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In following the upcoming election on April 2 for Mattoon school board, I have heard and read views from the opposition of Dr. Heidi Larson regarding our decision as parents to have our children receive a faith-based K-8 education (all three of our children will attend Mattoon High School).

I find these statements very disturbing, as they are suggesting it should somehow disqualify her from serving on a public school board. Are they saying a qualification of a board member should be how he/she raises their children? But, what if we didn’t have children, or if our children were grown adults; would the same opposition say she doesn’t deserve to be on the school board? I certainly would hope not, as this is the demographic of some of the current board members. This is no more absurd than judging someone for sending their children to a Lutheran school for a faith-based education. Diverse backgrounds and experiences should be embraced and encouraged for a school board that represents the entire Mattoon community.

Unfortunately, I believe this is discussed to discredit her commitment to the Mattoon School District. Heidi has volunteered countless hours over the last six years at Mattoon High School. Her relentless work with the creation of the B.I.O.N.I.C program at MHS has developed leaders and has changed culture. If you are unfamiliar, I challenge you to speak with any student or parent that has been involved. Read what past students are saying, listen to what teachers are saying, and look at the data on the success of the program. Over that period, I believe she has volunteered more of her time to the district than any other current board member; despite our children currently attending St. John’s Lutheran School. It is her passion and selfless behavior that shows her commitment to our entire community.

I am very proud of Heidi for running a positive campaign focusing on her qualifications and what she will bring to the district. These include being a licensed counselor, psychologist, and professor at EIU in the Department of Counseling & Higher Education. I believe her knowledge of how to address mental health issues within an educational setting is the asset our district needs. This is what an election for school board should be about.

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This experience reminds me of something I share with my children: there are two types of people in this world. The first, will challenge and inspire you; encourage you to be your best. They are typically confident in themselves and are invested in seeing you succeed. The second, try to pull you down to their level. I tell my children: surround yourself with the first, avoid the second.

Mattoon, my wife (Dr. Heidi Larson) will challenge and inspire our school district. She will positively influence culture and has already proven she is invested in seeing everyone succeed, regardless of last name or background. Surround yourself with the first, avoid the second.

Chad Larson, Mattoon

Editor's note: Because of a newspaper error, this election-related letter, which arrived before the submission deadline, is being published today.

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