2011 Candidate Questionnaire: Tonganoxie School Board candidate Gene Becker
Editor's note: Candidates for Tonganoxie City Council and Tonganoxie School Board races were sent questionnaires from The MIrror newspaper. This is the response from Tonganoxie School Board candidate Gene Becker. He is running for the at-large position on the school board, a position currently held by Mildred McMillon. McMillon is not running for re-election. Running against Becker are Tamara Behm and Jonathan Boone. Running unopposed for re-election for their positions are Kathy Baragary, Leana Leslie and Diane Truesdell.
Family: Wife, Deborah; three sons-David, Brett, Andrew (all Tonganoxie graduates), two preschool grandchildren and another on the way.
Past employment history: Commercial carpenter
Education: Naval Nuclear Power School and Submarine School; some college
Number of years lived in community:32
Previous public offices held: Not available
Community involvement: Tonganoxie Park Board, USD 464 Facilities Committee; Sacred Heart Church facilities committee and capital campaign committee
What made you decide to run for office?
I was an active parent during my sons’ school years and education was always a priority in our family. I want to ensure that every child be given the best education possible.
What special qualifications would you bring to this office?
I have knowledge of the present school system, as a parent, as a taxpayer and as a member of several committees throughout the past 32 years. As a side note, I have intense knowledge of the building trade, which would ensure proper maintenance and construction is performed.
How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board?
As a retiree, I should be able to be available to attend workshops/courses if need be. Of course, keeping up to date with current affairs, communication with the patrons, current board members and staff is key.
What leadership qualities do you possess?
A common sense approach to all problems and situations. There is no problem that could not be solved if everyone works together and cool heads reside.
How do you plan stay in touch with constituents if you are elected?
I plan to have an available ear to all constituents and ask for and listen to their opinions. As an elected board member, I feel I would be representing the patrons’ views, not necessarily my own.
Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member.
To be visible, available and informed so that I can make the best decisions for the majority of patrons and students.
What is the best attribute of our school district and why?
The caring atmosphere supplied by all employees of the district. As demonstrated with my own children, they truly have the best interest of each student at heart.
What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them?
• State funding: The board and administration will have to work closely together to prioritize allocations of funds available from the State and Local Option Budget. Some things that patrons and administration feel that cannot be reduced or cut might have to be looked at a second time.
• Adequate facilities: There is no question that space is a concern, but the patrons of USD 464 will have the definitive say on the present bond issue; it will be the Board’s responsibility to carry out the wishes of the patrons as decided by the April 5 vote.
• Quality staff: Although facilities seem to get all of the attention, the student-teacher relationship is foremost. The Board and administration must make quality teachers our top priority within the budget constraints.
Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not?
The drastic cuts in state funding concerns me. The bottom line is that for the time being, the Board has to focus on spending the allotted dollars wisely.
What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary?
The top priority is academics and must remain so; all other areas would have to have some matter of consideration.
Are the district's teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not?
If money were no object, probably not; but with salaries making up a generous portion of the budget, those salaries have to be weighed against funds available and be comparable with surrounding districts’ salaries.
Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes?
As a taxpayer myself, I hope to have a vote on any increase in the local option budget. As in any household, all the wants or needs or wishes may not be feasible with the money available. It is the same with the taxpayers, and it is the responsibility of the Board to make wise spending decisions.