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Gregory Wilson secures another term on Peoria Public Schools board

Gregory Wilson, Paris McConnell
Gregory Wilson (left) Paris McConnell are both set to secure spots on Peoria Public School's board after Tuesday night's primary election results. Though not all mail-in votes have been accounted for.

Gregory Wilson will continue serving on the Peoria Public Schools District 150 board of education after receiving the most votes in Tuesday's election. The race for the second opening between Paris McConnell and former board member Dan Walther was too close to call.

Results from the Peoria County Election commission showed Wilson with 1,551 votes, or 34.8% of the ballots. But just 15 votes separated McConnell (1,463) and Walther (1,448).

Election commission executive director Thomas Bride said the totals could still change before the election is certified on July 12.

“We've got about 95 outstanding vote-by-mail ballots in that district, and then we have a handful of challenge ballots and then some provisionals,” said Bride. “It's probably in the ballpark of 100 ballots still out for that district that possibly could be counted.”

Bride said he anticipates a clearer picture next week after a majority of the valid mail-in ballots are received. Ballots postmarked by Election Day will be counted.

In early voting, McConnell led Walther 275-245 and she had a 231-155 advantage over him in vote-by-mail ballots counted as of Tuesday night.

Wilson's background

Incumbent Wilson just finished a five-year term on the Peoria Public School board, and he was elected president of the board last summer. Wilson is also the community outreach manager at Illinois Central College.

Three of Wilson’s five children are enrolled in Peoria Public Schools, and he has been involved in the district for years.

Though Wilson said even after being a longtime District 150 parent and now a two-term board member, he still sees room to continually forge strong relationships with teachers and staff.

“Not to say I don’t already have that great relationship, but finding out a way where this district can be a place where teachers want to come to, where people want to come work at. I think that would be high up on the priority list, and being a better bridge to the community as well. A lot of times, you don’t see people who you elect outside anywhere, not even in the stores. I’m in the community, so that’s not the case with me, but being a board where people can actually come and talk to [us]," Wilson said.

During his campaigning, Wilson said he would devote his attention on District 150’s board towards teacher recruitment, interpersonal and intrapersonal education, business diversity, and reimagining technology.

Wilson said he also wants to devote his attention towards improving financial literacy in the district.

"We’ve started that process, and it’s safe to say we’re going to have a financial literacy curriculum. That’s going to be aimed for K-12," Wilson said. "So, our students heading into their junior and senior year will understand how credit card debt and things of that nature work, so I’m very excited about that.”

Wilson also said he wants the district to continually support minority and women-owned businesses, and he plans to increase the district's connections and relationships with these organizations and companies.

In 2020, Wilson gained national attention when he proposed and persuaded the renaming of five Peoria-area schools. Wilson said these schools were named after historical figures who had ties to racist, culturally oppressive, and/or slave-owning ideals. Five schools were renamed in March of this year.

McConnell's background

McConnell is the community affairs manager at the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office.

While she is initially from Kansas City, McConnell moved to Peoria with her husband, Mark McConnell, and enrolled her three sons in Peoria Public Schools. There, she served as the PTO president for three years.

McConnell said the closeness in the race between her and candidate Walther goes to show that every vote matters.

"I’m grateful for the integrity of our commission, and I’m very hopeful and extremely positive about the final counts,” McConnell said.

While the winner of the board's second position is not official, McConnell said she is confident she will secure the spot.

"I’ve worked and I’ve lived in the second district for more than 20 years, and I’ve worked tirelessly to connect with the voters," McConnell said. "I think it matters that I’ve lived here for than 20 years.”

If McConnell secures the second spot on the board, she said she wants to “focus on learning gaps for students who have disadvantages.”

"Poverty impacts learning at a high level, and sometimes poverty hinders the parent from being supportive. With learning gaps, there has to be a partnership with the parent and the teacher and the learning process, and that’s something that I’ve been passionate for,” McConnell said.

McConnell said she hopes to look out for District 150 families who need a support system, assuming that she wins the election.

“One thing is for sure: if a child has support in the home [and] in their community, be it through tutoring or counselling, you get a better student who shows up in the classroom ready to work, ready to learn.” McConnell said.

While McConnell has not yet served on the district board, she has devoted years to serving on various committees, including those with the Center for Prevention of Abuse and Court Appointed Special Advocates of Peoria County.

Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.
Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.