DANVILLE — The Danville District 118 school board has selected its two new school board members.
They will be Rev. Tyson Parks and Christopher Easton, chaplain at the Danville Correctional Center.
They will be sworn in at the Oct. 27 school board meeting, and will serve through April 2023.
Parks has previously sought election to the school board. He’s Presiding Elder with the African Methodist Episcopal Church and District Superintendent with 17 churches he oversees. He also serves on the Martin Luther King Jr. committee, Housing Authority Board as vice president, East Central Illinois Community Action Agency as chairperson, and is co-chair of the Interdenominational Concern Pastor’s.
“I’m appreciative of the school board members in giving me consideration on the school board,” Parks said. “I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
He said he wants to make the school board top-notch and a top one in the state, and make sure local young people get the best education.
Parks too said he wants “to help the school district as a whole with some of the new problems that we’re faced with coming through this pandemic, and navigating us through it all.”
Parks has lived in Danville for 27 years. His children are grown. He also worked with school districts elsewhere.
Easton and his family — wife, Melanie, a counselor at Hope Counseling, 16-year-old Danville High School student Isaiah and North Ridge Middle School student 12-year-old Bailee — have lived in Danville since 2012. Easton grew up in northeast Ohio.
“I love Danville,” he said.
“I’ve always watched the school board and what they do, and am concerned about all the things they’re concerned about,” he added. “I’m honored that they chose me.”
He said he’s excited to bring light, in what can be a dark space, with the pandemic and other issues.
“We have a great staff that works for us already,” Easton said. He wants to make sure staff have the support they need to keep doing what they’re doing.
Easton also works with the hospital, through its crisis response pastoral care department, and Danville Area Community College in teaching a Bible class at the prison.
He’s seen education inside the prison, and what education being received means for people, he said.
“It will be a great opportunity to help Danville...,” he said of being a school board member.
Interviews took place Wednesday in closed session of the Danville District 118 school board meeting for the two school board vacancies.
The six finalists were: Johnson Flanagan, Jamie Norton (who was not listed in the initial candidate list), Markesha Parker, Christopher Easton, Tyson Parks and Kaylan Huber.
Board members Lon Henderson and Bill Dobbles recently resigned.
Danville School Board President Randal Ashton said a decision was expected this week.
“We’re trying to get this done before fall break,” Ashton said. District-wide fall break for D118 is next week.
He thanked the many candidates for being interested in serving on the school board.
The school board Wednesday night acted on a student discipline case it heard during closed session, and also heard that Meade Park Elementary School Principal Chris Rice was awarded the Illinois Principals Association Elementary School Principal of the Year award.
Superintendent Alicia Geddis also announced D118 staff have been out for various reasons, and she hopes they have enough staff on Friday at the schools.
Earlier this week, Geddis reported that 10 staff members have been excluded from work due to refusing to follow the COVID-19 vaccine/testing mandate. They are six teachers, one teaching assistant, two custodians and one in food service.
The school board Wednesday night heard from parents about fighting for local control relating to COVID-19, and why unvaccinated staff are being discriminated against.
In other business Wednesday, the board approved:
- Suspending additional local graduation requirements for three years due to learning loss with the pandemic. School officials said these are on top of state requirements, and they want to work with students on the credits they need if they’re behind. Some changes relate to physical education and elective requirements and not holding students back. Board member Darlene Halloran said businesses and community members wanted students better prepared for the workforce. “I think it’s very sweeping,” Halloran said, adding that there might be more middle ground. School district officials are working to increase the graduation rate, and said they also are facing staff shortages in science and other courses.
- Reinstating the requirement that the superintendent shall reside within the geographical boundaries of Danville School District 118. Geddis said regarding some rumors, she doesn’t live in Chicago and her children attend D118.
- Creating a community engagement specialist position to be posted Oct. 7, and approving PRESS (Policy Reference Education Subscription Service) Illinois Association of School Boards policy and procedure information and updating service policy updates that included some changes, such as an apprenticeship program.
- Acquiring four properties that the city of Danville has offered to sell or transfer to the district. Three properties are near or adjacent to the Danville High School practice field. One property is between a row of parcels which the district owns. It is also where the DHS band practices. The four properties: 310 Sidell (DHS practice field); 911 N. Jackson St. (DHS practice field); 916 N. Jackson St. (DHS practice field); and 707 N. Hazel St. (DHS band practice field). The city of Danville would transfer 310 Sidell to the district at no charge. There is a vacant house on the property, which would need to be demolished at the district’s expense. Historically, demolition costs have ranged between $10,000 and $15,000. The city would also transfer 707 N. Hazel St. to the district at no cost. This is an empty parcel already used by the band, and no demolition would be required. The city would sell 911 and 916 N. Jackson St. to the district for $99 each. Both are vacant parcels, and no demolition would be required. All other costs associated with the transfer or sale of the properties would be at the district’s expense (attorney fees, etc.). According to Seth Oldfield, supervisor of operations – buildings and grounds, “I believe (the parcels) fit well within our strategic plan.”