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ECC board hopefuls push for opportunities, affordability for students

ELGIN – The candidates seeking to guide Elgin Community College for the next half-decade believe the college strongly benefits the communities it serves.

They also stated their support for a $178 million 2009 referendum that paid for improvements at the college.

But all, while speaking at a forum Wednesday for candidates for Elgin Community College District 509, said they believe ECC still can do better.

On April 9, voters in the ECC district, which includes residents of St. Charles School District 303, Burlington School District 301 and Elgin District U-46, will choose three of six candidates to serve on the board.

Each of the candidates said ECC's future will rely on creating opportunities for students.

Nadia Blanc-Daley, of St. Charles, urged the creation of a program to partner with local businesses and cities to create internship opportunities for students that could, in turn, lead to job prospects.

"I would like [students] to have a path to a job when [they] graduate," Blanc-Daley said.

Others noted their support for maintaining ECC's affordability.

Elias Palacios, a psychologist who lives in Elgin, said ECC should freeze or limit tuition increases. He also urged a greater emphasis on vocational testing.

Art Sauceda, an accountant, of Bartlett, also supported limiting tuition increases to keep the school affordable, particularly for students from low- and middle-income households.

Sauceda and others said trustees should not interfere with classroom instruction and day-to-day administration. Instead, these said trustees should be focused on setting policy and taking a support and oversight role.

Rise D. Jones of Elgin – who helped found youth arts organization Hamilton Wings and is serving as interim trustee on the board – said she believes the main roles of the trustee board is to "support the public image" of the college and to be a "meeting maker" for the college's faculty, staff, students and the public.

And Clare Ollayos, a chiropractor who lives in Elgin and has served on the board since 1995, said she believes the college must tackle "thorny issues" in coming years, including "funding being squeezed" from sources and employee pensions.

"We need to be focused on making sure ECC stays viable, not just for today, but for days to come," Ollayos said.

Only Blanc-Daley addressed concerns over property tax bills during the forum, saying she believes ECC's levy increases should be "limited."

Candidate Angela Causey, a church pastor of South Elgin, did not attend the forum.

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