Robinson Unit 2 voters have a variety of candidates from which to chose in the April 2 consolidated election.
The eight candidates are a mix of incumbents and newcomers, as well as one former board member looking to return.
The incumbents are Stacey Shew and Amy Stone. The newcomers are Michael Connelly, Dan Strauch, Mary Jane Parker, Dr. Michael Elliott II and Veronica Murphy. The former board member is Leslie Swaner.
Not all of them will be able to serve, however, regardless of the vote totals.
Under Illinois law, membership on the four Crawford County school boards are restricted to a maximum of three members from any congressional township. In other words, while voters from throughout an entire school district can vote for any candidate, there is a limit on how many candidates from specific parts of the district can actually be seated. Candidates with more votes may have to be skipped over if their area already has three representatives on the board.
Five of the Unit 2 candidates - Shew, Stone, Connelly, Strauch and Parker - are from Township 6N Range 12W.
There is already one board member, Chad Brown, from that part of the district. That means, regardless of vote totals, only two of the five candidates can be elected to the board.
Meanwhile, two candidates - Swaner and Elliott - are both from Township 7N Range 12W. Current members Dennis Inboden and Bill Sandiford are also from that area, meaning only one of the two candidates can be elected.
That leaves Murphy, who lives in Township 5N Range 11W. Up to three people from that part of the district can be elected. Murphy is essentially running unopposed for a seat on the board.
Shew has been a member of the board for six years. She was elected in 2013 and for the past two years has filled Bill Ecton's position after his resignation.
She has worked for Marathon Petroleum Company for 35 years, beginning when she was a senior at RHS. Marathon offered her a full-time position upon graduation.
Shew, her husband, Steve, and children, Stevie and Mason, all attended Unit 2 schools K-12 and are graduates of RHS.
School safety and security "is of upmost concern for everyone" both now and in the coming years, Shew said. "Unit 2 should continue to work closely with local and state law enforcement and the local fire department to have the best plans in place to handle any kind of emergency situation and should stay on track to make building improvements that will keep students and staff as secure as possible."
Also, of great concern moving forward is school financing, she explained. "All taxpayers want their money spent wisely and I hope to continue to be involved in making the best decisions for all the people within the Unit 2 school district."
Stone has been on the board eight years and is looking forward to new programs and other upcoming changes in the district.
Among other things, Stone looks forward to relocating Unit 2's bus drivers and mechanics to the district's new facility located on West Main and selling the old South Jackson Street location.
"I am interested in new programs to be offered to our students as well as potential new sports activities," she said. "Teacher negotiations will be coming up as well and I am in hopes of new incentives to draw teachers to our district.
"As always, I will make decisions that benefit our district and community as a whole," she added.
Stone is the owner of Stoney Ridge Event Center and is a real estate agent for Weber Insurance and Realty. She is a 1995 graduate of RHS and has an early childhood education degree from Wabash Valley College.
Connelly did not respond to a request for information.
Strauch, 46, is a first-time candidate for the board. He is a sergeant and daytime supervisor for the Robinson Police Department, where he has been employed for 19 years. He served 14 years as the department's K9 officer.
Strauch is a 1990 graduate of Altamont High School and a 1992 graduate of Lake Land Community College with AS in Law Enforcement. He earned a BS in Administration of Justice and Psychology in 1994 from Southern Illinois University.
He is past president of the Norman T. Richards Fraternal Order of Police and president of the police pension board. He is an at-large member of the RHS Athletic Code Committee and coordinator for the Shop with a Cop Program.
Strauch considers the safety and security of students and staff to be the main issue facing the school district in the next few years.
"I will continue to work with the school safety committee in developing safety action plans and continue to participate in those meetings and help implement those plans," he said. " I will work closely with the emergency services to ensure the safest learning environment possible."
He also thinks retaining current dedicated teachers will always be of upmost importance.
"We have to first take care of our staff so they can take care of our children," Strauch added. "We must also find innovative ways to recruit new teachers to fill the void of those we lose to retirement."
Strauch's wife, Jodi, is a nurse practitioner for Marathon. They have three children in Robinson schools. Bailey is a sophomore at Robinson High School and Addison and Avery are in third grade at Lincoln Elementary School.
Mary Jane Parker
Parker is running because she wants to make certain Unit 2 teaches have the tools they need to give local students the educations they deserve.
"Generally speaking, I just want to do my part to ensure we give teachers the tools and resources they need to provide our kids with a first-class education," she said. "Anything that helps teachers and staff provide for our kids, I am for it. If it doesn't, I'm not. My respect for the job they do is immeasurable."
If elected, Parker said she will work hard to educate herself on every issue the board faces, "to assist in making the best decisions for our children and community."
Parker is a retired nurse who previously worked at Marathon and Crawford Memorial Hospital. She has served on the Robinson Township Board. She graduated RHS in 1972 and Vincennes University two years later.
Swaner previously served 12 years as a board member, the only election position she has ever held. She is a 1968 graduate of RHS and graduated from Lockyear College of Business in 1969 with an Automated Secretarial certificate. Her parents, husband and four children all graduated from RHS, too.
Swaner retired from the IT Department at Marathon seven years ago and have the time to devote to the board. She recently met with Superintendent Josh Quick for an update on the district and to get an idea of the challenges facing the board. She also visited each of the four schools in Unit 2 and met with the building principals to discuss their concerns.
"While each of the schools has their own ideas for improvements, including additional personnel, one of the biggest challenges I found was a need for additional space at Washington Elementary School," Swaner said.
"As the district pays off existing debt over the next five to six years, the board will have the opportunity to expand buildings and services, with the possibility of reducing taxes at the same time," she added. "If elected, I commit to working with the board and the superintendent to prioritize the needs of the students, employees and taxpayers for the continued success and growth of Unit 2."
Dr. Michael Elliott II
Elliott said education has been a passion of his dating back to the many years his father spent on the Unit 2 board.
"Education is the most important thing we can supply for our youth and young adults" he said. If elected I will put my full efforts into being a part of a team that continually strives to provide the best and safest education for the students of Robinson."
Elliott is a 1987 graduation of RHS. He graduated Indiana State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1993 and earned his Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1997. He completed his residency through the University of Alabama in 2000. He has been in private practice in Robinson since the fall of 2000.
This is Elliott's first run for a public office although he has served in staff offices at Crawford Memorial Hospital, such as secondary vice chief of the medical staff. He was chief resident during the third year of his residency.
Elliott said he thinks the recently-passed bill raising minimum wage will likely be a big obstacle for schools as education financing has and always will be difficult. "How to properly address this will need to be a group effort amongst the school board members and will likely have to include some increase in fees," he said.
The safety of students, staff and administration is also a major issue. "I would need to know what is currently being done, but I think more door cameras and possibly access cards for the students and staff [could help]," he said. "CMH currently uses this system so I think it is worth exploring."
The continued use of resource officers from the Robinson City Police is a must, Elliott added.
"I wish I had a crystal ball to give us the perfect answers and predict the future, but I don't," Elliott said. "What I do have is the ability to analyze problems, listen, gather facts and data, research then communicate with others and try to find the best solution to each problem, just as I do every day in my medical practice."
Murphy, 30, said teamwork is the key to success.
"I believe that we need to work as a team. This team should include students, their families, teachers and all of the other Unit 2 employees," she said. "We should be setting goals and providing outcomes that best benefit our children and that has an end result of success for all students."
Murphy is a 2006 RHS graduate and a 2009 graduate from Wabash Valley College with a degree in Early Childhood Development. She is employed at the Maxwell House Café in Flat Rock.
She and her husband, Cody, have been married six years. Their daughter, Rylee, is 3.