WILLIAM HOLTWilliam Holt lives in Metropolis with his wife Sumar and their two children, Isla, 6, and Roman, 1.

He attended Joppa-Maple Grove through the eighth grade before transferring to Massac where he graduated in 2004. After receiving a doctorate in physical therapy from St. Louis University, he worked at a small private practice in Calvert City, Kentucky, before hiring on at Lourdes Hospital in 2012.

• What special qualifications or experiences have prepared you for a position on the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “The great thing about the governing structure of the school board is that it allows for collaboration between the community and school administration/teachers through a small group who are elected by, and answerable to, their peers. Therefore, the only qualification needed is being a concerned citizen in the district who is willing to educate themselves on the issues and be an open and honest communicator.”

• Why have you decided to run for this office? — “Being the father of both a current and future Massac Unit 1 student has led me to focus on issues affecting students today, as well as those matters that will affect the learning experiences of students in the future. I have benefited from the quality education at Massac (the knowledge gained from Mr. Pirtle’s biology classes were essentially the same as the first semester of college biology), and I want to work with administrators and teachers to leave every student with that experience. I will bring my experience as a father of young children to the board and give voice to the desires and concerns of those with a vested interest in the success of our children and our schools.

“The other reason which led me to run is a bit more personal. Being the father of a child with Tourette syndrome has given me first-hand experience that not every child learns the same way and that she and children like her have needs unique and specific to their given situation. As a board member, I will listen to and be a voice for those families in situations similar to ours and work to ensure that teachers and children have the resources they need to get the best education possible in Massac County.”

• What do you believe are the obstacles faced by Massac Unit 1 school board? — “The most immediate obstacle facing the board is how to return to a normal school day as quickly as possible while ensuring the health and safety of the children and the school staff.”

• What do you believe are the strengths of the Massac Unit 1 school board and how are they an asset to its future? — “One of the strengths that stands out is the accessibility of the board meetings. I believe that the use of Facebook Live has been beneficial in keeping parents informed of the issues facing the board and that going forward social media can be further utilized to facilitate communication between the board and the community.”

• What are your top three priorities as a member of the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “1) Working with teachers and school administrators to get students back in school for a normal day as quickly and safely as possible. 2) Working with school administrators and local unions to begin a high school apprenticeship program to connect students with good paying trades jobs in the community after graduation. 3) Collaborating with parents and teachers to make certain that every student receives the highest quality education available.”

• What are your thoughts on consolidating the Joppa-Maple Grove and Massac Unit 1 school systems? — “Given the uncertainty surrounding future tax revenues from the plants in the district, as well as the smaller class sizes in the upper grades, I believe that eventually consolidation of some sort is the only option that will make financial sense going forward.”

JOHN I. WILLISJohn Willis and his wife Dawn have been married for 25 years. They live on Country Club Road. Their three children — Jonah, Justice and Grace — are current students or a graduate of Massac Unit 1.

Born and raised in Illinois, Willis received all his education in Dixon, graduating from Dixon High School before obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University. He has been a police officer for more than 25 years. He is currently a sergeant with the Illinois State Police District 22 in Ullin.

• Why have you decided to run for this office? — “I have chosen to run for Massac Unit 1 board member to help make Massac Unit 1 be the best it can be. I saw a need, and I am willing to fill it. I enjoy working with children and seeing them become all they want to be. I am active in my children’s lives and their friends’. My work history, leadership, education and life experiences have given me wisdom and an open mind when it comes to working with and teaching others. I believe I can use these traits and work with current staff and teachers to help give our children the best education and school experience possible.”

• What do you believe are the obstacles faced by Massac Unit 1 school board? — “A few obstacles facing Massac Unit 1 currently are remote learning and academic grade decline, along with the drastic decline in enrollment county wide. I believe these obstacles directly affect both the educational future and the financial future of Massac Unit 1, along with the emotional health of its staff and students.”

• What do you believe are the strengths of the Massac Unit 1 school board and how are they an asset to its future? — “Massac Unit 1 school board is made up of past students, parents of current students, grandparents of students and local family members who all have a desire to see Massac County schools grow and produce the best quality of students it can — that is one of the board’s greatest strengths. A board that can work together and keep its focus on the students, teachers and future can create a school system producing the world’s next leaders.”

• What are your top three priorities as a member of the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “I would serve on the board with honor and integrity. My top priorities as a board member would be: 1) Stronger academics through teaching and student participation; 2) School safety by increasing awareness and discipline; 3) Staff training and input through meetings and board member interaction. If elected, I will listen to the teachers, students, staff and parents/guardians to keep in touch with the pulse of the schools.”

• What are your thoughts on consolidating the Joppa-Maple Grove and Massac Unit 1 school systems? — “Consolidating Joppa-Maple Grove is a large undertaking. There would be many affected — from the top staff to the students and their families. I believe the board would have to look at several different scenarios and factors, such as teacher-to-student ratio, current facility accommodations, current staffing and funding and, most of all, academic impact. I am open to looking at the multitude of different facts that would accompany a consolidation and vote for what is best for the future of Massac and its student body.”

JEFF BRUGGER

Jeff Brugger and his wife Kristen have been married for 18 years. The couple and their four children — Emma, 15, Gavin, 9, Reed 6, and Carter, 3 — have lived on their family farm for 18 years.

