Incumbents Jill Wendling and Jane Willenborg, along with newcomers Scott L. Volpi and Andrew Altman, captured the four open seats on the Effingham Unit school board, according to unofficial results of Tuesday’s consolidated election.
Out of the running were Desha Wear, Cary Kyle Harper and Dallas C. Bear.
Wendling had 1,072 votes, or 20.93% of the total. Willenborg had 967, or 18.88%. Volpi had 751, or 14.67%. Altman had 716, or 13.98%.
Wear had 693, or 13.53%. Harper had 564, or 11.01%. Bear had 358, 6.99%.
Wendling, the board’s vice president, is a real estate agent with RE/MAX Key Advantage.
“Like all business and governmental agencies, Unit 40 faces the same issue of a shrinking labor pool,” she told the Effingham Daily News during the campaign. “The teacher shortage is real. Our board is committed to hiring and retaining the best of the best. We will continue to implement policies to attract new and experienced teachers and staff.
“Our district is financially sound and our board has excelled as a steward of taxpayer dollars,” she added. “We remain one of the lowest taxed districts in the state. We have partnered with generous community donors on projects that provide new opportunities for kids that are not normally part of a school district budget. I would like to put more money into teacher and staff benefits, more academic and trade opportunities for our students, and wellness programs for our students and staff. However, only where our budget will allow.”
Willenborg serves as the school board’s secretary, a precinct committeewoman, Eastern Illinois Special Ed board member and is a former Eastern Illinois Spec Ed Co-Chairman, Eff County GOP Secretary, and on several committees at Sacred Heart Church.
During the campaign, she called drug use and discipline the most pressing issues in the district.
“I strongly encourage parent involvement,” she told the Effingham Daily News. “Potentially, the use of surveys to all parents/families for feedback and follow-up. Continuous training from the SRO (and other professionals in the community) for staff and students to include school safety, lock down drills, and reiterate the dangers of drug use. Continue to spot check schools with the K-9 unit.”
Volpi is an Effingham Police Department school resource officer. He has been a Unit 40 mentor for 15 years, Director of Shop With a Cop program for 20 years, and a volunteer coach of youth sports programs.
He agrees that staffing is an important issue.
“The recruitment and retention of motivated, compassionate and competent administrators, teachers and staff is the most urgent issue,” he said. “Ultimately, our students’ achievement and enjoyment in their educational experience is significantly influenced by the quality of their contacts in their district. I would address this by ensuring the compensation and benefits are competitive with other school districts. I also believe there are other non-monetary things that can be done to ensure administrators, teachers and staff feel valued and heard.”
Altman, a pharmacist at Andes Health Mart, volunteered with the high school youth at our church for nine years. His parents were educators.
“I think the biggest issue facing Unit 40 is ensuring each individual student is challenged appropriately,” he told the EDN “Students are rife with so much potential and there is so much opportunity to unlock their gifts with the tools at our disposal today. Curriculums allowing students to work at their own pace and also putting students in groups where they can challenge each other enhances learning.”