CARBONDALE — In next week’s consolidated election, five candidates are vying for four seats on Carbondale’s District 95 School Board.
Board members will have a myriad issues to tackle after the election, including reintegrating students into a more regular school schedule after a year of hybrid and remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They will also be tasked with guiding a new superintendent in her new role.
Carbondale District 95 covers Carbondale Middle School, as well as Thomas, Lewis and Parrish Schools.
Voters will have three alderman candidates to choose from in the April 6 consolidated election to represent them in the city's Ward 3.
Incumbents Markida Roper, Carlton Smith and Catherine Field are running to retain their seats, while newcomers Erin Connelly and Corey Cawthon is hoping to be elected for a first term.
Connelly, an associate professor of practice at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said she is running to make both the district and the Carbondale community stronger.
“I have no specific agenda or platform I am running on other than to serve our community and do my part to help make our district stronger,” she said in a statement to The Southern.
Connelly said she believes her professional experience will help her be a good leader for the district.
“I bring to the table strong interpersonal and collaboration skills. I am dedicated and hardworking and ready to (roll) up my sleeves and get to work for the Carbondale kids," she wrote.
Cawthon said he realized his tendency to complain and not act made him part of the problems he saw. He decided that running for office would help change that.
"I have a strong desire to create solutions," he wrote to The Southern.
He said he wants to help bridge the gap between the board and school employees as well as families. He also wants to help create learning environments that are supportive of all races.
Cawthon is a neighborhood inspector for the city of Carbondale and serves as a youth ministry leader at Hopewell Baptist Church.
Roper, project coordinator for Upward Bound at SIUC, has served on the District 95 school board since her appointment in 2019 and is a parent of two district students.
Six challengers will square off next week against three incumbents hoping to retain their seats in Carbondale’s city council race.
“This is my hometown, what better way to serve a community that you were born in and remain a part of,” she said in a statement.
If retained, Roper said she hopes to foster relationships between parents, communities and schools, as well as to ensure equitable resource distribution for students and families and to build partnerships with SIU and other local agencies.
Smith, who has served on the board fo years, said he believes in empowering students with education, particularly those who may find themselves at academic risk. He said his ties to the greater Carbondale community will be an asset for the district.
“I believe my connection with the community will allow me to influence positive change for our students and the community,” Smith wrote to The Southern.
If elected to another term, Smith said he would like to help establish a system of closing the educational gap in the district as well as create a relationship with the community that would “foster positive collaboration between the community, union, parents with the school district, and other stakeholders seeking to better our school system.”
Field, who has served four years, hopes to also retain her seat on the board. With another term, Field said she would look for ways to reduce and cut deficit spending, continue to assess the ways students and their families have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as review the resources available to them to help.
Field has served on the Carbondale Planning Commission and Zoning Board. She is also the former president of the Stage Co., and currently is the coordinator for the Carbondale Racial Justice Coalition.
— Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of vacancies in the race and include comment from Cawthon.
On Twitter: @ismithreports