Brugger has been a business owner for several years in Massac County and the surrounding area.

He is a member of St. Stephens Lutheran Church, a Massac County commissioner, a member of the Massac Unit 1 school board, Washington Precinct committeeman, board member of the Harry Statham Youth Basketball League and a Massac County Emergency Management member.

• What special qualifications or experiences have prepared you for a position on the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “I feel my four years experience on the school board has prepared me to further help our kids. My experience as county commissioner helps me on the school board as well. With being on both boards, we can work hand-in-hand together on projects and come together as a whole.”

• Why have you decided to run for this office? — “I have served four years on the Massac Unit 1 school board and look forward to serving our youth for years to come.”

• What do you believe are the obstacles faced by Massac Unit 1 school board? — “Our obstacles are always changing due to unforeseen circumstances. The pandemic brought a whole new meaning to the word ‘obstacle,’ but as a board, we worked through the hard times and kept the children and staff safe. We kept them learning day in and out the best way we possibly could with the state’s guidelines. Now, we face plants shutting down and will get through these tough times as a community and move forward and stay positive doing so.”

• What do you believe are the strengths of the Massac Unit 1 school board and how are they an asset to its future? — “The strengths of our school board are broad, and it starts with a good superintendent. We work together as a team, and the main goal is to do what’s best for the kids. As long as you keep the kids’ best interest at heart, then you can accomplish anything.”

• What are your top three priorities as a member of the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “One of my priorities is to get our kids back to a normal school day and letting them be kids again. They have all been robbed of the best days of their lives due to COVID-19. We also need to make sure the teachers have all the tools they need to provide a quality education.”

• What are your thoughts on consolidating the Joppa-Maple Grove and Massac Unit 1 school systems? — “I feel like it will be in the best interest of both districts to consolidate.”

DONALD KOCHDon Koch and his wife Kimberly live in Brookport. They have two sons — David and Brian.

A lifelong resident and farmer in Massac County, Koch has worked in construction as a carpenter and has been a member of Carpenter’s Union Local 640 for more than 25 years. He is currently employed as director of facilities at Shawnee Community College.

Along with the carpenter’s union, Koch is a member of Mt. Sterling Cumberland Presbyterian Church, a 35-year member of the Massac County Fire Department and is currently serving as vice president of the Massac Unit 1 school board, on which he has served for six years. “I feel I have knowledge to share from years of experience as a board member.”

• What do you believe are the obstacles faced by Massac Unit 1 school board? — “1) Declining enrollment, which leads to be reduce school funding. 2) A declining tax base in Massac County. 3) Meeting the education needs of our students during and after this COVID-19 pandemic.”

• What do you believe are the strengths of the Massac Unit 1 school board and how are they an asset to its future? — “The board members have always put any differences in opinion aside to make the best decisions possible, always keeping our students’ education our No. 1 priority.”

• What are your top three priorities as a member of the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “1) Maintaining a balanced budget while expanding educational opportunities for all our students. 2) Finding and retaining highly qualified teachers in the core subjects of math, science and English. 3) Continue to expand the vocational classes at the high school level.”

• What are your thoughts on consolidating the Joppa-Maple Grove and Massac Unit 1 school systems? — “I believe both districts need to remain good neighbors and continue to work together for programs and classes to better serve all students of Massac County.”

JENNIFER LARRISONJennifer Larrison, her husband Rob and their four children — Olivia, Alex and twins Aiden and Wyatt — live in Massac County.

In August, Larrison will start her fifth year as a paraprofessional at Maple Grove Elementary School. She is also attending SIU Carbondale majoring in special education and will graduate in December. For the last 10 years, she has served as Franklin Elementary School’s PTO president; this will be her last year on the Franklin PTO as her youngest are in the sixth grade.

• What special qualifications or experiences have prepared you for a position on the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “I have always been very involved in the school system with my own children and feel that having that experience is a benefit to this position. I also feel that working as a paraprofessional allows me to bring a different point of view to important topics.”

• Why have you decided to run for this office? If you are already in this office or if you are a current office holder, how many terms have you served? — “I am currently serving on the Massac Unit 1 School Board and have served for one term. Being a lifelong resident of the district and parent of four students, I have a personal interest in preserving and improving the quality of our school system.”

• What do you believe are the obstacles faced by Massac Unit 1 school board? — “Currently, I feel that COVID is our biggest obstacle. Ensuring that our students are receiving the best education possible has been the greatest challenge during this time.”

• What do you believe are the strengths of the Massac Unit 1 school board and how are they an asset to its future? — “I believe the biggest strength of the Massac Unit 1 School Board is the collaboration between board members and the superintendent. We have something really special here at Massac Unit 1. We have exceptional teachers and staff who are truly invested in helping all our students succeed. I am excited and welcome the opportunity to continue being a part of that.”

• What are your top three priorities as a member of the Massac Unit 1 school board? — “My top priority as a school board member is student education. I believe in quality public education for current and future students. As a board member, I will fight to ensure that every student is equipped with the proper tools, resources and opportunities to maximize their academic success.”

• What are your thoughts on consolidating the Joppa-Maple Grove and Massac Unit 1 school systems? — “Joppa-Maple Grove has expressed they are not interested in consolidation at this time. Though it may be beneficial in some ways, if both parties are not in agreement, it is a non-issue.”

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