Six candidates in BBCHS race

March 24, 2019

BRADLEY — Three incumbents on the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School board and three challengers are vying for four at-large board positions in the April 2 election.

Board President Hollice Clark and members Michael O’Gorman and Justin Caldwell are on the ballot with Todd Kuntz, Jennifer Edmonds and John Steinberg.

The Daily Journal submitted questionnaires to the candidates:


AGE: 42

OCCUPATION: Director of Workforce Health for Riverside Medical Center, adjunct professor for Olivet Nazarene University

EXPERIENCE: 12 years with Riverside, 10 years as adjunct for ONU, five years on Bradley Elementary School District 61 Board of Education, current BBCHS board member

EDUCATION: Doctoral degree in ethical educational leadership, master’s in organizational leadership

1. Why are you running for school board?

I have a love for my community and want to continue to serve the community in this capacity. I have a love for education and feel that our kids in this community deserve the best possible for their education needs. I want to work with the community, the board and the staff in order to help prepare our kids for their future and give them unlimited opportunities so they can succeed.

2. What is the school district’s biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges facing our district is trying to provide as many opportunities to our kids in the district whether it be the curriculum, learning facilities, extracurricular opportunities and at the same time being conscious of the financial aspects related to these provisions while maintaining a fiscally sound school district.

3. What improvements would you make to the school district?

We need to continue the focus on the relationship of the students, parents and the community. When we as a district can help bring these three together, we began to see change and support for the betterment of our students. This support and collaboration help to shape the path for continued success academically and financially for our students and the district respectively.


AGE: 53

OCCUPATION: Executive director, Bourbonnais Township Park District

EXPERIENCE: Served on the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community School Board for 17 years. Certified football and basketball official through the Illinois High School Association.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in political administration and business administration with a concentration in public administration from Truman State University and Master of Public Administration from Governors State University.

1. Why are you running for school board?

This past year, we adopted a new strategic plan for the school. I would like to see the full implementation of Vision 307. In addition, would like to continue to build on the successes that the school has completed in the past 17 years.

2. What is the school district’s biggest challenges?

With the announcement from two major industries in our area, we must make sure that new families will choose BBCHS as their school of choice and continue to serve as an economic engine for our community. This will only be accomplished by finding solutions for an aging infrastructure that allow for our students to have the best education possible with the least impact to the local taxpayers. Finally, we need to continue to remove barriers so that our students have the greatest opportunities in whatever path they choose after they leave BBCHS.

3. What improvement would you make to the school district?

First and foremost, we need to continue our history of being fiscally responsible while providing the best possible education and teachers for our students. Continue in our recruitment of a diverse teaching staff to reflect our student and community population, while supporting our teaching staff with the tools that they need to develop and mentor our students to be college-, career- and life-ready. We need to continue to improve working with parents and community partners on engagement with BBCHS so that our students are ready to lead our community into the future.


AGE: 59

OCCUPATION: Retired educator and administrator; currently, part-time technician for Bushue Human Resources

EXPERIENCE: Career was in education, starting as a second-grade teacher at LeVasseur Elementary in Bourbonnais. After teaching for 19 years, worked for the Illinois State Board of Education for three years as an educator in residence, working with schools with low performance and high needs. From there, became the principal at Herscher Grade School, serving four years in that position before taking on the role of the director of curriculum for Herscher Community Unit School District 2 for seven years, before retiring in 2014. Have served as director with the BBCHS Academic Foundation for more than 10 years. Have been actively involved with my BBCHS class reunions for 40 years. A product of the BBCHS Fine Arts Department, and have used musical skills as third flute-piccolo chair in the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra since 1982. Served as the retired chair for the Illinois Principals Association’s Three Rivers Region, and am an active retired member of the IPA. Volunteer for Agape Community Outreach Missions, which serves the needy in area.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in education from Eastern Illinois University, 1981; Master of Arts in education from Governors State University, 1990; Master of Arts in educational administration from Governors State University, 2002

1. Why are you running for school board?

I am running for the BBCHS school board to give back to my community. I feel my experience in education will serve the board of education when making important decisions for our students. My experience with kindergarten to high school will provide prospective for future educational decisions at BBCHS. I am running for the board of education in hopes to help continue what BBCHS offers to our students and to be an active board member for all BBCHS constituents and the community.

2. What is the school district’s biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges that BBCHS faces is being able to serve the students with the best teachers and staff, up-to-date facilities, current technology, challenging curriculum and a variety of extracurricular activities while staying within a budget that supports our taxpayers.

3. What improvements would you make to the school district?

Any improvements I may be able to make to the school district as a BBCHS school board member would be in combination with the hard-working and dedicated board of education that currently serves.


AGE: 39

OCCUPATION: Manager at Clifton Chemical and Water Treatment

EXPERIENCE: Village of Chebanse trustee, Chebanse and Clifton Lions Club member, Chebanse Little League director

EDUCATION: Clifton Central High School, Carpenters Union Trade School

1. Why are you running for school board?

The student’s education should be our primary focus. I support the current board’s vision that all students will be prepared for success in college and career readiness. I want to help continue to set high academic expectations and help develop programs focused on life after graduation.

2. What is the school district’s biggest challenge?

With a community that is continuously growing due to expansions of local businesses, our current facility is undersized and dangerously outdated for the students that currently attend. By expanding and upgrading our current building, we can help our children be more comfortable in their learning environment.

