Archive for Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tonganoxie School board candidates respond to Q&A

March 28, 2007

Editor's Note: The Mirror asked candidates for the Tonganoxie School Board to respond to questions of interest prior to next week's April 3 election. Here are their answers, which in some cases were edited because the candidate exceeded word limitations.

Position No. 1

Allen Theno

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

To find good qualified replacement principals for our elementary and high school and an assistant principal for our middle school. We have to hire exemplary administrators to help install confidence and leadership back in our schools. I would want to promote from within our schools.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I have missed only three or four school board meetings over the past three years. I have a clear understanding how the school board works. My wife and I own a small business so I understand how important it is to spend money wisely.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

Making the school board a place where parents can go to communicate their concerns. The school board has to start listening to parents and communicating with them. Without communication, the distance between the school board and parents get further apart.

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

During the next 10 years we will have to solve the overcrowding that is coming to the elementary school without any new taxes. We have to improve our test scores. Also keep our students in front of technology, not playing catch up. We have to do a better job of managing our schools. Each challenge facing our schools should be solved with a team effort. Teachers, parents and administrators should all have a voice in solving the challenges. As a board member it's my job to listen and evaluate the comments, then act on the solution that is best for our students.

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

Our elementary school is going to be overcrowded very quickly. I think we should hire a contractor to do the outside work on a new building and have our building and trades class do most of the finish work inside. This will teach our kids and save us money.

Diane Truesdell

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

To educate each and every child to the fullest of his/her potential. We need to continue to strive for continuous improvement. We need to have communication with staff, parents and students. We need to monitor student achievement and keep the public informed on the status of the district's programs and student's progress.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I have been a dedicated volunteer since moving to Tonganoxie in 2000. I have been a school board member since being appointed in January 2006. I feel the school board is another opportunity to volunteer. I also feel I have the personality and ability to work well with others.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

I will continue to be the best school board member I can be. According to the Kansas Association of School Boards this means I will be without prejudice, listen for a real consensus, and always remember that the authority is vested in the school board and not individual members.

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

Tonganoxie is one of the fastest growing communities in the state. With this fast-paced growth, it will put a tremendous demand on our staff and facilities. We will need to continue a healthy budget, maximize state aid and use tax dollars wisely to provide the facilities and staff necessary to maintain our high standards for student achievement. We will need to realize it is our responsibility to assure that we are providing our students with the most current curriculum, tools and technology to prepare our students to have every advantage and the ability to compete with their peers.

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

With growth comes the need to acquire additional facilities, so we must be pro-active and begin planning for that growth now. Also we will need to make sure we have the staff and tools to give our students an edge in the competitive job and college areas.

Position No. 2

Kathy Baragary

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

The education of our children should be our No. 1 concern and focus -- the district needs to re-focus and get back on track.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I have been a substitute teacher, a volunteer and a parent member of the Curriculum Committee and the elementary school Site Council.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

Obviously our children's education, however I will also pursue accountability of the district becoming a higher priority. Trust needs to be restored.

(The following items were combined into one response)

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

I believe there will be many challenges facing the district:

  • The need to retain and continue to recruit outstanding teachers. This will happen as the trust in the district is restored.
  • The need to increase class offerings at all levels so that our children will leave the district ready for college, vocational school or a job. The district is on the right track to staying competitive ... continuing to move forward is crucial.
  • The need to stay on top of the growth of the community is critical. Growth is inevitable, so early planning and projecting need to be focuses of the board. Building another school building in the district within the next 10 years is a strong possibility. The board will need to be both cautious and aggressive.

Craig Lohman

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

Fiscal responsibility to taxpayers. Making sure policies are implemented and followed to prevent future liabilities.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I am lifelong resident of this district. I have owned and operated my own business for the last 30 years. I have been an active member of the community for several years. I served on the Leavenworth County Co-op Board for 10 years. I am a concerned parent and taxpayer.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

My priority will be to the students to make sure their educational experience will be a positive one and in a safe environment and that it will encourage them to seek a higher education.

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

Many of the problems we face today could have been foreseen by a forward thinking board instead of a reacting school board. I will work hard or all patrons in the district to make the school board an open and relevant group.

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

The district will continue to face enrollment challenges for the next several years. Although our new middle school will give us a little breathing room, the elementary school should be the main focus. We need to monitor it closely and make sure a sufficient plan is in place to make adjustments for future growth.

