Deciding to run for a seat on the Decatur school board means giving yourself a challenge. The four new faces elected two years ago faced that challenge, and we are endorsing two new candidates in Tuesday's election.
We like the idea of board veteran Dan Oakes returning. Oakes has been candid in his evaluation of the board's performance, and we agree the last two years have been an improvement over the previous two. Extensive changes are being undertaken. Decatur is downsizing from 22 school building to 17, part of a five-year, $55 million strategic plan that realistically takes into account the possibilities of the community. Oakes will provide consistency and a sense of direction.
The two other board members whose positions are open for this election are Brian Hodges and Sherri Perkins. Both decided against running again.
Of the three newcomers seeking the two positions, we're giving our nods to Decatur attorney Regan Lewis and Andrew Taylor, economic development officer for the Economic Development Corp. of Decatur and Macon County.
The decision leaves out retired teacher Leara Evans. Evans emphasized the need for teachers to play a role within the board, which is a fine idea. But in a meeting with our editorial board and in public appearances, Evans has been light on specifics.
Lewis easily checks the boxes on community involvement, enthusiasm and interest. She's been attending the board's meetings, has a child starting in the school system this year, and is willing to listen and acknowledge when she has more to learn, which she did at debates during this campaign. She's a native, and while she was raised in Peoria, she returned and attended Millikin University. She met her husband there, and she set up her practice here.
Taylor also attended Millikin and is a Navy veteran. In his role with the Economic Development Corp., Taylor calls himself the “numbers guy,” and his assertion of a need for a numbers guy with analytical skill fits virtually every public sector service need. In addition, his job puts him in position to regularly discuss what Decatur has to offer with potential employers. From a seat on the school board, Taylor has the opportunity to see from the inside what is being done and bring in from the outside other things employers might need.
All three of our endorsees have an enthusiasm for Decatur's public schools, and are adamant that negative impressions of the community and its school system are incorrect. We support the idea of improving the perception issue and making District 61 a destination district. We look forward to the conception and execution of specific plans to make those ideas reality.
We hope the ideas put forth by Oakes, Lewis and Taylor carry them into office, and their efforts deliver the things they've promised.