The John A Logan College Board of Trustee’s has three openings and 5 candidates wanting a seat.
The League of Women’s voters and the Carbondale Public Library hosted a virtual candidate forum for the 5 candidates hoping to fill three board of trustee positions at John A Logan College.
Board member Jacob Rendleman was unable to attend the forum and directed everyone to his facebook page for information about his candidacy.
The four candidates who did participate are current board member Glenn Poshard who has an extensive background in education and politics.
Brent Clark, who has spent more than thirty years in education, he's presently the executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators.
Angelo Hightower, whose background includes law enforcement, Marion city commissioner and the Marion Board of Education.
And John Streuter, whose has more than thirty years of experience in the banking industry.
When the candidates were asked if Logan meets the employment and workforce needs of the region, Brent Clark’s response is to work with high school students to design a strategy for what happens to them after high school.
“Every student coming out of high school would have some plan to attend college, possibly at John A Logan, possibly at another institution, possibly construction trades.”
Angelo Hightower also believes students need to plan their future before starting college.
“I think that every student should have a plan and we have to put as much focus on vocational as much as we do regular academic education, one thing I would like to do is partner with local governments and start a fund that incentivizes going to college for a trade or academic program.”
Glenn Poshard wants to continue to build and develop in areas that have proven to be successful for students at John A Logan College.
“Areas where Logan has been successful include the retraining of laid off coal miners, more recently the healthcare industry and creating nursing programs with SIU Edwardsville and developing a cyber security program which many businesses need in this day and time.”
John Streuter (Streeter) wants to revive trade classes that many high schools are eliminating.
“The college in the past has had a robust business and industry program and I think we need to rebuild that program to meet the needs of our growing region, high schools are reducing trades class, so that’s an area where the college can reinvest in the trades.”
Candidates were also asked how they plan to address declining enrollment and revenue from the effects of COVID-19.
Hightower thinks the college should look into night classes to provide more opportunities to attract more students.
“As you know there are a lot of non-traditional college students who have to work and if you end the school day 4 or 5 o’clock then that’s not going to tap into a lot of potential students and of coarse when you don’t tap into more students you’re going to lose out on revenue, so I think that’s something we need to look at.”
Pohard wants to target low income students because he says there’s a more than 20 percent increase high school graduates that do not go straight to college.
“We must do intensive marketing and outreach to these impacted populations to get them back in school, this is a high priority for rebuilding enrollment and therefore finances for the college, marketing and outreach are crucial to rebuilding enrollment.”
Streuter wants to move more classes on-line to avoid the interruptions that came from the pandemic.
“A future health crisis may be around the corner so we must prepare for the possibility of a new crisis, institutions of higher education are turning towards on-line degrees, this has to be a focus that the college looks to fulfill in the next 2 to 3 years.”
Clark has a more extensive plan to tackle enrollment.
“The college needs a comprehensive strategic plan with the primary pillar being that of addressing enrollment, without a plan I’m fearful that the college will continue to drift and if elected I’ll be leading the charge for a well-developed strategic plan to address the enrollment decline.”
The candidates were asked what the board members boundaries should be when it comes to the daily operations and staffing of the college.
Streuter believes board members should set policies and goals for the college and leave daily operations to the administration.
“With regards to hiring, again they should leave the hiring practices to the administration that they have set forth, but the board will play an active role in hiring administration that will run the college.”
Clark feels the board should work together to lead the college and make sure goals are being set.
“A trustee is one that should focus on not only on the immediate performance of the college, but also keep an eye on the future, knowing that your responsibility is that you’re actually a caretaker in between and along side other individuals that have been elected to share exactly the same responsibility.”
Hightower wants to have open conversations with the staff so everyone is in sync.
“The basic job that we have as board members is of a judiciary duty and beyond that we just need to make sure that everyone is on the same page and we can do that by having ongoing dialogue with various staff members, we can have like some sort of liaison to make constant contact with staff and make sure that their goals align with the goals of the college.”
Poshard feels every decision the board makes should have students and the college in mind.
“Here are the boundaries of a board members position, we have a duty of care to oversee management to provide strategic direction, attend and actively participate in board meetings and be informed about critical issues, we have a duty of loyalty and that’s to put personal agendas aside and keep the college and the students at the forefront of board policy.”
The last question was what are the biggest challenges educators are facing this year.
Clark sees the lasting mental affects of the pandemic on people and supporting them is the biggest hurdle.
“Monitoring and responding to the social and emotional toll that the past 12 months has taken both on the students as well as the employees will be a fairly important role and I think the board of trustees should be monitoring and looking at, the isolation and lack of social interaction and basic elimination of events and opportunities that people truly enjoy has taken its toll and we need to recognize this fact and be responsive as a board so that we can get everyone back up and running at full speed.”
Hightower thinks the board needs to repair its relationship with the staff in order for the college to be successful.
“We have to repair that disconnect that exists between the board and staff, I mean we’re not going to realize our full potential if we don’t do it and again it just comes with ongoing dialogue between staff and the board, I mean we have to do that its critical and until we understand that we’re not going to go as far as we can go and I can’t underscore that enough.”
Poshard wants to get students back in class while ensuring everyone is safe.
“The challenge will be how do we get these young people back in school and how do we give all of our employees the sense of safety they need to carry on effectively, the second major challenge will be how we manage a difficult budget going forward with a potential loss of revenue which still may be associated with the loss of enrollment and the additional cost of the pandemic.”
Streuter feels the budget is the most pressing issue and the college needs to look for new to ways to generate revenue.
“The primary challenge will the budget and finances as been mentioned, in the state of Illinois we continue to lose tax payers which drives down revenue, we’ll continue to see decrease in funding to institutions of higher education, so one of the things the college will have to focus on is some tough budget decisions this next year, we also need to be working on finding alternative sources of revenue so we’re not deeply exposed as we have been.”
Election day is Tuesday April 6th. The John A Logan Community College District covers all or parts of Franklin, Jackson, Perry, Randolph, and Williamson Counties.