North Elementary School in Urbana. Urbana City Schools is spending $900,000 from a savings account to purchase new property for its proposed school building after a previous piece or property was not feasible after a nearby landfill was found to be leaking methane gas. Bill Lackey/Staff

Urbana’s new schools are priority as new board of education takes shape

Two new school board members and two incumbents will soon be sworn into office after winning seats on the Urbana School Board of Education.

Incumbents Darren Thomas, Tim Lacy and political newcomers Amy Paul and Sarah Finch will sit on the board that will be tasked with making decisions about how the district utilizes a new high school and elementary school - both that could be open within a year.

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“I feel honored that enough people thought that I was the right person for the job,” Thomas said.

Thomas was appointed to the board after board member Warren Stevens was killed in a car accident. Thomas ran for a four-year seat in the election while Sarah Finch won Steven’s unexpired two-year term. She will have to run again in 2019 if she wants to stay on the school board.

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“I am excited and looking forward to moving the kids into a new school and watching them continue to grow and develop,” Thomas said.

Urbana voters approved $31.3 million bond issue in 2014 and the schools are currently being built. The new high school is near the current high school while the new elementary school is being built on U.S. Highway 68. The high school is expected to open over the 2018 spring break and the elementary school could be open as soon as next school year.

Paul was the leading vote-getter in the race that had nine people running for three spots. She garnered more than 15 percent of the vote. She is currently a principal at Simon Kenton Elementary School in Springfield and worked in the Urbana district for a number of years.

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“It’s very humbling and I appreciate the support from the community,” Paul said. “I am very excited about stepping into a position on the board. I hope to use my experience to benefit Urbana children.”

She’s not sure what caused her to be the leading vote-getter other than she relied on her experience in education to discuss important issues with voters throughout her campaign.

Only School Board President Jan Engle did not have his seat up for grabs this election.