Name: Matt Jones
Immediate Family Members: Mark Jones, Lori Jones, Megan Jones, Macey Osborn
Town: Granite City
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Office seeking: Board Member, Granite City District 9.
Occupation: Community Planner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Previous and current elected offices and terms served: Member, Granite City School Board (2013-Present)
Why are you running? I am running for re-election to the Granite City School Board because I truly believe that all kids should and do have the opportunity to succeed in our community. I care about Granite City, and I feel that I bring value as a young leader in our city to the board. I educate college students as a part-time instructor at McKendree University, so I am aware of the challenges that both college-bound students and those that will be looking for a job straight out of high school and college face. Since my election to the board in 2013, we have worked diligently to balance the budget and continue to provide a top-notch education from Pre-K through graduation. I use good judgment with an eye for the future each time I vote whether it be on the hiring of a position or a change to a new or existing program. It is my hope that you, taxpayers and families, will trust me for another four years.
What is the most important issue facing the Granite City Community Unit School District? How would you approach it? Most people will claim that the budget crisis in Illinois is the most important issue facing our district. I would not disagree, but as a district there is not much we can do about the state. What we can do is ensure that no matter what the state does or doesn’t do, we are adequately prepared to move forward and continue providing services to our students and families. We can continue to work in partnership with the city’s leaders to improve the quality of living in Granite City and the surrounding communities. This, in turn, will increase property values and by extension, the district’s revenues. If we follow through with this approach, we won’t have to rely on the state of Illinois for general state aid. We simply have to play our part in the system to make sure that test scores continue to increase and that students graduate and continue to remain in Granite City while working good-paying jobs and raising their families.
Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? As a political scientist, I see the value in having similarities between the demographics of the teaching staff and administration and the students that they serve. For instance, if the staff, administration, and even school board had the racial demographic of the students, it could help demonstrate a path forward for minority students. It gives students and families a sense of relatability to their teachers, the role models with whom we entrust our children.
I will say, however, that in most instances, this is not possible. We simply don’t have the applicant pool required to mirror the demographics of our community. With our revised hiring system, we are able to hire the best teachers and staff whether they are from our city or surrounding communities; our main goal is attracting and retaining highly-qualified staff. I completely value diversity in all aspects of the word, but we must have diversity and excellence in the applicant pool to accomplish those together. I also believe that our current teaching staff and support staff do a fantastic job in making sure that no matter what the home lives or personal backgrounds of our students look like, each one is supported and given the opportunity to succeed if they so choose.
How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? The Granite City School District is unique in that we have a significant number of students who graduate with plans to attend 2-year and 4-year universities, and we also have a number of students who attend trade schools and simply enter the workforce after graduation. Of course, an education focused on science, technology, math, and engineering is important, and as a board member, I have tried to promote all types of education in our district. I believe we have one of the most competitive career and technical education programs, which focuses on having our students prepared for the workforce. We have programs like CEO, which fosters a relationship between our district and local businesses. We have also continue to support the Running Start Program, which allows students to earn SWIC credits and high school credits at the same time.
In summary, I very much support STEM education especially from a young age. If we form a solid STEM education as the foundation for our students, it will give them opportunities to grow and ultimately choose whichever path is best for them.
Do you support the Madison County sales tax referendum to benefit school facilities? Why or why not? Since our district cannot rely on the state of Illinois to finance education adequately or fairly, I believe there are several advantages to passing the county-wide sales tax increase. First, the tax money will be fairly distributed to schools throughout the county based upon student population, regardless of the amount of property tax or general state aid each district receives. I believe this is a formula that is predictable because districts can prepare for an increase or loss in that amount based upon solid data. As of right now, the state funding formula is always subject to “proration” meaning that we have to budget based on a number that could be changed at any given point. Another advantage to the increase is that our students deserve the safest and most technologically-advanced facilities in which to learn. This proposed tax revenue cannot be used for salaries or textbooks, and it does not tax medicine, food, or cars, so I do not believe it will be overly burdensome. A third and maybe most important advantage is that school districts can use it as a tool to lower property taxes. As a board member, you have my word that I will vote to reduce the tax levy by whatever dollar amount we receive from this sales tax increase if it is approved and I am re-elected by the voters.
Why should people vote for you? I hope that the people of Granite City, Pontoon Beach, Mitchell, Nameoki Township, and Chouteau Township will vote for me because I have done my very best to speak for the people and to vote how I believe will lead to the best results for our students and community. There has been no board member as open to communication as I, and I will continue that trend if you, the public, will allow me. I take my role as a school board member very seriously. I also care very much about our community and want it to thrive. Few other districts in our area face the challenges that we do, and I believe the last 4 years have been a testament to what we can accomplish. We have preserved what we have and even built upon it in the face of extreme budgetary and financial constraints, many of which are now in the headlines for surrounding districts. I would appreciate your support, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. My personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org.