It was a spirited discussion between two candidates for the Prairie State College District 515 board of trustees at the March 27 debate hosted by the Homewood-Flossmoor League of Women Voters.
Jay Readey of Flossmoor and Camiella Williams of Chicago Heights took turns answering audience questions covering finances, student services, curriculum development, board actions and college outreach.
Readey said the board’s role is to set policy and make budget decisions. He will welcome input from all who can help him make sound decisions for the college. Curriculum issues, student services, physical plant needs and other questions should be handled by PSC staff, he said.
Williams sees the trustees’ role as protecting the college “and upholding the name of the college” as it serves the students. Trustees need to “pay attention and set a good direction. The energy on the board matters.”
She said too many students who could be taking advantage of all PSC has to offer don’t know about the college or how to apply for admission. She would work to improve outreach to all segments of the population.
Ready and Williams are running as a team with Andre Lewis to oust incumbents Christopher J. Baikauskas, Brunetta Hill-Corley and Marc A. Wiley for the three open seats. Trustees serve for six-years. John N. Stanfa is also on the ballot to fill out a two-year term.
Readey and Williams lamented that the current board members were not present to explain how they have been making decisions for the college.
Readey charged that having the PSC board tightly controlled by trustees from Bloom Township is limiting the college’s recognition in the 22 communities PSC serves, including Homewood and Flossmoor.
Although both are running as independents, Readey and Williams believe they will be able to reach out to other trustees.
“This is about the college, the students and the community,” Williams stressed.
Readey has been touched by graduates’ stories of how PSC transformed their lives, but he doesn’t feel that message is reaching out to communities as far south as Beecher, west as Tinley Park and east as Lynwood.
“Prairie State is a phenomenal place to get educated,” Readey said. “It is meeting the serious needs of students,” whether they come in direct from high school, transfer in, are returning adults or are taking technical courses.
“This college should no longer be considered Bloom Township Junior College,” he said.
Readey said he is running because he is “passionate about helping people develop skills” for the workplace and “I’m passionate about the South Suburbs.”
Williams, a graduate of PSC who served on student government, pointed to her status as a millennial saying, “I want to engage my peers” and that she will fight for funding.
She finds a “lack of motivation” among PSC students. She wants to reignite that special spark she felt as a student. There is much happening at PSC that students should be interested in, from supporting sports teams to extracurricular activities. She promises to hold office hours for students to come in and share their concerns with her.
Both candidates have extensive experience at lobbying and outreach to local and state organizations. Readey wondered what lobbying efforts the board has undertaken to try and get funding for PSC, both from the state and from outside organizations, agencies and foundations because the state has failed to support PSC by at least $12 million.
Williams said students are being hurt by cuts in funding, especially state and federal dollars that help underwrite tuition.