Candidate profile: Patrick Watkins

Name: Patrick J. Watkins

Age: 59

Town: Swansea

Immediate family Members: Patty (wife of 33 years); Christine Gooding (Chris); Chad Watkins; and Eric Watkins

Office you are seeking: Belleville School District 201 Board Member

Occupation: Retired

Previous and current elected offices and terms served: None

Why are you running? As a retired 32-year employee of the district, the parent of three #201 graduates, and a lifelong resident of the community, I can say without hesitation that I owe so much to BTHS East and West. I see running as a volunteer school board member as a way to give back.

What is the most important issue facing the Belleville High School District? How would you approach it? The state’s failure to fully fund and support public education. Initially, I want to develop a comprehensive understanding of the district’s needs. With this baseline knowledge, I would hope to advocate for the district’s interests to our state legislators.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or Why not? Absolutely. I think teachers of every background are capable of cutting across differences and reaching students in their classrooms. But I also think that the student experience is enriched when every child can see school leaders — teachers, coaches, and administrators — share aspects of their identity. Having a school with similar teacher and student demographics would only enhance the feeling of community for all students.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? Given the place of STEM in our future, it is only natural that our curriculum should be adapted to develop these skills. More broadly, our schools should ensure that every student’s college and career goals are matched with an opportunity to expand their interests and augment their talents.

In St Clair County, There will be votes on two sales tax referendums. One would benefit school facility costs, one would benefit public safety. Do you support either or both referendums? Why or Why not? Like everyone else, I don’t like tax increases unless they are absolutely necessary. In this case, I think both of them are. During our state’s budget debacle, school districts and municipalities have been given less, but have still been regulated more than ever. I think the referendums will help ease that burden and allow our St. Clair County schools and law enforcement community to maintain the same level of quality that we have come to expect. I’m confident it will be a good investment in our future.

Why should people vote for you? Since first arriving as a freshman at the old Belleville West in the fall of 1972, I have been a student, taxpayer, teacher, coach, assistant athletic director and parent in District 201. As a school board member, I would put that experience into each decision, ensure that all voices are heard and work for the success of each student.