2011 Candidate Questionnaire: Tonganoxie School Board candidate Tamara Behm
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 Tamara Behm. She 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 Behm are Jonathan Boone and Gene Becker. Running unopposed for re-election for their positions are Kathy Baragary, Leana Leslie and Diane Truesdell.
TAMARA LYNN BEHM
Family: Husband, William, whom I’ve been married to for 19 years; children Andrew, 15, Meagan, 13, and Isabella, 11, are my children.
Current employment: I work for CorVel Corporation in Overland Park as an at-home nurse case manager.
Past employment history: I was an at-home mom for about 11 years and then went back to school to be a registered nurse. For the last five years I have been an ICU nurse.
Education: Finished my associate’s degree in nursing/math and science at Victor Valley College in California. Finished my BSN at Fort Hays State University and am currently in its master’s program for nursing administration.
Number of years lived in community: Three years
Previous public offices held: I was the president of my college Student Nursing Association.
Community involvement: I am the team manager for an eighth grade girls Destination Imagination Team. I also serve in several ministries at church, am involved in Vacation Bible School, kitchen manager for the church, Community softball coach for Tonganoxie, World Wide Marriage Encounter, Boy Scouts mom, and have volunteered at the Lawrence Soup Kitchen.
What made you decide to run for office?
I saw a need in the community for an at-large school board position. As an active parent in the community and in my children's lives, I wanted to make sure that the mistakes made in California do not become the same mistakes in the Tonganoxie school system.
What special qualifications would you bring to this office?
I have led and managed many projects since becoming a parent. I believe my education, work experience, and love for my community’s future and well-being will show in my leadership.
How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board?
Research is key in being informed. Education successes and mistakes are easily found within our own community and others. These mistakes are meant to be learned from and give us a foundation to work on the issues that will be faced. Mistakes are opportunities for improvement. Each meeting I will be actively involved and bring the concerns of the community to our meetings as well as be the voice of the voters.
What leadership qualities do you possess?
I am a very organized person who manages my time well. My collaborative nature allows me to work well with others in a team environment. My honesty makes what I say and do, the truth that I live by.
How do you plan stay in touch with constituents if you are elected?
I will have an e-mail address that the district gives but I am available by phone, email, letters, or even Facebook for questions and answers. I will attend community events and be a figure who people know they can come to to ask questions. Engaging business owners, teachers, and our own city council will give a better overall view of community issues.
Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member.
A school board member is a skilled decision maker who bridges the gap between the school-community, staff and general public. It is a member’s job to defend individual opinions vigorously and once a decision is made, accept that decision with grace and implement and support it with your whole heart.
What is the best attribute of our school district and why?
The best attributes of the Tonganoxie School System is that it has always been all about the children. The class sizes are conducive to learning and there are many activities that keep the children involved at all times. The arts and sports programs not only drive our children, but give them the confidence and support they need to be successful in the future. Our teacher's ability to teach the three "R's" is successful and is proven with high testing scores. Our principals are involved and believe in creating better futures for our kids such as when Tonganoxie Elementary School principal Tammie George implemented a new reading program to target those children who need a little extra help and Tonganoxie Middle School principal Jill Dickerson's implementation of Destination Imagination to build creativity and critical thinking in our young teens.
What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them?
The upcoming budget cuts handed down by the state creates a large shortage within the district. These monetary shortages need to be addressed and money will need to be found by other means. Another difficult challenge is the upcoming bond election issue. The benefits of this bond and the plans for the districts expansion will need to be conveyed clearly to voters and all questions will need to be answered. A final issue would be to bridge the relationship with the city council and the school board to work together for the future of the community and our children.
Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not?
No, our state government has recently decided to step back in time 12 years for funding without thinking of the consequences and at the same time eliminating the progress that has been made with the budget of schools since 2008. By the time all of the cuts are made our schools will be running on budgets equivalent to the year 1999. In 2008, 90 percent of the federal Adequate Yearly Progress was met in Kansas. With these new cuts we will be less than 75 percent of the recommended levels. It has been proven that performance of districts parallels the amount that is given or taken away in spending.
What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary?
If these budget cuts are approved and implemented, we will need to look at student versus staff ratios at the equivalent time period. Looking into the administrative positions that have been added since 1999, could those responsibilities be combined with current positions? Spending caps would also have to be addressed.
Are the district's teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not?
Yes, the teachers are being compensated fairly. The median national salary for teachers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is between $47,000 and $52,000. According to the KSDE website, during the 2008-09 school year teachers averaged $49,072 in USD 464. However it should also be noted according to the KSDE website administrative staff showed substantial pay increase while teachers showed a decrease in average salary. There are some other positions that are paid more than our teachers and this is unfair.
Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes?
To build safer, larger, schools to accommodate the growing infrastucture in our community.