November 30, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Heritage School Board Candidate Surveys

Three candidates are running for three seats in the Heritage School District

Zach Wells
Why are you running for school board?
I’m running for the school board because we will have 2 children that will soon be in the school system at Heritage. My wife, Ariel, and I are both Heritage Alumni, and we both have multigenerational ties to the local communities and the school district. I enjoy serving the community, as well as my wife who sits on the Homer Community Library Board. I also am a trustee with the Village of Homer. We are proud to be active members of the area and our community.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing school districts? 
The biggest issue facing school districts, in my opinion, would be retaining our teachers and being able to attract new teachers when the time comes to fill an available spot.

What would do you think is the biggest strength of your district?
The biggest strength of Heritage Schools is the tight-knit environment that rural schools are able to give to its students. I think there is a very high level of compassion and interaction with the students from teachers and staff when the classes are small. Speaking as a Heritage alum, I can’t say that I would have been any more prepared going to school anywhere else. The education and experiences I received while at Heritage were top notch.  

What do you think your biggest strength is regarding serving on school board?
My biggest strength while serving on the board would first be my previous board experience and a strong desire to serve my community. I enjoy working as part of a team and have no problems making sure that my opinions are voiced. 

Tell me about your family.
My family and I currently live in Homer. I graduated from Heritage in 2004 and Southern Illinois University in 2008. I farm with my wife’s family in rural Homer. My wife, Ariel, is a 2002 Heritage graduate and graduated from the University of Illinois in 2006. She works at Carle. We have 2 boys, Eli is 5 and Gabe is 2. Eli will be in kindergarten in the fall of 2019. 

Darrin Tate
Why are you running for school board?
I am running as an incumbent for my 3rd term. I feel that serving on the school board is my opportunity to give back to the community and district.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing school districts? 
I feel the biggest challenge for all districts in our state is still providing a quality education under the constraints of funding and state-mandated issues.


What would do you think is the biggest strength of your district?

I feel the greatest strength Heritage provides is the quality of education we provide for a district our size.


What do you think your biggest strength is regarding serving on school board?
My thoughts on this have changed through the years. At this time I would say it is my experience as a returning board member. It takes at least one term I believe before a person really becomes an effective board member.


Tell me about your family.
I am a farmer in the Homer area and have lived here all my life.. My wife Pamela is a speech pathologist working in the Heritage district. My oldest daughter Aubrey is a graduate of Heritage and is currently a junior at Bradley University in health science planning on achieving her degree in physical therapy. Our twin girls Loran and Gracie are currently in 6th grade at Heritage and participate in cross country, scholastic bowl, track, volleyball, band, chorus, and even got were involved in the high school play.

Kimberly Ashbrook
Why are you running for school board?
I love our community, and giving back to the community through service is important not only to me, but to our family. Education is my passion.  I was a former educator and worked in the education sector for many years. To be given the opportunity to work at the crossroads of a life passion while also serving the community is a gift. A challenging gift at times, but I love it, and I’m honored to serve again. A huge “Thank You” to our community members throughout our district that have voted for me and allow me to lead. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing school districts? 
Funding. Always. We are still recovering from the many years we have been underfunded as a district. in fact, in my 8 years on our school board (I’m running for my third term) this is only the second year we’ve had a balanced budget, and this is not because our district hasn’t been as frugal as it can be, while still providing an excellent education to our students, and being mindful of our stakeholders resources. Like other districts, we’ve been resourceful. We’ve relied on the quality and excellence of our leadership and our teaching and building staff to meet our district needs.  It’s been a balance and often times a struggle, and I don’t think anyone in education is letting out their collective breath (or belts) anytime soon. 

What do you think your biggest strength is regarding serving on school board?
My background in education and knowledge of education is a strength. I was a former teacher, and I’ve taught students in Pre K through College in general music, chorus, musicals, the regular classroom, and also special education with a focus on gifted education. My graduate degree is from the  U of I in Special Education, Curriculum Adaptation, with a focus on Gifted Education.  I’m a lifelong learner, and I constantly ask questions. I like to see the data, but I also know there is a story that the data doesn’t show. When it comes to the work of representing Heritage, I’m all in.  Not only am I on our school board, I’m also the Vice Chair of our Illinois Association of School Boards Illini Division Board.  I’ve also served as our District Rep on the RCCSEC (Rural Champaign County Special Education Cooperative) Governing Board since my tenure on the Heritage School Board. 

What is the biggest strength of your district?
The quality and strength of teachers, administration, and staff are some of our greatest strengths as a district. Trends in education may come and go (IAR testing over PARCC, anyone?) but our teacher leaders hold steady and their passion and vision for our school impacts our kids and our community. I’m grateful for the amazing work that they do. 

Tell me about your family.
My husband Jonathan and I have lived in Homer over 13 years and we have four very active school-aged boys. We are high school sweethearts who met on our junior varsity scholastic bowl team, which our kids DO NOT like to hear about! We moved to Homer to live on Jonathan’s family homestead, now a Centennial Farm, and love that our digital native boys are being raised in the house that their great-grandpa was born in. To me, this is the very definition of Heritage. 

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