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Kishwaukee trustee candidates ready for financial challenges

MALTA – A college facing declining tax revenue, millions of dollars in delayed state payments and a double-digit tuition-rate increase does not seem likely to attract potential leaders.

But for three longtime supporters of Kishwaukee College, those challenges provide opportunities for progress and change.

Incumbent Kathleen Spears, Northern Illinois University professor Ferald Bryan and former Kishwaukee Education Consortium Director Kathleen Watkins are competing for two of three spots on the Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees. The election is April 9.

Despite the financial difficulties, Spears said she wants another term to push the college’s mission of offering an affordable education so students can enter the workforce or pursue a higher degree at a university.

“We have to find the best delivery system for education by making sure we are maximizing the programs we have,” Spears said. “We need to do everything we can to cut costs without hurting the quality of our programs.”

Bryan, director of the Communications 100 program at NIU, said his passion for teaching first- and second-year college students sparked his interest in serving on the board.

After spending the past 17 years of his career teaching and developing core classes for freshmen and sophomores, Bryan said he understands the incredible value a community college can offer. He believes Kishwaukee College needs to maintain its affordability in this economic climate.

“We have various agreements for transferability of courses from community colleges to universities, and there is more we can do to smooth that transition,” Bryan said. “It’s a wonderful asset to the community.”

Watkins, who has been involved with the college since 1984, said the college has done well as it expanded over the years, especially in areas such as the nursing program and with second-language speakers.

She said the challenge now is maintaining the quality of established programs by pursuing alternate resources such as more partnerships with NIU and high schools and more grant funding.

“I hope the progress the college has made both in physical presence and in the curriculum doesn’t have to be lost,” she said. “I’ve seen how important the college is in my work with KEC and we need to keep those opportunities for students of all ages.”

The candidates

Ferald Bryan

Education: High School, Social Circle High School; bachelor’s degree, communication, University of Vermont; master’s degree, communication studies, Northern Illinois University; Ph. D., communication studies, University of Missouri–Columbia

Career: Associate professor; director, Communications 100 program, Northern Illinois University

Family: Divorced with one adult son

Kathleen Watkins

Education: Bachelor’s degree, French, Northern Illinois University; master’s degree, education, Northern Illinois University

Career: Former executive director of the Kishwaukee Education Consortium, retired

Family: Married with three children

Kathleen Spears

Education: Bachelor’s degree, education, Arizona State University; master’s degree, education, Northern Illinois University

Career: Works at Ken Spears Construction

Family: Married

Experience: Six years on Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees

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