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Thursday, March 24, 2011 06:30 pm

Candidates eager to lead District 186

Four school board seats up for grabs

On April 5, voters in four of seven sub-districts will be asked to choose who they want representing them on District 186’s school board for the next two years. The 10 candidates, all of whom participated in a recent Springfield Parents for Public Schools forum, have varied backgrounds and professions but all say their past experiences make them the most qualified for guiding Springfield schools.

In each of two sub-districts, two fresh faces are seeking to fill the soon-to-be vacated positions of Cindy Tate, who represents an area west of Washington Park in District 1, and Cheryl Wise, whose District 5 hosts the Capitol near its center. Both Tate and Wise, once the board president, are about to complete their second four-year terms.

Vying for Tate’s position are Katie Anselment, a former legislative education policy and budget analyst, and Lisa Funderburg, a lawyer and past president of the Springfield Public Schools Foundation. Anselment, who has three children under the age of five, says her work in education policy and multi-million dollar budget work makes her the most qualified candidate. Funderburg has three children still in Springfield Public Schools and touts her 13 years of involvement with the district and community. “For me, running for school board is just an extension of those volunteer commitments and my community involvement,” she says.

Vying for Wise’s seat on the board are Donna Moore and Candace Mueller. Moore has seven children – three who did or are attending Springfield High School and four who are finishing out a faith-based elementary education at parochial school. Moore owns Curves for Women and is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard. Moore says her military duties involving human relations, equal opportunity, transportation, food service and security make her well equipped to serve the school district. For the district, she wants to develop a master plan, improve public relations and expand community relationships. Her opposing candidate, Candace Mueller, the mother of two college students who attended public schools, now works for the Illinois Board of Higher Education, last year served as a Parent Teacher Organization vice-president and is a trustee for Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois. “This is the best elected office possible for a child advocate and a mother,” says Mueller. “Every decision that you make is related to needs of your children, the schoolchildren, the future children in the buildings, the graduates and of course their families, and then also the economy and the positive nature of your community.”

Hoping to represent the north end’s Grandview area, District 3, are four candidates, including 19-year-old write-in candidate Louis Day, who started a student advisement committee while attending Lanphier High School and is now a pre-law student at Benedictine University. Jamie Sisti, a physician services representative for Illinois Health Connect, is the incumbent, having been appointed in September to finish Art Moore’s unexpired term. Part of a family of educators and the mother of two students, Sisti says her multi-faceted volunteer work within the district allows her to see “a broader view of each side and each part of District 186.” Blake Handley, a Department of Corrections laborer, and Scott McFarland, a resources and information manager for the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, are also challenging Sisti. Handley, the father of two students, says his experience with labor and construction could help the district as it pursues its future construction plans. McFarland, who studied to become a teacher and is the father of one, highlights his work in organizing volunteers as a potential asset to the board.

In District 7, an area encompassing parts of Lake Springfield and stretching west to Southern View, current board president Bill Looby is facing opposition from Jerald Jacobs. Looby, political director for the Illinois American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), says he sees the board as a policy-making group and cites the board’s efforts since he was elected four years ago to protect fund balances, reform alternative education and develop a policy for budget transparency and accountability. Jacobs, a self-employed civil engineer, says that in the last four years many issues, such as equity from school to school, haven’t been resolved. “We need some new people to take a look at these questions,” he says.

Contact Rachel Wells at rwells@illinoistimes.com.

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