Here's when, where voters can hear from candidates for District 186 school board

The Springfield Public School District 186 headquarters on West Monroe in Springfield, Ill., Monday, August 2, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
The Springfield Public School District 186 headquarters on West Monroe in Springfield, Ill., Monday, August 2, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

The public will have a chance to meet and hear from School District 186 board of education candidates Tuesday.

That's when the Springfield Education Association hosts a meet and greet for candidates in the district's seven subdistricts at the Southeast High School Commons, 2350 E. Ash St., at 5:30 p.m. That is followed by a forum in the Southeast Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. with candidates in the three contested races.

The April 4 consolidated election includes races for Springfield mayor, aldermen and treasurer, along with Springfield Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority (SMEAA) board, the Springfield Park District board and the Lincoln Land Community College board, in addition to the school board.

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The April election also will include races for area school boards; regional board of school trustees; several municipal/township library districts and fire protection districts and a number of different propositions.

Early voting begins Feb. 23.

Jim Leach, news director at Mid-West Family Broadcasting, will moderate the school board forum.

All eight of the candidates from subdistricts 2, 3 and 4 with contested races had expressed an interest in participating in the forum, said SEA president Aaron Graves.

Seeking a second term, board vice president Micah Miller faces challenger Emerson Weed in Subdistrict 2, which covers a swath of the city's north side. The term is for two years.

Incumbents in subdistricts 3 and 4 each will go up against two challengers.

Sarah Blissett, who was appointed to the board when president Scott McFarland took a job in Missouri in early 2021, faces Spurgeon Johnson and Jessica Bandy. Subdistrict 3 covers the northeast part of the city.

Jeff Tucka, who was appointed Nov. 15 to fill out the term of the late Mike Zimmers, will face Ken Gilmore and Donna Hopwood in Subdistrict 4, which covers the city's southwest side.

Both seats have four-year terms.

In Subdistrict 7, Debi Iams emerged as the lone candidate after incumbent Bill Ringer did not file for reelection. Ringer has served on the board since early 2018.

Anthony "Tony" Mares, the board president who represents Subdistrict 1; Buffy Lael-Wolf of Subdistrict 5 and Erica Austin of Subdistrict 6 are running unopposed.

All seven seats are up because of the decennial Census. Mares and Austin will also be serving two-year terms.

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Candidates will address prepared questions on graduation rates and post-secondary preparedness; disparities between schools within the district; violence and safety in schools; staff shortages and special education needs.

"We don't think it is strictly the board member's responsibility to resolve these things," Graves said. "We want to make sure a board member understands they are a very important part of helping to address and resolve some of these issues. It takes a team effort and the seven board members are the key people responsible to help these things happen. That's why they're elected."

Graves said he was "disappointed but not surprised" there were so few candidates, including four uncontested races.

"I realize how difficult a task being a board member is," he said. "There is no compensation for a school board member, and there's a lot of grief they subject themselves to to do this public service for their city and their communities. I don't blame people. It's a thankless task."

Forums like on Tuesday, Graves said, "help bring people's thoughts and concerns and ideas to the forefront to make sure our students and our schools are first in line.

"Truthfully, what's more important than our kids and their education? It's the core. It's the starting point of our community. Everything to us, as family and community, starts and grows around our schools."

Graves said the SEA, the union which represents about 1,100 teachers and other professionals in the district, will have a more formal process of endorsing candidates in the contested races by the end of the month.

ballot drop box
ballot drop box

Early voting information

Early voting for the April 4 consolidated election starts Feb. 23.

The Sangamon County election office is located in the Sangamon South Building (the former State Journal-Register Building). The entrance is on Ninth Street, between Monroe Street and Capitol Avenue.

Regular business hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are special weekend hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 25-26 and April 1-2.

Early voting closes April 3.

Voting at UIS

There is also early voting at the University of Illinois Springfield Student Union Building, 2251 Richard Wright Dr., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 29-31. That location is only for residents in Capital Precincts 14, 37, 92, 93 and 99 and Woodside Precinct 02.

Vote by mail

A vote-by-mail application can be obtained from the election office in person, by calling (217) 753-8683 or by printing out the vote-by-mail application, filling it out, signing it and mailing it back to the Sangamon County Election Office, 200 S. Ninth St., Room 105, Springfield, IL 62701.

A filled-out ballot can be returned by U.S. postal service, by using one of the secure ballot drop boxes on the south end of the County Building at Ninth and Monroe streets or at the Sangamon County Juvenile Detention Center at 2201 S. Dirksen Parkway or by hand delivery to the clerk's office.

The first day to vote by mail is also Feb. 23 and ends on March 30.

Have more questions?

For more information, visit the Sangamon County Clerk's website.

Contact Steven Spearie: (217) 622-1788,,

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Springfield teachers union hosting forum for school board candidates