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Sam Banks and Mark Holm selected to join Champaign Unit 4 school board after months of turmoil

From left: school board candidates Adam Harris, Christy Arnold, Patrick Hughes, Roselle Bhosale and Sam Banks on April 9, 2024.

The Champaign Unit 4 school board has two new members — Sam Banks and Mark Holm.

The Champaign-Ford Regional Office of Education announced the selection Friday, after months of turbulence on the Unit 4 board.

Current board member Betsy Holder said she thinks the members will ease the division on the board.

“I think both candidates are seasoned and have experience, and they will both look for accountability. And they will bring experience in how a board works,” Holder said.

She said she thinks the board will no longer have an established majority and minority on the board, where the same members always vote together.

Sam Banks is a former CEO of the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club in Champaign. Mark Holm is a business owner who ran in the last Unit 4 board election.

Three men sit at a table for a 2023 candidate forum.
Mark Holm (left) ran unsuccessfully for the Unit 4 school board in 2023.

Two Unit 4 board members resigned in March, and the remaining members disagreed over how to fill the empty seats.

Holder and former board president Amy Armstrong said the board was too toxic and divided to appoint the members themselves. They boycotted the appointment meetings, forcing the process to default to the regional superintendent.

The members of the majority, Board President Gianina Baker, Bruce Brown and Heather Vazquez, tried to have board members nominate their choices from within a list of applicants, then interview them and vote. In a press release in late April, Baker rebuked the other two members and said board policy says members have to abide by majority vote.

In an interview Friday, Baker said the last few months have been difficult, and she expects another period of adjustment as the board reforms with the new members.

“As both candidates have been here and raised their families here, I do think and hope it will be a shorter period of catch-up,” Baker said.

Baker said the board plans to vote on seating Holm and Banks at the next board meeting, on June 10. She declined to comment on how she would vote. Holm and Banks would be sworn in afterwards.

Regional Superintendent Gary Lewis said by email that the board has to seat the new members directly, according to state code. 

He declined to do an interview Friday. In a previous interview, he said he believes it is the board’s job to pick new appointees, but state code requires him to step in if local school boards take more than 60 days to make their decision.

According to Lewis’ press release, he created a five-panel committee to interview eleven candidates. His panel included himself, former Urbana superintendent Preston Williams, former Unit 4 assistant superintendent Deloris Henry, University of Illinois education professor Giselle Martinez-Negrette and regional assistant superintendent Donna Kaufman.

Holm and Banks would serve for a year until the next election.

Updated June 2 at 11:15 A.M. with a response from Regional Superintendent Gary Lewis on whether the school board needs to vote in the new members or seat them directly. 

Picture of Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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Severe storms possible Thursday evening and overnight

From the National Weather Service in Central Illinois: A line of t’storms will affect the area late Thursday afternoon into the overnight hours. Some severe storms are in the forecast, with damaging wind gusts and large hail. Stay weather aware and be ready to take shelter when storms approach.