BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — The Bloomington-Normal branch of the N.A.A.C.P. held an online forum for candidates running for school board in Bloomington District 87 and McLean County Unit 5 Monday, March 29.
The candidates still in the race for District 87’s school board are:
- Brigette Gibson-current board president
- Elizabeth Fox Anvick-incumbent
- Chuck Irwin-incumbent
Note: Both Fiztgerald Samedy and Jon Reed have ended their campaigns, but will still appear on the ballot.
The candidates still in the race for McLean County Unit 5’s school board are:
- Kentricia Coleman
- Stan Gozur
- Janelle Czapar (did not attend forum)
- Gavin Cunningham
- Ericka Ralston
- Jeremy DeHaii
The hour and a half long forum was moderated by First Vice President of the NAACP Bloomington-Normal Dr. Carla Campbell Jackson.
Question: How will you ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion is incorporated in every iota of our school system, especially as we emerge from the pandemic?
- Fox-Anvick: “I think the work that we have started to do with our diversity circles and engaging all the staff and having conversations around diversity and what it means to have every child have a voice at the table is one of the steps we have to take and continue to take.”
- Gibson: “I currently co-chair, our district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, I co-chair that along with our current superintendent Dr. Barry Riley, and so my goal will be continued to work to continue to work in that space. What’s really unique about the committee is made up of a diverse group of people that representing educators, folks from the community are also involved in that group. And so, it is not just a committee that we started for this year with the plans is to keep working together, ongoing to make sure that the needs of everyone represented in the community is a part of what we do, and all the things we will be a part of as a district.”
- Coleman: “I want to build on some of the work that the district has already been doing. The district has formed a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. And I have also been amongst some other parents who have been working closely with the committee as well. I want to also work with the district and partner with the district to establish specific equity goals, and ensure that there are metrics that we can leverage to really focus on the progress of those goals, and have the strategies put in place.”
- Cunningham: “First obviously is the K through 12 History curriculum subcommittee. I think that this would make sure that all students learn different parts of their history, other than the generic whitewashed history that is currently in motion. I think that it’s also important to continue to listen to our youth, continue to listen to the Black Student Unions, and continue to listen to people and especially students who have issues going on in their schools, who would not necessarily get a seat at the table beforehand.”
- DeHaii: “One thing that I think is critical with diversity inclusion and equity is the CDC has stated that the pandemic has adversely affected underprivileged, minority, and special needs students more than others, and I feel that we need to figure out a means to get these kids caught up and the resources necessary for the kids that have been left behind or have been exposed to the challenge throughout this pandemic to get them caught back up, so they have an equal opportunity to be able to achieve greatness and achieve their highest potential. So I think I think that’s one thing that we need to focus on in the short term.”
- Gozur: “I encourage everyone here to seek to elect a board that represents our community. Number two as a board member if I were elected, I’d look to fill vacancies with a diverse staff that represents the students we seek to educate, and third really utilize the diversity inclusion committee that the district already has and really empower them with every difficult decision the board has to make.”
- Ralston: “I can’t stress enough how training is very important in our communities. I can’t stress enough how we need to create diverse committees that are made up of not just teachers and educators, but of educators, parents, and students. I believe students need to be a part of it as well and I don’t believe that in creating that diverse committee that we’d fail. I believe that everyone should have a seat at the table and that everyone needs to be heard. So in creating that committee we’d be able to sit down, come to the table and come to an agreement on what things need to be addressed, like staffing. I believe we need to look at the staffing system.”
One question from a youth member addressed the mandatory teachings of classes about racism and slavery. All candidates agreed that some sort of classes on slavery and racism more than what’s currently taught in schools should become a part of their respective districts’ curriculum.
All candidates also addressed a question, asking them to condemn former candidate, Jon Reed’s exposed racist and sexist comments. Board candidates said Reed “had no place” running for a school board position with those views.