Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

School candidates to face off Feb. 27

January 24, 2007

Interest in Tonganoxie's upcoming school board election is running high.

In the past week, three more candidates -- Kathy Baragary, Dr. Bill Weatherford and Craig Lohman -- filed to run for board positions. This brings the total number of candidates to 10.

Because position No. 2, which represents Tonganoxie north, and position No. 7, which is the at-large position, have three candidates, a primary will be held on Feb. 27. Voters will narrow the field in each race to two candidates, who will square off in the April 3 general election.

Here's a quick review of school board candidates:

  • Position No. 2, currently held by Ron Moore, who didn't seek re-election: Baragary and Lohman and Rex Hutton, who filed earlier.
  • Position No. 7, currently held by Dr. Richard Dean, who didn't seek re-election: Weatherford, Francie Campbell and Mildred McMillon.
  • Position No. 1: incumbent Diane Truesdell and Alan Theno.
  • Position No. 3: incumbent Leana Leslie and Patti Bitler.

The Mirror has done profiles on Hutton, Campbell, McMillon, Theno, Truesdell, Leslie and Bitler. A profile on Lohman will appear next week.

Here are profiles on Baragary and Weatherford.

Baragary, a 1977 Tonganoxie High graduate, has worked as an emergency substitute teacher in the school district. Baragary received a bachelor's degree in fashion marketing from Kansas State University. Her husband, Bill, is a cattle buyer. The couple's two children attend Tonganoxie schools. Austin is a freshman at THS and Jody is in sixth grade.

The 48-year-old Baragary said she would like to see the school board become more pro-active.

"Not that I don't think the board is doing a good job now," Baragary said. "I feel it's time for some fresh ideas."

She's concerned about the growth in the school district, and whether the schools can accommodate an increasing enrollment.

"I think that growth is going to be one of the main issues the board is going to have to face over the next couple of years," Baragary said.

The district is nearing completion of a $25.3 million school construction project which includes a new fifth-through eighth-grade middle school. The new middle school alleviates crowding in the elementary school -- for now.

"I believe we're going to outgrow the elementary school before we have plans in place to correct the situation," Baragary said.

Dr. Bill Weatherford, a Tonganoxie physician, is a former high school science teacher.

Before starting medical school, he taught in Blue Valley school district, where he attended school.

He said he sees a similarity between his former hometown of Stanley and Tonganoxie, where he has lived since 2003. Both towns -- and their schools -- are near enough to the Kansas City metropolitan area to be affected by growth.

"When I started kindergarten, there were 2,000 kids in the district," Weatherford said of Blue Valley.

And when he taught in the same district in the mid 1990's, Weatherford said, enrollment had grown to 40,000.

Though Weatherford said Tonganoxie will grow, he said the town is far enough from the Kansas City area that it should be able to maintain its own identity -- and not be gobbled up by the city.

"But it's going to be kind of a challenge to take on the growth and not lose the small-town feel," Weatherford said.

Weatherford and his wife, Karlye, who is a registered nurse, have three preschool-aged sons. William is 3, Caleb is 2, and Josiah is 6 months.

Regarding his candidacy, Weatherford said he doesn't have an ax to grind.

"I just wanted to see the district offer the best education that we can for the kids," he said. "Just stay focused on doing the best things we can for the students."

Weatherford said students can get a good education anywhere as long as they apply themselves.

"But I think it helps to have a supportive district and community that want to invest in the future," Weatherford said. "... One of the most important things the community can provide for their children is a good school district."

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