Voters will cast their ballot for four open seats on the Mahomet-Seymour board of education during the consolidated general election. Those asking for your vote include Julie Cebulski, Meghan Hennesy, Jeremy Henrichs, Ken Keefe, Jenny Park, Lance Raver, Colleen Schultz and Jason Tompkins. Each week, we will feature one candidate (in alphabetical order) in a Q&A style. This week: Ken Keefe.
No. 1: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
"I work at the University of Illinois as a software engineer, and my wife (Jennifer) is an elementary teacher at Gibson City. My wife and I are foster parents. When I started the race and lost my campaign (when he originally ran for school board in the 2017 consolidated general election), I had an eighth-grader, second-grader and kindergartner. Now, I have an eighth-grader, second-grader, kindergartner and a 2-month-old. We've been foster parents for the last eight years. We've had nine kids in that time.
"I've gotten involved with the Illinois Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council. It's a state-level board, and we provide consultation for the director of the Department of Children and Family Services on issues related to foster care. We try to advocate for foster parents and foster families. We look at legislation and policy and training and all sorts of areas that touch the lives of families.
"On the local level, I've been very involved in the Mahomet-Seymour PTO for the last five years. I've been a treasurer in the past. I'm a communication secretary now. I headed up the Dawg Walk fundraiser.
"A lot of people know me through the Mahomet Rec program; I regularly coach soccer, T-ball or baseball."
No. 2: What caught your interest about Mahomet?
"I've been living in the area for the last 10 years. I went to grad school at Illinois, and we (he and wife Jennifer) decided that we liked it so much that we decided to stay."
No. 3: Why are you running for the Mahomet-Seymour school board?
"I really feel like I would make a good contribution to the board. I have been an effective team member of other boards in the past. I feel like I could be diligent, and I could work well in a team.
"I could tackle tougher issues, like our district's finances. Finances and numbers don't scare me. I could provide more diverse perspectives down the road because of dealing with at-risk children through foster care.
"Honestly, I became interested in the school board because I would make a positive contribution, and I feel like I would do a good job in that position."
No. 4: What's something most people don't know about you?
"I'm a computer nerd, but I'm also interested in small-scale agriculture. I really enjoy gardening. I have several beehives. A lot of people do know me as a beekeeper and like my honey. I (also) raise chickens and I really enjoy those down-to-earth activities."
No. 5: If elected, what would you consider an important topic as a school board member?
"There's four areas that I'm focusing on. The first one is transparency and public engagement. I feel like the board needs to be doing more to make their operations and the district's operations more transparent to parents and taxpayers. I would be a strong advocate for that on the board. As a board member, I would want to reach out and work with more parents and hear what they have to say, and I would want to talk to teachers as well as students.
"The next major area is reducing class sizes. A teacher has a limited attention span. If he or she needs to work with a student in a one-on-one space or try to focus on that many little bodies in one room, it's problematic. I would really want to work toward reducing the class sizes. I think it's something that can be done because we've seen our neighbors are doing it.
"The next thing is general fiscal responsibility. I know it's no fun to dig into the finances of the district (but it's important to) understand what's happening there.
"The last thing is focusing on the curriculum. We should be working with our teachers to understand if we're making intelligent curriculum decisions. I would like to see a bigger role toward science, technology and math in our schools across the board, but especially in our younger ages.