Position No. 3

Patti Bitler

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

We are going to have three, perhaps five, administrative openings for the 2007-08 school year. Filling these positions with qualified people who share our district's values is the most pressing issue facing the district. We need to advertise far and wide to make our selections from the broadest group of candidates possible.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I'm the mother of three children. Doug Emerson is 16; physically disabled and academically talented. Ashley is 14; she's my part-time daughter and very goal-oriented. Aaron is 5 and a very active preschooler. I served as a union steward for United Auto Workers Local 5960 for three years dealing with personnel, safety and employee/employer relations issues.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

Hiring and retaining the best qualified personnel to educate our children should be our No. 1 priority. People move to Tonganoxie because of our schools' excellent reputation and the rural culture we provide. It's imperative we find and retain personnel with the same goals and aspirations for our children that we have.

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

Growth, growth and more growth. We will need to provide more diverse academic pursuits so all graduating students are academically prepared to move on to college or start a well-paying career. Our buildings, curriculum and staffing will have to be adapted and expanded to meet these goals.

We need to provide vocational education, career testing and training to enable students not pursuing college to blend into the work force at a living wage. For children seeking a college education, we need to provide more advanced placement classes, interest and abilities testing, and offer leads to parents on how to help pay for higher education.

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

Our district's growth challenges our lack of space. If growth stays at this pace, we're in for some tight quarters. We need to make contingency plans for a new elementary school. Space and parking constraints don't allow us to adequately expand at our current site. We need to brainstorm to come up with solutions to these issues.

Leanna Leslie

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

Return the district's focus to educating all students.

  • Recruit-ing and maintaining top quality personnel and holding all personnel accountable.
  • Promo-ting USD 464's mission statement in all decisions made by the board such as in district practices/policies, development and implementation of educational programs, maintaining fiscal responsibility, and other board decisions.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

  • I have a degree in elementary education.
  • I attended more than 75 percent of board meetings two years prior to running for the board in 2003.
  • I have been an active board member for the past three years and nine months.
  • I have been board vice president twice and board president once.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

Returning the district focus back to educating students.

  • The teachers in this district need our support as they shape the young minds of our students, encouraging them to make responsible choices and become a proactive participant in society.

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

As the district continues to grow, there is always the possibility that additional facilities will need to be built. Preparing for this type of growth several years before the actual need arises can help smooth the process and limit surprises to the community. Also, being able to work with the growth in phases can limit financial impacts. I believe our new middle school was built in a way that would allow for expansion without the need for another bond. This was a proactive step by the board and planning committee to help with future growth.

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

Outgrowing our current facilities.

  • Making good use of current facilities.
  • Adding staff where necessary.
  • Monitoring the number of students that transfer into the district.

Position No. 7 (At-large)

Mildred McMillon

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

I think it must be staffing! Considering what I have read in The Mirror, there must be some issues regarding staff, and if elected I would propose a review of all staff members.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

My experiences cover about 24 years, either as a board member of USD 464 or a member of the State Board of Education. Making tough decisions when necessary to do so is not new to me.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

If elected, my No. 1 priority would be to listen long and hard, study the issue, ask questions to make a just opinion, and if change is necessary then try to convince three other board members to change the current policy or develop a new one if one doesn't exist. It takes four votes t change or enact anything.

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

Tonganoxie's ongoing challenge will be population growth. We must think in terms of a new elementary school, for the current one is still full and was never built to have as many children in it as it is still being used for.

I would hope parents with children to be educated would step up to the plate and vote when proposals are presented for a bond issue.

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

The greatest challenge growth brings is building, programs, teachers, buses, utilities, the list goes on.

I would propose we begin to consider an assistant superintendent to start dealing with funding, scheduling, lobbying, counseling, etc., so the superintendent can deal with the major issues before they fall through the cracks and we wake up one morning and we have a crisis.

Bill Weatherford

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

Our children need to feel safe in our schools. There should be no tolerance for activities by other students or staff that undermine this. Clear policies regarding these issues should be in place and enforced.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I have a degree in secondary education, as well as my professional degree. I taught high school, I am approachable and work well with people.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

To listen to people and work with the board to improve our schools.

What challenges do you see facing the Tonganoxie School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

This is a very good district, with positive things happening. There is also some growing division, discontent and frustration. People want change. Change can be responsible and constructive or it can be destructive. I feel that the best way to deal with the issues that the district is facing is to listen to everyone's input and work together to improve things, making decisions based on facts, not hearsay. Changing for the sake of change may not solve any of our problems and will likely bring even more.

The district's enrollment continues to grow. Please list one challenge you think the growth will bring, and say how you propose to handle it.

As the district grows, the challenge will be to continue to provide our children with the space and resources needed to give them the best education possible. I will work to responsibly manage our resources to that end.

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