Jarrell, Titus run for school board position

Kalyn Hayslett, Editor in chief

With different experiences fueling their passion for education, incumbent Charles Jarrell and newcomer Matt Titus are running for a position on the Board of Education for Charleston Community Unit School District No. 1.

Charleston residents can vote to elect either Titus or Jarrell for a 4-year term on Tuesday.

Jarrell, current vice president of the Charleston School Board and chair of the social sciences and teacher education department at Lake Land College, said his 23 years of teaching experience is his biggest asset.

Jarrell, a self-described “education geek,” studies educational trends.

As a teacher, he said he understands the problems educators face.

Jarrell has two children in the school district.

Matt Titus, an Eastern alumnus and consultant for a Champaign organization that works with human services, said he does not have as much teaching experience but does substitute teach.

Titus has coached the Charleston High School Speech and Drama team and is a former student from the Charleston School District.

Titus said being a part of Coles Together and the campaign for the 1 percent sales tax increase that provided revenue for school facility repairs helped him learn about problems in the district and teachers’ concerns.

Both candidates plan on using the sales tax to fix facilities and create more technological resources.

Jarrell said there is a list of needed facility repairs for all of the schools in the district.

However, he said Jefferson Elementary School needs extensive attention because it was built in the 1900s.

“I remember going to Parent-Teacher Night at the elementary school this past fall and in the middle of the hallway, they had buckets catching water coming into the building,” Jarrell said.

Jarrell said his number one goal is to improve and maintain the quality of the school’s education with updated textbooks and more technological resources.

“(We need to) make sure we are making policies that support the educational needs of the students and the teachers,” Jarrell said.

He said children and teachers need access to the latest and best educational resources.

Titus said his parents moved him from Mattoon to Charleston because of the strength of the city’s educational program.

His goal is to make people from around the state make the same decision.

Titus suggested the school board promote more collaborations with Eastern to provide mentors for students to help them reach their highest potential.

“I’d love to see a mentoring program because this is one of those low-cost, high impact ways we can use the resources we to have to make most difference,” Titus said.

While collaborating with schools is not Jarrell’s top priority, he said these partnerships should not be limited.

“I think every school in the state is going through issues and I think making a collaborative effort as a whole, as a state, to try to solve these educational issues is the way to go,” Jarrell said. “(This is) not just limited to schools in the south but schools all over.”

Titus said he has already established connections with nine different school districts including Effingham and Cumberland Counties.

“When we look at the future we shouldn’t feel boxed in because right now that’s how the board feels; they hate making cuts,” Titus said “What we have to start doing is building alliances with other downstate schools, whether it’s Mattoon or bringing in any number of surrounding schools.”

Building this alliance with southern schools will help with lobbying efforts, Titus said.

Titus said he wants to be a representative during regional meetings of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

“Charleston needs to start going to those meetings because right now they are not. I understand why it’s a budget crisis and to spend a few thousand to send some folks to a conference sounds like a extravagance, but I see it as an investment,” Titus said.

Both candidates want to implement more means of generating money for the district through grants.

Titus said he wants to improve the school district’s website and social media accounts by sharing the positives in both the classes and sports teams.

“It has been a challenge because of the situation the state has put us in but I have enjoyed working with the other board members and with the community as a whole to try to find solutions for the difficult situations we were put in,” Jarrell said. “I think I have more to give and more to contribute.”

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].