Incumbent Dan Walther has drawn a challenge from Mike Murphy in his bid for re-election to the Peoria Public Schools Board of Education.
Originally elected as the Northern District representative in 2016, Walther said he decided to seek a second five-year term because he didn’t want to “bail out” on District 150 as it faces ongoing challenges.
“I think we’ve made some progress, but we still have a long way to go and I want to be part of that,” he said, adding that getting through the COVID-19 pandemic and bringing kids back to the classrooms as soon as possible is the top priority.
“We've had high school kids that haven't been back to school now approaching a year,” he said of the district’s remote learning approach. “Even some of our brightest students, it's been a real challenge to do this online. The research shows that it's not the best way to learn, so we're going to try to do what we do to get the kids back in school.”
Murphy, a literacy advocate who volunteers with the Peoria Public Schools foundation, is opposing Walther in the April 6 consolidated election in the only contested race for a board seat. He said the time has come for the district to re-examine the virtual instruction approach and programs.
“I think that the district did a great job of coming up with the plan when we had very little time to prepare for one. And I think that for what it was and when it was needed, it was great,” he said. “But I think now we need to look at tailoring and tweaking a lot of those pieces and really getting some perspective from the teachers and from the families.”
Murphy serves as president of the “Look, It’s My Book" non-profit organization that provides books to Peoria students up to grade 4. He has helped with the district's “Read Peoria” initiative and has been a member on the Committee for Strategic Planning.
He also is the father of three Kellar Primary School students, and he feels the board needs to do a better job of sharing its message with families and listening to their concerns.
“I want to bring a perspective and a voice more so from the parents' side of things, seeing the struggles that they're going through and just representing them, as well as the teachers and faculty. I just feel like improving communication is key,” he said.
Walther said he wants to see more of his original goals from his first term come to fruition, noting the district is getting closer to achieving one of them: expanding “credit classes.”
“What I mean by that is that a student can take a class at Illinois Central College and take a class at Peoria Public Schools and get credit for both,” he said. “Within the next couple of years, I think we're going to have students who are going be able to graduate with both associate's degree and their high school diploma.”
Walther said other areas he wants to address are expanding programs at the Woodruff Technical Center, and finding creative solutions to address disciplinary concerns.
“At the Technical Center there, we’ve been doing a really good job of going into different career modes,” he said. “Not every student is designed to be a college student, and I think the career center offers a lot of hope, so I'd like to see I'd like to see us continue in that area.”
Murphy said he feels he would bring “a very fresh set of perspectives and ideas to the board.
“I have a lot of good connections with both the district and the families. “I've listened to a lot of concerns and I come up with a lot of solutions or ideas that I think that I would like to roll out with the help of the families. I think that it's important to really keep those ideas up front whenever you're trying to figure out the solution.”
In the Central District, Lynne Costic is unopposed for her first full term; she was appointed to the board in 2019.
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