Consolidation with the Palestine school district appears to be at the forefront of the minds of four candidates for Hutsonville Unit 1 school board.
Three incumbents are seeking new terms on the board, while one newcomer seeks to be elected to it in the April 8 consolidated election.
Robinson Police Chief Chad Weaver, a Hutsonville resident, is on the ballot for his first political position. Chad Guyer and Travis Matthews are both seeking their third terms on the board, while board president Tina Callaway is running for her seventh term.
Whoever is elected will be responsible for guiding Unit 1 as it and Unit 3 move closer to a vote on consolidation.
Weaver, 42, said that his perception of the school's top issues come from the outside looking in. Having graduated from Hutsonville and with his children graduating or currently attending, his main concerns are with the finances and safety.
"The State of Illinois is a fiscal mess and one of the most significant impacts of this is in the schools and it is challenging enough managing the complexities of a school without inconsistencies in state payments," Weaver said. "Our district has managed to make the most of this situation by taking proactive measures and has continued to provide an excellent level of education. I would continue this and maintain our fiscal responsibilities."
As for school safety, Weaver said his background as a police officer makes this an important issue for him.
"A safe school is paramount to a student receiving a quality education," he said. "And my experience will be valuable in giving this issue new insight."
The importance of the possible consolidation with Palestine Unit 3 is not lost on Weaver. Both districts have a responsibility to provide voters with information about consolidation so voters can make the most informed decisions, he said. Even after a vote has taken place, the challenges will not end there. Both districts should be obligated to make the transition a successful one, if the vote is approved.
"My approach to handling this issue will require me being a student and learning everything I can about the suggested consolidation," Weaver said. "As a school board member, I would need to be open minded and make a decision that is best for today's school children and the school children of the future."
Weaver has also served as a volunteer fireman with the Hutsonville Fire Department for 10 years. He is the former Hutsonville police chief and been involved with the 911 board. He has also been a volunteer basketball and T-ball coach in Hutsonville.
Weaver and his wife, Stephenie, have been married for 11 years. They have five children, including two foster children.
Guyer, 43, is seeking his third term on the board and is also a member of the Committee of Ten. Guyer said that he sees consolidation of the Hutsonville and Palestine school districts as the best way to continue offering high quality education expected from both schools.
"With three kids of my own still attending Hutsonville I am committed to putting the education of the kids in our district as my top priority," Guyer explained. "That is why I believe consolidation between Hutsonville and Palestine must happen."
He added that the consolidation issue is the most important one for the school, but there are two more which need to be noted. Declining enrollment and trending teacher shortages across the state have made it difficult for colleges to recruit students for a teaching major.
"Changes at the state level need to be made to reduce regulations that discourage graduates from going into teaching," Guyer said. "At a local level, we need to be diligent about promoting our school to encourage good qualified candidates to apply for job openings."
Fortunately, the school district has so many committed teachers and administrators, he said.
Guyer also wants to seek finding ways to encourage home schooled children to attend Hutsonville, but first administrators must see things from the students' view. "We need to have a better understanding of why people are choosing home school over public school," Guyer said.
State budgetary concerns have often been a topic during school board meetings, and he described the difficulties trying to procure financial aid.
"Determining when and how much you will actually receive from the state has been like trying to hit a moving target," Guyer said. "Unfortunately, we don't have much control over what gets paid and what doesn't, yet we are forced to live with the consequences of the state's shortfalls."
Guyer has been on the board for eight years. He has also spent two years as part of the Pioneer Agency Council Advisory Panel and a member and church trustee at the Grace Project, Marshall. He and his wife, Shanna, have three children Sydney, Garrett and Haley.
Matthews, 44, is seeking his third term on the board. Though not on the main Committee of Ten, Matthews has made it his mission to attend every meeting to best understand the issues facing both districts.
Matthews said past history in his life makes him feel that consolidation is the best solution for both districts.
"I was a seventh grade student at Flat Rock in the mid-1980s when the school was closed, thus giving me an understanding of both parent's and student's concerns on this issue," Matthews said. He added he is willing to aid the committee in any ways he can as a boar and community member.
Since 1998, Matthews has lived in the Hutsonville district with his wife, Shandy, a Hutsonville graduate, and his four children, Trent, Paige, Marah and Ashlyn Matthews. With his children attending Hutsonville, Matthews is aware of how important it is for parents to be involved in their children's schooling.
"Teaching and learning begin at home. I am approaching this subject with helping parents understand their importance in their children's learning and lives in general," he said.
Matthews goal for the district is to make sure there is an ongoing communication system setup between parents and the school which affect issues related to this subject.
Aside from his school board duties, Matthews has also been an instructor at Lincoln Trail College for nearly 18 years. This position has given him a great vantage point to see how the state's reduced budgets affect colleges throughout the state. Matthews said his experience dealing with increased workloads gives him insight on what teachers and administrators are facing.
"I will approach this issue with the goal of preserving the educational offerings and learning experiences for students," Matthews said.
Matthews has also served as a volunteer assistant basketball coach for Hutsonville Grade School and for summer recreational leagues when his children competed.
He, his wife and children are active members of the Olive Branch Baptist Church.
Callaway, 51, has been on the board since November 1993. She has been the president since 1997 and served on the Finance and Policy committees.
"Maintaining a balanced budget while combatting a declining enrollment is one of my concerns," Callaway said.
Callaway is also seeking to improve the district's curriculum by continuing to offer core classes, while also increasing the choice of electives offered through online learning. She is also wanting to create extracurricular opportunities which enrich education experiences of students.
In the past, Callaway has had a varied career serving in Hutsonville. She has been village president since 2013-17 and was village clerk from 1997 to 2013.
She is a member of the Hutsonville High School Alumni Association, Hutsonville Chamber of Commerce, Crawford County Republicans and member and treasurer of West Union Christian Church.