools that help its best teachers and mentors to help those needing improvement.
"I think we can get it done," he said.
Mr. Bishop said work is being done on the district's curriculum, with changes coming in how students are tested.
"We are a work in progress," he said. "The school board addresses this every second."
He also said late state funding has been a chronic problem for schools across Illinois, forcing districts to save money wherever they can. Cuts within the district, he said, aremade with the best interest of students in mind.
His fellow candidates agreed, withMr. Rockwell calling the cuts "painful" and Mr. Veasey saying the district is trying to focus on cuts that hurt the least.
"The school board must hold its nose and vote for things that will hut the children the least," Mr. Strupp said.
The four also said selling the former Audubon Elementary School at 2601 18th Ave. to Fareway Stores Inc. was a good decision.
About 20 people attended the forum, which was cohosted by the Rock Island County NAACP and the Community Caring Conference at the Martin Luther King Center in Rock Island.
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