The eight remaining candidates vying for four spots on the Columbia School Board are divided into two camps.
Each of these factions is asking residents to vote for a ticket of candidates to fill the seats.
One slate, supported by a group called CUSD 4 Parents to Elect Ted Schrader, Scott Middelkamp, Phil Taylor, and Tyson Search, is asking citizens to vote for those candidates.
Schrader and Middelkamp are incumbents.
The other group is called Citizens for Columbia 2019. It is asking people to vote for Cress Morr, Greg Meyer, Tammy Hines and Lisa Schumacher.
Hines is an incumbent.
Jeremy Donald had previously planned to run for school board, but he withdrew from the race in January.
The CUSD 4 Parents to Elect Ted Schrader, Scott Middelkamp, Phil Taylor, and Tyson Search group said it formed because it thought it would be the best way win after they learned the other group was forming.
“We thought it would be more effective than a bunch of singular guys running on their own just because of the dollars and backing that the other folks have,” Middelkamp said, speaking for the group.
The four candidates who make up that slate have common goals.
“It’s not looking at wholesale change,” said Middelkamp, the current school board president. “In less than a year we’ll be selecting a new superintendent and (we’re) looking at the future of our schools and being able to do that in a non-agenda manner. It is really doing things for the kids.”
Another important point for that group is keeping the district fiscally responsible.
“We were one of the few school districts that didn’t have to take out loans or anything like that because of our reserves during the time we ended up paying our taxes late,” Middelkamp noted.
A final point Middelkamp highlighted was the people in the group.
“I think its important that we have folks on the board who believe in our schools and believe in the education our teachers give,” he said.
“Looking ahead, we need to have some calming leadership going forward,” he added.
Schrader is a 14-year Columbia resident who works in medical sales. He has served on the school board since last year and has three children in the district.
Middelkamp is a 15-year Columbia resident who works as a program manager with Bethesda Health Group. He has served on the school board for over 10 years and has one child still in the district and three who have already graduated.
Taylor has lived in Columbia for at least 11 years and works as a police officer in the area. He has two children in the district.
Search is a 10-year Columbia resident who works for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. He has two children in the district.
The Citizens for Columbia 2019 group said it formed because its members are dissatisfied with the priorities and performance of current board members.
“This election is about doing away with the status quo,” the group stated in a press release. “A vote for our team is a vote for independent voices with no connection to the bureaucrats in the district office who have been in place for a decade and don’t want to be held accountable by the school board. Putting Tammy Mitchell Hines, Cress Morr, Greg Meyer and Lisa Schumacher on the board will reclaim leadership of Columbia’s school district for the people of Columbia.”
The group has a three-point platform on its website.
It says the candidates’ goals are to improve the school district while keeping taxes low, commit to teachers by providing them tools and support to be successful and keep politics out of board decisions.
“We are a group of like-minded and approachable individuals determined to improve the Columbia School District,” the group’s website says. “We all bring unique skill sets and are strong proponents of transparency, open discussions and sound decision making. Our only goal is to give back to our community and act in the best interest of all our children.”
The site also lists some specific policy aims of the candidates.
“Our goal is to raise the middle school state report card from ‘underperforming’ to ‘commendable’ or even ‘exemplary,’” the website states. “Considering the taxes we pay and the exceptional quality of our teachers, these results are simply unacceptable.
“We also have the need for a curriculum coordinator, as our district currently does not have one. Our group is dedicated to playing by the rules, making sure teachers have the resources and time they need to help all children and holding our leaders accountable. It is time for new leadership and we ask for your support.”
Columbia Middle School received an underperforming designation on its state report card in October.
It got that because its students with an Individual Education Plan performed at or below the “all students” group in the lowest-performing 5 percent of all schools.
Morr is a 30-year Columbia resident who worked for the district for almost 12 years. She had three children in the district.
Meyer is a 15-year Columbia resident who has worked in fields as varied as insurance and trucking. He had children graduate from Columbia.
Hines is a lifelong Columbia resident who owns a real estate business. She has served on the school board for four years and had two children in the district.
Schumacher is a 30-year Columbia resident who has served in voluntary leadership roles in the community like with the Columbia Eagles Athletic Booster Club. She had two children educated in the district.
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