School board candidates run unopposed

CONNIE GOLDSMITH
Age: 46
Occupation: Licensed clinical professional counselor

Education: Graduated from Gosnell High School in Gosnell, Ark.; bachelor’s degree in sociology from Arkansas State University and master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Family: Husband, Curt; son, Case (14); and stepdaughters Holly (24) and Heidi (21).
Church, club memberships: Member of Metro Community Church, Soroptimist International of Vandalia, Vandalia Alumni and Friends Foundation, Fayette County Republican Women’s Club and Fayette County YMCA.
Offices held in the past, elected and otherwise, and when you have held those offices: Member of the Vandalia Board of Education since June 2009; treasurer of the Republican Women’s Club since January 2009; Soroptimist International of Vandalia board since 2014; and Vandalia Alumni and Friend’s Foundation Board since  2014. Clinical coordinator at Prairie Counseling Center since 2006.
Why did you decide to run for re-election?
I have a child in the Vandalia School District and want to provide the best quality education attainable for the students in our district. I am also a property owner and want to continue to be a good steward of our resources and not increase the tax burden on district residents. I have a strong belief that service to one’s community is important and it’s a priority for me.
What types of experience and/or qualities can you bring to the office you are seeking, and how can that experience or qualities help you serve the residents of the Vandalia School District?  
My experience as a mother leads me to strive to positively impact the learning opportunities and educational environment for the students in our school. My career as a counselor for the past 22 years has given me vast experience in working with people, problem-solving and supervising, which are assets for a board member.
I have also been on the school board for almost eight years. I believe that board experience is even more critical now with the tough decisions facing our school due to the ever-growing state fiscal situation.
I consider myself to be an objective person who is willing to consider all ideas whether they come from teachers, students, parents, community members or administrators. I am aware that those involved with our school share a common goal of wanting to do what is best for our students and school.
What do you see as the key issues facing the school district in the near future, and how do you see the district addressing those issues?
The biggest issue I see facing the board of education is the financial condition of the state and its affect on our public education system. There is continual fear of further cuts and a systemic problem with the inequity of the formula to determine GSA (General State Aid). With the significant decline in state funding, it has been an ongoing struggle for area school districts.
The challenge of providing a quality education with diminishing funds is a reality for our school board. It is important that we make sound financial decisions in categorical areas which are under local control, decisions that prioritize our students and lay a foundation for future success. My goal is to provide a rational voice and sound judgment while making the decisions that affect our students and district. It is also important that I, as a board member and parent, advocate for our school district and voice our school needs to those in Springfield making budget decisions.
Along with being an advocate for our school, I will also support and work with those who are facilitating bringing together our district staff, parents, and community members to identify community solutions to the financial problems facing our district.
What do you believe should be the district’s priorities in the next few years?
I would like to continue to prioritize our technology initiative and continue to expand our Chromebook use to additional grades. I feel that improving our students’ access to technology will increase experience and provide a stronger foundation for the future success of our students in the work force, college and vocational schools.
Another priority over the next few years will be hiring a new superintendent with the upcoming retirement of Rich Well after the 2017-18 school year. It will be important to hire someone who will continue the progress that has been made, continue to advocate for our school district and be an asset to our school system.
Lastly, it is always important to keep a solid focus on maintaining our budget without providing a hardship to taxpayers.

JOHN W. CAMPBELL
Age: 49
Occupation: Farmer.
Education: Graduate of Vandalia Community High School, 1985, and Greenville College, 1989.
Family: Wife, Whitney; and daughters, Alexa and Caitlyn.
Church, club memberships: Attend Greenville Free Methodist Church.
Offices held in the past, elected and otherwise: Vandalia Board of Education member, 2013-present; and Bear Grove Drainage District secretary/treasurer.
Why did you decide to run for re-election?
Being on the board for the past four years has been an enjoyable experience. I believe the work that has been done over this time has directly affected the youth of Vandalia in a very positive way. And I want to continue to invest my time to help the students in the district.
What types of experience and/or qualities can you bring to the office you are seeking, and how can that experience or qualities help you serve the residents of the Vandalia School District?
Having four years of experience is a great attribute. Talking and debating with the other board members gives me a chance to look at new ideas. I enter each and every meeting with an open mind, and I am constantly working to do what is best for the students.
What do you see as the key issues facing the school district in the near future, and how do you see the district addressing those issues?
Each year, we are constantly facing the financial woes surrounding the state funding. With retirements coming with the superintendent and district business manager, we, as a board, are going to have to stay focused on finding the right people to fill these positions, and continue the positive work that has been done with the limited resources provided to us.
What do you believe should be the district’s priorities in the next few years?
Hiring a new superintendent who will continue to manage the district with state aid; who also works well with the school board and school district staff; and has the students’ well-being as a priority.
Another priority is to continue to improve technology and resources throughout the district with limited funds.

JOE LAWSON
Age: 61
Occupation: Minister
Education: Graduate of Vandalia Community High School, 1973; Kaskaskia College; bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University; and master’s degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Family: Wife, Joy McClure Lawson; four children; and eight Lawson grandchildren and nine McClure grandchildren.
Church, club memberships: Bethel Baptist Church.
Offices held in the past, elected and otherwise: Vandalia Board of Education member for 15 years, and board secretary for several years.
Why did you decide to run for re-election?
I am running for re-election because I am interested in being a part of making our school district great. I believe in our schools and want to provide the best education for each of our students. I want to see the completion of the Chromebooks program at all levels and improve not only technology but raise the bar in some other areas of our district.
What types of experience and/or qualities can you bring to the office you are seeking, and how can that experience or qualities help you serve the residents of the Vandalia School District?
My experience on the board allows me to navigate the tedious and frustrating state government and State Board of Education mandates, laws and rules. My ability to think outside normal lines can be advantageous in looking for solutions to challenges that arise. I believe that my rural background aids me in seeing the potential of our students. I am committed to serve our residents, both student and taxpayer.
What do you see as the key issues facing the school district in the near future, and how do you see the district addressing those issues?
The key issues that I see for our district are: equitable funding for education; improving and keeping pace with getting technology into the hands of our students; and the hiring of a new superintendent. Employing and retaining quality teachers and administrators is another key issue.
What do you believe should be the district’s priorities in the next few years?
• Employing and maintaining quality teachers and administrators.
• Equitable funding and responsible spending/budgeting.
• Improving and keeping pace with technology.
• Preparing our students for the next level after graduations, whether it be the work force, technical school or college. Our district succeeds when the student succeeds after graduation.
 

Connie Goldsmith

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