3. What improvements would you make to the school district?

I would like to implement students’ suggestions, allow students to express ideas on how to improve their experience at BBCHS. I would also like to help continue to improve the district’s communication with stakeholders and preparing students for both college and careers.


AGE: 52

OCCUPATION: President of Kankakee Nursery Co. in Aroma Park

EDUCATION: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bachelor of Science in finance; DePaul University Chicago, MBA

EXPERIENCE: Member of BBCHS school board since 2014; three children have attended BBCHS, two currently; wife, Ann, is a teacher in Bourbonnais Elementary School District; formerly regional president of Centrue Bank and community president of National City Bank. Current community activities: Kankakee County Economic Development Association, treasurer; Riverside Healthcare’s Oakside Corp. board of directors; Riverside Healthcare Investment Committee member. Past community activities: Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra Association, treasurer; Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, treasurer; Kankakee Development Corp., president; Amita St. Mary’s Foundation, board of directors

1. Why are you running for school board?

I have been on the BBCHS school board since 2014. Public education is a cornerstone of our society. Education is critical to success at all stages of life. Whether moving onto college or joining the workforce, high school is the first serious test for students in a quasi-adult environment. I look forward to making a positive impact on the type of secondary education my children and those of our community will have. Since our children currently attend BBCHS, my wife and I are involved in the school’s academics and activities making us deeply aware of those issues which directly affect students and parents. I believe the combination of my professional experience and parental interest gives me a distinct advantage at balancing the needs of the community, taxpayers, parents and students. I need BBCHS to thrive academically and administratively because my feet are firmly in all camps of concerned parties — as an employer, as a taxpayer and as a parent. The success of BBCHS affects all of us.

2. What is the school district’s biggest challenge?

Most people might believe BBCHS’s challenges would be poor finances or the lack of air conditioning in our building. In fact, we are on solid financial footing and have begun a process for the community to determine our long-term building situation. I believe the biggest challenge to BBCHS is the unnerving atmosphere our high-schoolers face. The impact of difficult home lives, the influence of social media, a growing special needs population, parents’ difficult economic situations, the unstable future job prospects for students and the unbelievably high cost of college have combined to put this generation of high-schoolers at tremendous risk. Society and government have pushed our school systems to be involved in our children’s lives to an extent most of us never dreamed. High school has always been more than the “Three R’s,” but the level of services high schools must provide today is staggering. The challenge to BBCHS is threefold: (1) how to find, maintain and train teachers and staff to deal with these concerns; (2) how to not let these non-classroom issues overwhelm delivering a positive academic environment; and (3) how to fund the increasing costs associated with these problems. BBCHS has responded to these challenges by in part beginning social and emotional learning content, expanding social worker and counselor staffs and reconfiguring the Student Affairs Department to work more holistically with students. However, these challenges are long term and will require creative and consistent solutions. As a school board we will need to understand how this will affect our future decision-making.

3. What improvements would you make to the school district?

The role of the school board is to provide oversight of the school’s administration. We balance the desires and resources of the community with the needs of the students and the requirements of the state. Since joining the school board in 2014, my focus has been on the process the school administration and board use to analyze and make decisions. I have advocated for greater use of metrics to measure academic and teacher performance. I have pushed for greater analysis of budgetary impact of decisions and the methods used to create those decisions. I backed the development of the district’s strategic plan, Vision 307, the most comprehensive plan in the district’s history. Vision 307 creates a process to identify and tackle our major challenges. The strategic plan also creates a framework to ensure we are forward thinking in all activities. Recommendations put forth by the administration must have established guidelines that lead to thoughtful and careful consideration of decisions. Ensuring that decision-making process is rigorous will continue to be my area of concentration.


AGE: 42

OCCUPATION: Union machine operator for CSL Behring

EXPERIENCE: Experience revolved around delivering to the people. Says he delivered safety and security when he worked for DHS/TSA. Also owned a photography business. Delivered charitable donations when volunteering for various charities such as March of Dimes and St. Baldrick’s.

EDUCATION: Double majored in criminal justice and philosophy at University of Illinois at Chicago

1. Why are you running for school board?

The reason for me running for school board is two parts. My first reason is to give a voice to the students. I have received many messages from current and former students about how they are bullied by students and at times staff. They feel ignored when they speak up. These students are to the point where they “hate” their time in high school. Not just the usual teens not wanting to be in school but hating what should be some of the best years of their life. We are failing these students and I want to give them a voice. It is time we listen to them and be there for them. My second reason for running is because this school is outdated. We are trying to compete with modern-day competition while training in a 1940s school. We need to find a way to improve our educational facility to accommodate a growing community and prepare the students for the future. But we cannot rely on taxpayers to always have to cover the bill. We need to find other ways to bring in revenue while showing fiscal responsibility. We need to protect and educate our children and invest in their future.

2. What is the school district’s biggest challenge?

Our community is expanding and we are ill-prepared to handle this expansion. We need to invest in the children and protect them while not pickpocketing the taxpayers.

3. What improvements would you make to the school district?

I want to work with my fellow board members to find a way to advance BBCHS into the future. Taxpayers should never be the first we turned to. I will offer a new eye to look at an ongoing problem. People have been complaining about the need to expand and renovate for years, and I hope to bring a new vision on how to improve BBCHS.